Monday, July 11th, 2016

Aurora smiling petting the rhinos hornPicking up from last time

After feeding and petting the rhinos and feeding the giraffes… (You’re not supposed to pet them – but one totally did breathe a really big breath on me and I thought, “Dang! Your noses are strong!”)

Anyway, we went along the rest of the safari (with our awesome driver Ward – I don’t think I mentioned) and saw some more animals hanging out, lounging around.

I saw a little baby rhino, which was cool.

I mean, conceivably, we could’ve potentially spent the whole Ultimate Safari just roaming around these different lands.

If I remember correctly, we went through an Asia and Africa area. But I think there was even more. One thing I think exists somewhere out there that we didn’t get to see was ostriches. So, I guess the point is there’s always something to go back for. (And I gotta go back!)

When we left the safari, we went through two different gates (as we did any time we entered or left an animal area). It felt very Jurassic Park-y. In fact, I even learned Steven Spielberg got some of his inspiration for Jurassic Park from Safari Park! Isn’t that cool and crazy?

Aurora feeding the OkapiAfter the safari, we went and hung with the Okapi!

The poor little Okapi I saw had bandaged up legs…

I learned that since it had gotten hurt on one of its front legs, it had to have them both bandaged up because apparently it felt too uneven with only one – scratching it, hobbling, all that jazz. But if they bandaged both (one basically just for show) the animal seemed better and acted happier.

I think because she was hurt, she was a little shy at first. But she came around and I got to feed her too!

I learned that Okapis have this grease or something all along their coat that comes off on your hand if you pet them. (Your hand will be that same dark color they are.) They’re very interesting animals. And I had a great time there with Cindie the zookeeper.

After that, I got to hang out at the animal care center. And this is where I’ll pick up next time!


Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Aurora about to feed the rhinoPicking up from last time –

So, I totally became friends with the rhinos. First, they came up to a place on the truck that made is super easy for Victoria to get great pictures.

Then almost immediately, they went over to a part of the truck that made it harder. They’re smart – those rhinos – keeping away from the paparazzi while still getting fed… I can’t blame ’em. Do your thing, rhinos!

Anyway, I got to feed the rhino. They seemed happy. Victoria told me about the old legend that if you touch a rhinos horn, you get a year of good luck. She also said it totally wouldn’t hurt them or upset them to touch their horn. So, i did that. I guess we’ll see what happens this year!

Aurora feeding two giraffesAfter I met the rhinos, I got to go hang with the giraffes! Two came over – a big one and a small one. And I got to feed them both!

Yet again, the large one kept kind of trying to bogart food from the small one… (Where does that saying come from, by the way? Is it a mean saying about Humphrey Bogart, or what’s the deal with that?)

Anyway, the big one kept trying to take a bunch of food. But I kept doing my best to make sure the little one kept getting food too.

There was a whole special way you were supposed to feed the giraffes – holding the leaves away from them by the side of your body and then presenting them. I forget all of the logic behind it.

Aurora looking like she's hurt but she's not at all

(I’m totally fine… I’m just making a super weird face…)

But there was a specific way, so I tried to hold to that (even though sometimes the giraffes would just come on in for the leaves).

The giraffes had these crazy huge incredibly long tongues… The most interesting part to me was being oh so close up to them, I could see the area on the way back of their tongue that was pink.

Most of their tongue was black (to protect it from the sun), but the part that didn’t see the sun was pink. Crazy, huh?

I also got to see the little back nub horn things that I heard about on a tour, but couldn’t totally see until I got super up close.

It was very cool to feed the giraffes!

And this is where I’ll pick up next time.

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

Aurora De Lucia's hand in a rhinos mouth - with hair in Auroras facePicking up from yesterday

After we were all situated in our tram (and she’d called in my delicious salad), we drove down this path and she asked if I wanted to know my itinerary for the day, or if I wanted to be surprised.

I am such a little planner (and a bit of a control freak, perhaps, just a little, sometimes, I suppose)…

So, part of me thought, “YES! Tell me. Tell me immediately” – as if I’m gonna find areas that can be improved upon or anything… as if I know anything at all about Safari Park, or animals, or how any of that works…

And then I thought, “Nope. I trust you. I’m just along for the ride.”

Aurora grabbing food while the Sitatunga looks at herI started the day off going back to see the Sitatunga with Matt the zookeeper.

I got to feed them a bunch of carrots. There was one big male that was basically trying to take all the food. So, I did my best to spread the wealth around to all the little smaller ones too.

