A trip to Hogle Zoo almost feels like taking a trip around the world, seeing animals from all different climates, habitats and continents. With so many different animals, the zoo does an excellent job of bringing the feel of the natural habitat to its well-designed exhibits.
If you feel like getting out and doing something fun this summer, try a little globe-trotting at this Salt Lake City zoo.
Pacific Northwest & Arctic
Opening for the first time this summer, Rocky Shores is a great addition to the zoo and simulates the habitat of the Pacific Northwest. After passing a display of two bald eagles, I saw the crowded deck overlooking the exhibit. As I reached the edge I looked over and saw a big pool of radiant, shining blue water, surrounding an island in the center of jagged, tan rocks.
The heads of the sea lions and harbor seals were splashing around in the deep water, revealing their whiskers as they popped out for a breath. The ground sloped down to reveal large, glass walls underneath the surface of the water, allowing you to enjoy seeing the seals from an underwater perspective, as they quickly cut through the water.
Another exhibit adjoins this one but there's something different there. Instead of seals or sea lions, there is an animal that hasn't been at the Hogle Zoo since 2003-- meet Rizzo, the zoo's new polar bear!
Seeing Rizzo dive into the water from the glass viewing area was an amazing sight. She swooshed through the water, occasionally splashing her head out, making quite a sight. I couldn't help but smile as she turned on her back, pushed off and floated away, as if she seemed totally peaceful and happy.
Across a footbridge surrounded by thick trees and over a deep riverbank lies an area resembling an Asian village with its Oriental houses, markings, objects and art. This is Asian Highlands, an intricate exhibit filled with many tigers, leopards and other large cats in beautiful, green exhibits with many plants and water features.
You feel closer to the African animals by such close-up exhibits as the giraffe house and Elephant Encounter. It's neat to see the towering, spotted giraffes and inside the building, you get close enough to count their dark orange spots and see their long tongues.
Elephant Encounter features a watering hole and a display area with elephant bones and African designs; when I was there, a collection of African drums filled the area with their beat. Elephant Encounter also has Zuri -- what could be cooler than a baby elephant? Tan grass umbrellas and huts dot the landscape. It reminded me of the grassy African savannas in movies like "The Lion King" or "Madagascar."
South American and African rainforest
As you walk into the small animal building, it feels just like walking into a tropical rainforest with its warm, humid air, the aroma of all the animals and the sound of splashing water. As you walk farther inside, there is a beautiful central area filled with thick, lush tropical trees, tropical birds, large turtles, and a small waterfall splashing into a pond, with bright light shining through an opaque white skylight on the roof.
I love seeing all the monkeys running around their exhibits, swinging and jumping from branch to branch. The Great Apes were equally interesting. It was really cool to see all of the animals from the far-away rainforests.
Desert and cave animals
Seeing the camels walking across their sandy exhibit made me think of the dry, rugged Arabian deserts and seeing the desert snakes, turtles and other Southwest animals in Discovery Land reminded me of southern Arizona. There's also a dark cave with bats, scorpions and other cave animals, including creepy bugs! It was interesting to see how these animals lived in such harsh places.
Hogle Zoo is fun to visit because of its large animal diversity and intricately detailed exhibits. There are many more animals beyond the ones I have described -- if you want to see them all, have a good time with family, have a unique date activity, or just visit with friends, the zoo is an excellent place to spend a summer day.
If you go: Hogle Zoo, 2600 E. Sunnyside Ave., Salt Lake City, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $12.75 for adults, $9.75 for children and free for age 2 and younger. For more information, visit www.hoglezoo.org.