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Lions And Tigers And Bears Oh My, The San Francisco Zoo Has It All

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From Giraffes to Monkeys, Hippos to Koalas, the Zoo has it all

There is so much to do in San Francisco and even though this 30 Days In SF adventure has covered a lot of ground, I’ve only barely scratched the surface. In my research leading up to this trip I discovered that San Fran has a Zoo, and a pretty good one at that. I’ve actually never really toured a zoo before. I’ve been to Aquariums, bird aviaries, and hobby farms but never a zoo so why not while I’m in San Francisco. It boasts over 1000 exotic and endangered animals representing more than 250 different species and best of all it is very easy to get too from the Hotel Griffon where I’m staying. All I have to do is hop on the Metro Light Rail at the Embarcadero Station and the train will take me all the way to the San Francisco Zoo in under 45 minutes. I can’t believe I’m going to see Lions, Tigers and who knows what! I’m going to the Zoo.

A Giraffe walks away from me at the San Francisco Zoo

Vancouver Golf & Travel Show Feb 14 & 15th
The San Francisco Zoo dates its beginnings to 1929 when it was founded by Herbert Fleishhacker at its current location along the Pacific Coast Highway, Sloat Boulevard and Skyline Boulevard. At over 100 acres it takes an entire afternoon to wander the grounds. As luck would have it for my friends that are joining me on this adventure the day we visit the Zoo is Locals Day which means they get in for free.

Map of the San Francisco Zoo

Entrance to the San Francisco Zoo

We start our adventure working our way through the Zoo in a counter clockwise direction. Don’t ask me why but it was probably because I wanted to see the African Region first. Just before we entered Africa though we had a quick look at the Lemur Forest which is home to 3 types of Lemurs from Madagascar. Their striped tail makes them easy to spot but they move so fast and don’t sit still so they are hard to photograph.

Lemur's running around at the San Francisco Zoo

Next up is the Africa Region. Giraffes, Zebras and Ostriches are the animals I spot right away. I was actually surprised how many Giraffes there were and there appeared to be a few teenagers in the mix. They loved to rub up against the multi-storey barn in the enclosure. At the other end of the African region the Zebras and the Ostriches were hanging out, together yet separate. The Ostriches paraded back and forth in front of us, the are huge in real life. The Zebras were all in a scratching mood with one in particular rubbing up against a tree so hard I thought the bark would come off. So amazing to see these animals so close, it’s the next best thing to a wild African Safari.

Giraffe at the African Region of San Francisco Zoo

Giraffes out for a scratch

This Zebra is sctaching himself against the tree at the San Francisco Zoo

Ostrich parading in front of me at the San Fran Zoo

From the African Region we moved on towards the Primate Discovery Center. We’ve already seen the Lemurs so we go straight for the Gorillas. Again I’m wowed by their size. I can just imagine the strength they possess as they look to be all muscle. A young Gorilla was nice enough to hang out near the window and pose for photos. She was a favourite for the kids in front of us.

2 Gorillas hanging out at the San Fran Zoo Primate Centre

A young Gorilla comes up to be photographed at the window

There were more than just Gorillas though. Monkeys of all sorts are there. Some were in large open pens with trees while others were in large multi story cages with all sorts of climbing apparatus arranged inside. I think in total I saw over 10 different species of Monkeys. Some very small while others like the Gorilla are quite big.

Patas Monkey out for a rick climb

A monkey hanging from the wall eating a carrot

A Monkey just hanging around

Next stop on the walking tour is the Cat Kingdom. Unfortunately the big cats are all doing what cats do during the day, sleep. We spotted a Lion and a Tiger but they were really hard to see let alone photograph. Can you spot the two lions sleeping in the picture below? I did get a better view and photo of the Snow Leopard. It was also having a lazy afternoon nap though. Apparently early morning or late afternoon/early evening is the best time to see the big cats in action.

