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Travel to Africa Without a Passport

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There are ways to take in the sights, cuisines, and customs of other countries without spending a fortune on travel. In this summer series, we'll divulge secrets about where to find hidden pockets of foreign culture across the country. In today's feature, one mom and her family experienced up-close encounters with elephants, jaguars, rhinos, and other exotic animals without ever boarding a plane.


Momlogic's Jill: We could have shelled out a few thousand dollars for an African safari and jungle canopy zip line tour -- but instead my family and I jumped on the freeway for a couple of hours to check out the newest offerings at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. First on our itinerary was the just-opened $45 million Elephant Odyssey exhibit, home to more than 35 species of animals including lions, camels, California condors, rattlesnakes, and of course, elephants. My kids were particularly intrigued by the open-air care center, where the elephants get cleaned and groomed right before your eyes -- they even get pedicures and tusk trimmings while visitors look on.

Next up was the new Flightline zip line attraction, which launches from a platform at an elevation of 900 feet and stretches two-thirds of a mile over animals indigenous to Asia and Africa, traveling at about 40 mph. My 15-year-old daughter and I have actually zip-lined once before, in Puerto Vallarta, but we shuddered at the sheer height of this launch pad -- and made a beeline for the outhouse when we got off the shuttle bus. My 13-year-old melodramatically gave "I love you" hugs to all of us before take-off, "just in case." The guide assured us that this zip line, while being the longest in the continental U.S., was also the safest -- with steel cables measuring a full seven-eighths of an inch thick. The result was a serene birds'-eye view of the Wild Animal Park lasting about 2 minutes long.

Our last excursion of the day was the photo caravan safari tour. There are several different versions of this tour at varying price tags -- we took the two-hour journey, where we saw a variety of animals including gazelles, deer, giraffes, elephants, and rhinos. I guess springtime is baby time in the animal kingdom, because we were lucky enough to see newborn and toddler versions of almost every species. Hands down the best part of all is getting to feed the rhinos from our truck. Seriously, memories to last a lifetime!

A trip to Africa would easily run a family thousands of dollars and over a day in travel hours. For a fraction of the cost, we enjoyed an educational exotic getaway where part of our money spent was dedicated to conservation. To support the elephant conservation project, you can sponsor a "footprint" that will help the San Diego Zoo protect, track, and study elephants in the wild. Find out how at Project Elephant Footprint.

Check out my interview with Rick Schwartz, San Diego Zoo Elephant Odyssey Ambassador and father of one, that includes footage shot from my helmet cam during the Flightline zip line!

San Diego Zoo

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next: Jon Returns Home, with Kate He Ain't
10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Rebecca June 5, 2009, 4:21 PM

It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that by going to a zoo, you are experiencing the CULTURE of (all of) Africa. I can’t even go into how outrageous, ridiculous, and just pathetic this entire idea is. You want to see Africa? Go to Africa. It isn’t at a zoo.

Henna June 5, 2009, 5:14 PM

Wow Rebecca you can afford to go to Africa??! Can I borrow some money?

JOANNE June 5, 2009, 6:56 PM

That flightline tour looks great. How much does it cost?

Chloe June 5, 2009, 7:39 PM

hey! thats me! feeding the rhino!

Andie June 6, 2009, 12:27 PM

Obviously going to Africa and going to a zoo is not the same. And I don’t think the writer of this piece was saying that it was. Pretty much a given that it is meant more tongue-n-cheek, don’t ya think? I have been to a few African countries (pre-kids) and I have been to several zoos. Now that I have little ones zoo’s are more realistic than traveling the globe, especially in this economy. And I can already tell that my kids will grow up and go to Africa or other parts of the world because they are totally into the animals the see when we go to the zoo. And I for one want to check out that zip-line! Thanks for sharing your adventure with us momlogic!

Cathy June 9, 2009, 11:14 PM

Yes, going to the SD zoo is wonderful. One of the best in the world. But, not the same as going to Africa.

loan December 12, 2009, 2:04 AM

Good Morning!!! is one of the most outstanding resourceful websites of its kind. I take advantage of reading it every day. Keep it that way.

Candra Marusak November 27, 2010, 4:01 PM

You have always beenhonest, even when it wasn’t what your readers wanted to read.

Pozycjonowanie December 7, 2010, 2:50 AM

Unfortunately, I don’t agree with most of bothersome stuff here.

Pozycjonowanie December 9, 2010, 3:36 AM

It was a brilliant. and informative, educational, instructive read! Astoundingwork by the writer! Thanks a lot. for taking the time to share this with us!

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