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Recently our family did a behind the scenes tour at Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo. As part of our Florida Coastline Tour, we visited the campus and met with faculty and students to learn about what the training zookeepers do on a daily basis.
Our kids love animals. In fact, we’ve had the idea of being Zookeepers come up a time or two- so when the opportunity presented itself, we jumped at the chance to give the kids, and ourselves, a hands-on learning experience we would all enjoy!
We arrived in Gainesville, Florida right before 11 am, when our tour started. With no time to grab a campsite before heading over- we pulled into the back parking lot of the college and parked the rig inside several free spaces, before walking to the entrance to meet our tour guides.
We started the day with a brief overview of the conservation efforts at the zoo. The kids were asked to choose which conservation project they wanted to donate proceeds to. They chose their projects and dropped the tokens into the respected boxes for their chosen animals.
Once inside, our tour kicked into high gear with our first look behind the scenes. We were welcomed into the Zoo Keepers kitchen- where students make and prepare all the meals for the animals on a daily basis. Today we would be making “Enrichment” treats for the Galapagos Tortoises. We were handed long pieces of bamboo and asked to make fruit and veggie kabobs for the animals to enjoy late.
As we walked the grounds of the zoo, we were introduced to many animals and had many opportunities to interact with them. Some of the animals we met, included the resident alligators, monkeys, a peacock and several different types of turtles.
As we walked, Antwon captured video footage on the GoPro as I snapped (what seemed like) millions of pictures. There was also a photographer from the zoo- who accompanied us throughout the trip.
The highlight of the tour was the when the whole trip can full circle. As the last stop, we went into the animal pen with 3 gigantic Galapagos Tortoises. These 450-pound giants were named, Larry, Curly & Moe! The kids enjoyed the science lesson, before having the chance to grab the ‘Enrichment’ we made earlier to play with them! They scattered them around the pen and watched as the animals slowly made their way over, to enjoy a treat, for their reward. (This is one of the ways the trainers get them to exercise!)
Friendly and well educated is the only way to describe the 3 guides who conducted the tour. They knew their stuff! The kids were in awe of how quickly they could rattle off facts, answer questions and narrate about the animals we were encountering. They were practically speechless (Okay, maybe that had to do with skipping breakfast- but they really did think these young women were awesome!)
Safe Travels & Many Adventures-