The Denver Zoo

8/24/09 Denver, Colorado

ReviewThe Denver Zoo is a wonderful zoo that has undergone some impressive and excellent renovations. While the map is relatively uninformative, the layout is fantastic and moving in the same direction enables an easy viewing of all the exhibits. The zoo is pretty big, and involves lots of walking, but each exhibit is rewarding, even with all their hoof stock, and Predator Ridge is especially fantastic, the rotation of animals in each exhibit is really cool and all the rage in zoo enrichment.

PhotographabilityThe Denver Zoo is excellent in using mostly natural moat barriers for containment. While that sets the animals further back, it does provide for optimal viewing! The older cat house was a bit dark, and the reflections in the scratched plexi left me no choice but to enjoy the animals visually, but the newer glass and better lighting at Rredator Ridge made for an excellent viewing and photographing experience! I used my Canon Mark IIn with the 70-200mm lens and the 1:4 converter. Taking the 1:4 off in the low lighting didn’t make much of a difference, so i opted for the expanded focal length and made do with slow shutters. I used the Canon G7 in the tropics zone and in and amongst the aquariums of fishes, reptiles, and amphibians, its macro is as good as it gets!

Highlights: The Okapi baby was on exhibit, and at just a few months old, was absolutely adorable. The adult Okapis are kind of weird looking and awkward to photograph, so it was really neat to see the mini-version in all its glory and compactness! The bachelor pad of lions were front and center, and had it not been for the guide sending me to its tucked behind the corner locale, I would never have seen the two male lions in all their mane glory!

Lowlights: The hyenas, various cats, and tiger exhibits were VERY dark. They’ve got a nice collection, but viewing through the outdoor exhibits in the old bar cage style is dizzying, and the indoor light and reflections
were frustrating too. That said, once I gave up in photographing the cats, watching the Tiger find its hamburger enrichment in the exhibit was pretty cool. I waited a long time for the polar bear to break its stroke, look at me, and shake off the excess water, not its fault, but that would’ve been nice!

Pleasant Surprises: The enrichment portion at Predator Ridge promised to feature a lion, but when the
keepers showed up, they opted to work with one of the Wild Dogs. Id seen enrichment with cats before, but never seen a wild dog so close. Fascinating creatures and I learned quite a bit about them and appreciate them now for more that just their over-sized ears. The verticle jump on those guys, GOODNESS!!

Would I Return?: Yes, next time I’m in Denver I’ll visit!  I’d say they are due for another Polar Bear Cub, and that would accelerate my return!

Rating: 8 (out of 10)

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

82309The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

8/24/2009 Colorado Springs, Colorado

ReviewThe Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is America’s highest zoo at 6800 ft built into the mountains just outside the heart of Colorado Springs. This zoo packs an incredible punch, the lay out is brilliant and the collection is superb! Natural barriers are the most common separator and every exhibit has more than one vantage point. I don’t often find myself in Colorado Springs, but I’d certainly return if I did!

PhotographabilityIt’s almost as if they considered photographers when they designed each exhibit, clean sightlines, front of exhibit enrichment and multiple vantage points. Then again, taking photographers into consideration is the same as considering overall viewing for visitors. Bravo Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, not once did I approach an exhibit and say, ah, no way. The great ape exhibits are bit dark, but the windows were clean, so it’s a challenge but not unsurmountable.

Highlights: NINETEEN giraffes is an unbelieveable highlight. Not even in Kenya had I seen such a large herd. The exhibit was excellent, yard after yard with clumps of giraffes at the front of the exhibit. Giraffe crackers for a reasonable fee were a success, the giraffes approached to eat them. Again, lots of different vantage points and the giraffes were SO close! As if the giraffes weren’t enough, two frolicking zebras were fascinating, and the splashing grizzlies at the front of the exhibit were super exciting to watch. And a baby orangutan too!

Lowlights: I don’t usually read signs, but the signage was pretty awful and often didn’t match up with the animal in the exhibit. There may have been a rotation going on, but that wasn’t clear either, my familiarity with the various primates and other four footed furries prevented my friends from mistaking a coati for a red-ruffed lemur. (the guests aren’t dumb, you’d just think to trust a sign) You look for a coati differently than you’d look for a lemur. I collect flat magnets with the zoo logo, their magnet collection was awful and that was a huge disapointment given the zoo was so excellent.

Pleasant Surprises: The whole zoo was a pleasant surprise! I’d always heard about the Denver Zoo, and this zoo is so close to Denver, yet so different and so good! The giraffes were a pleasant surprise, the website indicates they have giraffes, but nineteen giraffes, WOW. No flamingos, I can’t think of a zoo I’ve been to recently that didnt have flamingos, but I’ve never been to a zoo with 19 giraffes!

Would I Return?: Yes, if I was in Denver visiting friends over a weekday when they had work, sure, but there is so much else to do in Colorado and I’m not sure I’d ask them to drive the 80 miles south to visit again. If you are in Colorado Springs, make it a destination!

Rating: 10 (out of 10)