I felt our visit to one of the oldest zoos in the United States deserved its own post because really, I could talk all day about it. For starters, as it is part of the Smithsonian Institution, admission is completely free. Yes, you can go round the zoo and see around 2,000 animals – including 30-40 endangered species – free of charge.
We arrived there by Metro (parking can be quite pricey if you are going by car) and after picking up some taquitos and slushies from the store opposite the zoo, we headed inside. Before we saw any of the zoo’s creatures however, we stumbled upon a chipmunk, crossing the path at a leisurely pace and not within any kind of enclosure! This was the first time Riley or I had seen a chipmunk in real life (they’re so small!), so we got rather excited and the remainder of our visit involved me trying to get close to another one.
Free-range chipmunks aside, the zoo has an impressive array of animals, from playful otters and apes to chilled out elephants and lions. They have a walk through Amazon jungle enclosure (I’ll get to that later) and plenty of interactive things to keep both kids and adults amused.
The National Zoo recently welcomed Moke (who is now just a month old) a healthy western lowland Gorilla – a species native to the rainforests of central Africa. He was rather adorable, even with mum keeping him close to her chest, you could see his inquisitiveness in turning round to see the hoard of onlookers admiring him. Moke isn’t the only baby attraction currently at the zoo however – they have baby orangutan, Redd, who was enjoying showing off for his audience by swinging round on a rope and stealing bits of food from his ever so patient mother.
You can often catch a glimpse of the sea lions from the underground viewing gallery (which makes for an awesome silhouetted photo opportunity regardless), or a get a close up of the otters playing in similar designed enclosures for underwater observing.
Back to the Amazon jungle walkthrough – this was by far my favourite part. The exhibit contains a variety of species: birds, monkeys, tortoises, fish – but I was most enamoured by a resident Roseate Spoonbill: a bright pink bird with an unusual flat bill.
The bird expressed a pretty laid back attitude and let me in close for a picture. It’s rather ungainly beak clattered gently against my face and so – in another episode of: “Megan kissing things she probably shouldn’t” – I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of a smooch. It was certainly the most unusual kiss I’ve ever received but I was delighted as I ever am with any animal interaction.
We had a super fun day at the National Zoo, the sun was out, there was water misters around the park to walk under to cool off – and probably the only thing around with a bigger smile than mine was this Matamata Turtle…