Lion sleeping away the afternoon at the San Fran Zoo

Snow Leopard lounging around

What was easier to spot across from the Cat Kingdom was a Rhino and a Hippo. The Rhino was getting his/her scratch on while the Hippo was submerged in the pool. I waited and waited for it to come up for air but… after waiting for 10 minutes I turned my head only to hear the exhale I’d been waiting for. I turned around but of course I was too late. The Hippo was back under water.

Rhino getting his scracth on at the San Fran Zoo

Hippo underwater at the San Fran Zoo

The face of a Hippo underwater

It’s time to head to South America and Bear Country next but along the way there were Peacocks everywhere. Apparently they roam free within the zoo so you can spot them anywhere. The are big birds but surprisingly strong jumpers and quite graceful. I caught one in slo mo video leaping a fenced in garden area. Pretty cool I thought.

The Peacocks roam free at the @sanfranciscozoo Slo Mo video of one leaping out of an enclosure #30DaysInSF

A video posted by Marc Smith (@themarcsmith) on

But on to South America. We pass a Penguin colony, see some Giant Anteaters and a Chacoan Peccary which at first I though was a wild boar without the tusks. It’s really quite fascinating seeing these animals, some of which I am familiar with and others that I’ve never even heard of before. Nature is truly a miracle.

A penguin Colony at the San Fran Zoo

Large Anteater at the San Fran Zoo

Chacoan Peccary foraging for food

Bear Country is home to a couple of Grizzlies and Polar Bears. The Grizzlies were out for an afternoon snack while the Polar Bears were napping except for one who decided to walk his territory as we passed. It’s sad that the California State symbol is the Grizzly Bear but there are none living in the wild in the State anymore. The only place to see them is at the Zoo.

Grizzly Bear foraging for lunch at the San Francisco Zoo

Polar Bear at the San Francisco Zoo

There is only one area left for us and that is the Outback Trail. As you can imagine it’s all about Australia and the animals found there. Just like with the Big Cats the Kangaroos seemed to be napping when we arrived. I think they are much more active in the night time. They seemed pretty comfortable though just sleeping in the bright sunshine. The Koala was awake though even if he wasn’t outside. I guess sometimes they come out of the pen but other times they stay perched inside their area.

Kangaroos having their afternoon nap

Koala Bear sitting pretty at the San Francisco Zoo

These are not all of the animals we saw as we toured through the San Francisco Zoo, in fact there were more that we saw that I haven’t shown including quite a few birds like this flock of Pink Flamingos. I don’t want to spoil all the surprises in store for you when you visit. There was also one area which we didn’t go into and that was the Exploration Zone, which is a fun and education zone designed for kids to play and learn. All in all I loved my first visit to the Zoo. Very impressive and the animals all look so well cared for. I highly recommend you put this on your to do list when you visit San Francisco next.

Pink Flamingos

30 Days In SF Over the course of 30 posts I’m exploring Where to Stay, Where to Eat and Drink and What to Do in San Francisco and the Bay area. I won’t get to everything awesome but I welcome your suggestions and if I don’t get to it on this visit there is always the next time!

Vancouver Golf & Travel Show Feb 14 & 15th

The Vancouver Golf & Travel Show takes place on Feb 14 & 15th at the PNE. It is the largest consumer golf & travel show in Western Canada and will have over 125 exhibitors, travel destinations, manufacturer’s representatives and demonstrators giving you everything you need to know about golf and travel. There will also be presentations from Golf professionals, PGA Tour Pro Bryn Parry and Sports Journalists. Tickets are only $12 for Adults and kids 17 & under get in for free. If there is a golf lover in the family this makes a sweet Valentines Day gift and while they are all about the golf you and the kids can explore all the travel options on site. Perhaps your next vacation inspiration is just waiting for you to discover it. The 2015 Vancouver Golf & Travel Show is BIGGER BETTER & LOUDER


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About Author

Marc Smith is a former event planner turned vagabond adventurer. He loves strong Americano's, great wine, cold beer and zip lining over tree tops. Formerly of Vancouver, most of Marc's time when not travelling is in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Follow along on his nomad adventures and discover places to stay, things to do and where to eat & drink as he explores the world one city and region at a time.

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