There’s a destination tucked in the Fraser Valley that far too few people seem to know about. Or rather, they’ve heard of it in a negative light in the news.
The Vancouver Zoo has received some bad press in recent years. An elephant that was suffering and improperly housed was moved. The hippos had inadequate environments too, leading to some serious renovations. A raptor scratched a child, I think, a few weeks ago? Anyway, it only seems to hit the news when there’s something that has gone wrong.
Today we packed snacks and a thermos of tea, threw the stroller in the car and headed East for the zoo. For those who don’t know, it’s in Aldergrove, just south of Highway 1, off exit 73. Admission is pricey, but on par with the Aquarium and Science World. The main problem is that it’s tough to get to if you don’t have a car.
The last time we were there it was June, and a major heat wave had hit the lower mainland. We broiled. But this time it was perfect Fall weather, crisp and fresh air, blue sky, autumn leaves starting to fall.
Predictably, Cameron wanted to see the lions. They do put on a lovely ‘show’ with them at feeding time. We joined the cluster around the pens (not huge ranges for the four lions we saw, but still bigger than what I’ve seen in some zoos, with forestation and other features) and watched as meat globs were launched over the tall fence or passed through. Without doing any trained ‘tricks’, they did manage to show us some impressive lion behaviour. Slight squabbles, pouncing and ‘catching’ food, possessiveness of the male, laziness of the male too – it was hard to get him to do much at all. He had the zoo keepers well trained to feed him with minimal effort, actually. Cameron perched on Grandpa’s shoulders for half, then mine, so he co
Throughout the lion feeding session one of the zoos two tigers slinked around the perimeter of her pen, getting occasional meat globs tossed in to her too.
A quick stroll past the peccaries, guanacos, flamingos, baboons (Cameron called them ba-booms at first), and black panther, then it was time to get on the train. If you go, spend the extra five bucks for the train, at least the first time, as it’s worth it. Unlike the San Francisco Zoo train, this one does a nice route through the exhibits, over a trestle, through the woods, and has an audible narration throughout with interesting facts about the species and individuals housed at the zoo.
After lunch and a quick play time at the playground, off we went again. “Bears,” was Cameron’s definite answer when asked what he wanted to see next. By this point he was overtired, but in the happy-frantic-run-around kind of way. We saw many types of deer and antelope, a cheetah, cattle, the grizzly bear, arctic wolves and foxes, yaks, camels (both Dromedary and Bactrian), emus, caribou, zebras, ostriches, a rhinoceros, hippopotamuses, various cranes and storks, and the giraffes. Wow. Notable ones were the Dromedary who came to see us – and I backed away quite quickly. Do you know how far and how much those things can spit? UGH. No thanks. The cheetah eyed Cameron with more interest than she paid anyone else, especially when he talked, in a way that just gave me the creeps. But there was a pretty solid looking fence between us and her. Oh, and she was purring. Cameron fell in love, and dashed to find Grandma to tell her about the ‘kitty’ and try to haul her back to see. The wolves he could have cared less about, and the grizzly? He was too wired by the time we got there to even notice her. After watching an older girl take a picture of the oryx, Cameron promptly put a Y-shaped stick on his head and said, “Take a picture of the deer!” Himself, clearly.
This time around we missed the bus tour through the black bear and wolf enclosure, something I highly recommend. Also, we missed the raptor display, which impressed me last time too.
Despite the long drive to get there, and the high prices (Dad and Janice treated, but I still saw. My advice: pack lunch, skip the cafeteria), I absolutely recommend this trip for all ages. Some animals are in small-seeming pens, but from what I can see it’s on par with, or better than, most North American zoos. The zoo itself is small and simple; an afternoon there is plenty to see everything. Do be prepared for long walks, and to keep an eye on little ones as it’s easy to get a little too close to some exhibits. Such as spitting camels and foul-tempered guanacos (you’re warned of them on the train), biting donkeys, and a child slightly older than Cameron could have easily slipped right up close to the cheetah.