I had a nice time learning about Sitatungas and Matt’s time working at Safari Park. And soon enough, we were on our way to our next thing – the African Safari portion.

Victoria was a wealth of knowledge about everything animalsĀ  – every kind… what they ate, drank, loved, how they acted – political ramifications of poachers and various wives tales still making their way around the world (such as rhino horns having medicine in them… they don’t…)

Aurora smiling down at a rhinoVitoria even had “props” in the cart – bones and horns and things I could see and touch.

(They’re kept literally under lock and key because of rhino horns being sought after dangerously for money.) (And it probably goes without saying, but just in case – obviously no animals were harmed for them to be able to show a rhino horn. Any bones or horns or anything came from animals that passed away – without human intervention).

I had SO much fun on my little fake-African Safari.

One of my big hopes was to feed a rhino. I hear it only happens on about 35% of safaris. But two rhino totally came over and were super friendly with me! I got to feed them a whole bunch of apples and feel their big sloppy (in an adorable way) mouths touching my hand.

And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

Friday, July 8th, 2016

Aurora laughing with her friend the antelopeThis was 100 million billion percent worth the money. I had an incredible time with my amazing tour guide Victoria!

Side note: if anything, I would say it’d probably be worth it to pay the extra money and do the 8-hour, instead of the 5. There is seemingly an almost an unlimited amount of stuff to do at Safari Park!

Here’s what’s up with the Ultimate Safari (for those of you not intimately familiar with the different safaris at San Diego Zoo Safari Park (which was me before I planned this trip – and even still kind of me, now ’cause there are a lot…)).

In the Ultimate Safari, a special day is planned just for you(!) based off of things you tell the planners.

Before showing up for my big surprise day (catered to me :-)), I got an email telling me to wait outside in the log ring for my guide – which I did.

At 9am, Victoria came on over. It was so cute. She said, “Ms. De Lucia?” I always feel so silly, yet still kinda special and cool, when people use my last name to address me, instead of Aurora.

She introduced herself and asked me how I’d like her to refer to me. As much as it would’ve been interesting to have a hoity-toihty day of being called “Ms. De Lucia” all day, of course I said, “Oh please, call me Aurora.”

We totally hit it off and I adore her. She was such a sweetheart.

I had a fair amount of stuff with me because I was doing the Roar ‘n’ Snore sleepover that night… So, since I wasn’t in a hotel that night, I had all my stuff with me for my San Diego trip.

Picture of the lunch menu at Safari Park

(picture of the lunch menu I mention)

And she sweetly carried my duffel bag to the cart. She also gave me some water, and was so cool for the whole rest of the day about reminding me to hydrate and continuing to give me water.

She also gave me a birthday button (as this trip is basically is my early birthday present to myself).

Then, she gave me a menu, and told me she’d call in my order for lunch so it would be ready at noon when we got there. She said, “I heard you’re vegetarian and we have all these great vegetarian options (which they totally did – it was hard to choose which meal I wanted… I went with this incredibly delicious salad, in case you were wondering).

Then we went in through this kinda secret-ish gate. I felt super special, and she said, “Yeah, most visitors don’t even know this gate exists.” Eeee!

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Aurora with open smile holding dolphins finThis starts differently from the whale experience in a few ways. For one thing, the groups are bigger.

I think in the dolphin interaction, you can have up to 12 people total (so 6 in each broken up group).

(Whereas, in the whale, there were 8 people – so, up to 4 in each group…)

Also, in the whale one, you had these sweet big shower rooms all to yourself. With the dolphins, you were changing in a locker room around everyone else.

These aren’t big deals, just differences.

Aurora giving the dolphin a kiss

(They told me to kiss the dolphin. Let’s hope the dolphin was cool with that. :-P)

Then we go get in the big dolphin pool (where all of the public can totally see us – just as they could with the whales too).

One group does the cool swimming trick stuff in the deeper end of the pool, while one group gets to experience the other tricks.

I was in the group that got to do swimming last, which I liked – ending on the coolest thing.

The first tricks were basically getting to pet the (smooth) dolphin, get a high-five, hear a sound, and get a kiss.

And then we went swimming!

Aurora with big wide open mouth while swimming with dolphinI was a little worried about the dolphin having to carry us around, but they seemed to be fine…I hope.

Basically, we got to hold on to the dolphin’s top fin, and it swam us to the other end of the pool.

