Zoo 101Most African-Americans hope to visit the continent of Africa at some point in their lives. Early in our marriage my husband and I spent two weeks traveling the country of South Africa, from Cape Town to Mpumalanga. We hope someday to take our children when we feel like they can appreciate the experience and handle the twenty-one hour flight. Until that time there is a great way to show them some of the beauty of the African continent and spur their interest in the ecology and wildlife – The Bronx Zoo.

In the heart of The Boogie Down lies a world of discovery at The Bronx Zoo. The highlight of my trip to South Africa was going on a three-day safari at Tanda Tula Reserve.  The goal – to see The Big Five.  Within an hour of visiting the Bronx Zoo I saw all five of “The Big Five: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo.  Even better, the animals were not normal lethargic zoo animals (if you’ve ever been on safari you know what I mean). They were active and roaming very closely to the manner I explored in South Africa.  It was such an authentic experience.

Zoo 008Travel the African Plains and see giraffes, African wild dogs, antelope, and more. Have you ever noticed that the spots on a giraffe have different patterns? The giraffes in Kenya don’t have the same spots as the ones in South Africa.  And did you know that there were penguins on the continent of Africa?  You’re probably thinking that Africa is too hot for penguins.  There are African “Jackass” penguins that live in the southern hemisphere – Cape Town. Africa is such a big continent that the wildlife various among the countries. You can see and learn all of this at the Bronx Zoo without traveling an entire continent.

Before breaking for a bite to eat at one of the eateries, be sure to head over to the Congo to explore the Gorilla Forest.  On your way there, your kids will love to see the mandrills as they will undoubtedly notice them as “Rafiki” from Disney’s the Lion King.  On a hot day, you’ll want to spend quite a bit of time in this air conditioned exhibit. And be sure to check for “Baby on Board” signs that alert you to newborn baby animals in the exhibits.

Just when the kids get excited about seeing the likes of Rafiki, Pumba, and Simba, take them out of the Congo to Madagascar.  Follow the various kinds of lemurs as they jump from tree to tree and be sure to check out the ring-tailed Lemur, kin to King Julien. See the pretty in pink Flamingos and don’t miss the mongoose.  There is a complete Madagascar experience right inside of the Bronx Zoo.

The Bronx Zoo is open all year and a portion of your ticket money goes to the wildlife conservation society.  There are special programs for children to enjoy i.e., October “Boo at the Zoo. Face painting, airbrush tattoos, and a children’s zoo where you can feed and pet the animals are all big hits with little ones.  You don’t have to fly half-way across the world to teach your children about the diverse ecology of the African continent. Come to New York City to catch a show, hit a museum, and visit The Bronx Zoo.

 Must see attractions:  Tiger Mountain, World of Birds, Monkey House, Sea Bird Aviary, and Sea Lion Pool.