A Real Wild Time—Part 2

In the previous installment, I pointed out that you don’t have to travel to remote corners of the globe to have an extraordinary experience.  Well, here’s another example of a genuine once-in-a-lifetime adventure hiding in plain sight at one of San Diego’s most-visited tourist attractions:

me and rhino

Ewwww! Rhino slobber!

Let’s try a little word association.  When I say “San Diego,” you say what?

Anyone who’s ever visited America’s Finest City knows there’s no shortage of ways to fill in that blank.  But I’m thinking of one word in particular: Zoo.  After all, there are good reasons they call it the “World Famous San Diego Zoo,” not the least of which are some of the classic episodes where the zoo’s animal ambassador Joan Embry and her furry friends visited Johnny Carson on NBC’s Tonight Show.

While meeting some of the zoo’s exotic animals didn’t always work out quite the way Johnny envisioned, it was always amusing.  And I can tell you from personal experience that the zoo’s new Backstage Pass program is every bit as much fun.  Maybe more, in fact, since you get to be a participant instead of just a spectator.

The two-hour family-friendly adventure starts with a tasty boxed lunch and private stage show starring a wide array of critters ranging from Sonic the hedgehog (gee, I wonder where they dream up these crazy names) to Amara the cheetah.  After lunch, my family and I got to do a meet-and-greet with more animals including a male emu named Daphne (apparently it’s not that easy to tell the boy emus from the girls).

While all that was fun, the best part of the experience as far as I’m concerned was getting to feed, pet, and scratch the heavily-armored backs of two endangered Indian rhinos.  To be this close to such rare (only 3,000 remain in the wild) and amazing creatures was a real treat.  And, let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve been slobbered on by a hungry rhino!


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