I could feel the dolphin’s back fin basically kicking me underneath the water (just a little – and just as a way to help it swim – I don’t *think* because it was mad at me).

It was a really cool experience to be swam around by a dolphin. The distance isn’t far, but you feel it. And it’s super cool.

Then we all got out of the water and went back to the locker rooms. Not everybody took a shower, but I did.

(Again, I think there were only 3 showers. And there seemed to be more women than men doing the experience. So, the locker room was crowded… If you want to shower after this one, you may end up waiting for a hot second.)

Aurora giving a big smile while holding her dolphin friendAfter that, you could look at pictures and buy them. So, keep in mind that after you already pay for this expensive dolphin thing, it’s another $90 to buy a CD of your photos – same with the whale… And no, they won’t combine the photo CDs, even if you do them in the same day. Wah wah.

Oh well. I think the day was lovely and worth it, and I really hope the poor whales and dolphins aren’t tortured. I think I believe in the rescuing work Sea World is doing? But again, I saw it from their perspective. So, I should probably put a little more work into my understanding of what’s going on there…

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Aurora De Lucia looking down at jellyfish smilingI ran over to this tour from the whale tour, and barely made it just in time! It was just me and one other guy. So, it was nice to have a small tour.

We got to learn a little about Sea World. And we basically went to two areas (if I remember correctly – so many adventures, I’m starting to lose track… which is the silliest, most entitled problem to have.)

Aaaaanyway, We went to this little behind-the-scenes place where we saw these cool archerfish, which blow water darts at food to get it to fall from a branch. It was pretty cool to watch.

And then we got to see and touch some jellyfish!

As we went along, we got to learn a bit about sea life and Sea World.

It seemed like Sea World was really doing a lot for marine life. (And yes, I do realize I’m hearing this at Sea World. So, you know, there may be some bias or something.) But they were talking about all the various animals they saved (a bunch of them!).

And I thought that was nice to hear.

We also got to walk by the little animal care/hospital area. There was a window marked radiology. Animal care is as intense as human care, it seems!

Aurora leaning by the jellyfish tankWe walked by the dolphins, but didn’t get to hang out with them. And that pretty much sums up the tour! It was lovely, informative, and led by a great guide. She even gave out a little pack of animal cards (cards with animals on them) so we could remember what we saw/learned about that day.

Then, she suggested I go see the Shamu show (which I did). I guess this is the last year it’s happening. So, I had to get on it. It was pretty amazing indeed. And just when I thought, “Wow, that was a bunch of cool tricks,” a HUGE whale jumped out of the water.

DANG! That was the coolest trick!

Side note: Did you know Shamu is the last name of the whales? They all have different first names. But they are in the “Shamu” family. That was an interesting fact I learned on a tour.

After the Shamu show, I went and got ready to swim with the dolphins!

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Aurora holding onto the tail of a whalePicking up from last time –

We get to touch the beautiful whale! She comes up to us and gets a petting. She feels basically like a hard-boiled egg.

We get to see her do various tricks for us (such as moving her fins in certain ways and speaking), and then we get to feed her little fish as rewards!

I threw the fish in, slightly nervous to get too close to her mouth – because her mouth is biiiig! (I mean, of course it’s big. She’s a freaking whale!)

And, while looking inside her mouth, it appears as though she has eighty-million teeth.

Aurora surprised by the whale

(I’m unsure what the whale did to surprise me so much here. :-P)

(Okay, eighty-million may be an exaggeration. But she has a lot, is the point.)

She gave us kisses, and everybody seemed to have a great time!

(At least, I hope that adorable whale had a great time. I don’t really know what to think about Sea World and sea life. I know some people get so mad about it and say the animals are tortured.

But all the animals I encountered seemed pretty happy. (Of course, what do I know? I’m not an animal expert by any means. I know practically nothing about animals. So, maybe I can’t read their happiness levels.))

Aurora in a wetsuit outside her areaAfter we sadly said goodbye to our new friends, back to the showers we went.

The shower set-ups were nice and super-private (as everyone had their own room). I’m only drawing attention to that because things will change once we get to the dolphins.)

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering what you did with your stuff – you had a locker within your little shower room where you could lock up all your belongings, and then wear the key necklace in the pool.)

I didn’t have time to take an awesome shower in the cool shower place, because I had to quickly change, grab everything I had, and skidattle on down to the Sea World Behind-the-Scenes tour!