Saturday, April 28, 2012

Butterfly games at the San Diego Zoo

Back on the last Saturday morning of March we woke up before dawn—without alarms—and headed down to San Diego (north county first) for the "Butterfly Jungle" exhibit at the S.D. Zoo Safari Park. As they did last year the park had a hothouse filled with exotic butterflies where people could walk through, seeing them close up and possibly even having the winged insects land on them. We headed out so early to get there when it opened (at 9 a.m.) because last year we got there midday and had to stand in line over an hour to get in.

However, this year they'd adopted the practice of having timed entry tickets, so they could try to limit the number of bodies entering by staggering when people can enter. We only had to wait 15 minutes from the time we got inside the park until we could go inside, and that we spent watching the gorillas (where there was a baby born last June, named Monroe, who offered a bonus of cuteness. (Some photos of the gorillas can be seen here.)

The butterfly exhibit was the same as before, except this time it did seem even more crowded. The timed tickets were in 15-minute increments, but the folks inside weren't leaving on that schedule. Once inside you can stay as long as you wish, but the main reason why you would leave is either the crowding or the humidity; being a hothouse, it's pretty warm even without all the bodies in there. That's not the most effective means of dealing with the situation, but at least it didn't involve standing around outside, queued up with nothing else to do beforehand.

The weather was overcast, so the conditions were less than ideal for non-flash photography; even with the white balance set for clouds there's still the issue of the lens taking longer to take the shot which entails holding the camera steady longer than would be necessary under sunny skies. (Sure, one can set it for a faster shutter speed but that makes for darker shots. And sure, one can bring a tripod—and there were several photographers set up thusly—but in such cramped quarters it's not entirely considerate, and not something I'd want to bother with.)

After maybe 40 minutes inside my wife succumbed to the heat first and departed out the exit doors first (especially since no butterflies landed on her—they didn't go for the colors she wore; there was a man in a bright yellow shirt who had multiple ones who just parked themselves on his chest as he sat on a bench--see at right--so she knows what color to wear next time).

I hung back to attempt a few last shots of some of the specimens closer to that side of the exhibit (which, with all the other people around, wasn't going that well, but I felt some obligation to try). My wife was just outside in a sort of exit room (there's two sets of doors on either side to prevent accidental escape of the featured fluttering friends) and could see me through the glass.

And then just before I was about to pack up my camera and head out I felt something on my forehead. And then part of a wing flapping open obscured my view from my right eye and it was confirmed that one had alighted on me. By this point it was also obvious due to all the people around pointing at my head.

I turned slowly to face my wife, who looked at me with understandable disappointment stemming from this happening just after she'd left. Through the glass she took some pictures with her little camera. I took my camera and pointed it at my head, Thelma and Louise-style, and took one shot (which came out okay—at least one could see me and my new friend; see above).

However, before she could convince the employee at the exit door to let her back in my cranial passenger flew off.

(You can see the better results of my efforts with the butterflies by clicking here.)

And that was as much as we saw at the Safari park. We headed out by 11, drove down to San Diego proper to get some lunch at this little burrito place, then drove to the zoo itself. The parking lot was so full that we had to park on the street a block down from it. And after the trek all the way in of course the animals were all lounging around and napping, as any sane creature would do in the afternoon.

Well, the hippos were enjoying their time in their pool, as can be seen in these photos.

We were on the road back home by 5, and back home by 7, less than twelve hours from when we'd started.

Such are the excursions one can undertake when one has an annual pass, with no feeling obligated to take all of it in at one time.


  1. Such pretty hippos. And butterflies.

  2. Don't ever mess with a mother hippo in the wild. Some yahoos on a TV nature program got too close to the pool and thinking her babes were in danger, she came out of the water, pretty quick for such a huge animal, mouth wide open. I can imagine that a hippo mouth could do a real number on you.

    As for butterflies...


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