This time the trip report is all Nevie! We did this tour a few years ago with our friends, Asta and Mrs. Asta. No photos in this post because it all happens “backstage” (and no photos are allowed backstage)…
The tour began at the entrance of the park and after checking in, we entered to park and stopped in front of the Rain Forest Café. There were a lot of older individuals on this tour and I was concerned at first because they asked how much walking would occur on a walking tour. However, everyone kept up nicely and it wasn’t too bad since most of the time we were either standing around or in a van. Before we went backstage our guide asked us to introduce ourselves to everyone like one of those get-to-know-you events when first meeting classmates at school. Once that was over we divided into two vans and were off to the animal barns.
On the way she told us that camp Micky-Minnie was no longer and will be turned into Avatar Land in the years to come. They are developing schematics now to decide on a name and vision for the new expansion to the park.
When we arrived at the barn, we were able to leave our stuff in the van (we weren’t allowed pictures so why carry around your stuff) and went to the Rhino barn. There, an animal specialist was waiting to tell us about the rhinos. He was very knowledgeable and went over why they grind down the horns (that rhino wasn’t playing nice with the others). Also, they rotate the rhinos to avoid fights on-stage, so certain ones go out one day and the others go out the next. They had one of their male rhinos in the barn and he was putting on quite the show for us. He even tried to spray us with urine! He was not in his usual pen, he was in the female’s pen… so, he was extra excited.
Next, we went to the elephant barn where we visited the upstairs viewing area. They had different large blue drums that they hide treats in to make the elephants use their trunks to get the food out. It was interesting to see all the different types of enrichment they try to put in place to the keep the animals from becoming bored. One side of the elephant barn (the females and babies side) the elephants could move through all the different pens to be together. The male on the other hand had a pen all to himself just like in the wild. They really try to make the animals feel natural even in an artificial setting like the barn.
After, the elephant barn we were back into the vans and headed to the nutrition and veterinary clinic. The nutrition center was amazing. They have their own nutritionist that creates every animal’s individual diets and nutritionists who prepare the meals personally. They have all their ingredients tested yearly to make sure the nutritional status is up to their standards and if not, they send it back. The workers there were very nice and excited to talk to us about their jobs. There are three different stations: herbivores, carnivores and omnivores; the herbivore station never touches the carnivore but the herbivore stuff can go to the carnivore station if an omnivore is being fed. They were very reluctant to tell us what kind of meat they used though. They weigh everything out on scales and make sure it is exact. Also, they have their own cookbooks and different days mean different mixtures of foods. There was a pantry full of enrichment foods as well. It was crazy to see how fresh and good all the food looked. I mean I would have loved a fruit bowl from there. So much work goes into preparing every meal to make sure the animals have the best nutrition possible. No wonder their animals live so long. Now, if only I could get someone to cook and measure my meals out for me I’d be set!
Next, we had a snack of rice crispy treat (it was shaped like an elephant and very sweet) and granola bars with water. I wanted to go back to the nutrition station for that fruit bowl! The snack was nice but not very appealing to me.
Then, we got to walk through the vet clinic. I was a bit disappointed because there was no one available to talk to us about anything. We basically got to wonder through the clinic but didn’t get to ask any questions because our guide wouldn’t know any of the answers I wanted anyways.
Lastly, we got a private safari ride. We got a fantastic view of the lions on this safari and actually saw all three and their faces! Overall this was a great experience and I would highly recommend it to other people. The only thing I would change would be to have someone in the veterinary clinic available to answer questions.