During my 18 day cruise on board the Grand Princess recently, we went to San Diego twice. I tried to book an excursion to the San Diego Zoo through the cruise line, but it was not available. My tour desk consultant recommended the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which is located Escondido, California. The best description comes from their website – “The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located approximately 35 miles northeast of the Zoo, in Escondido, California. The Safari Park, an 1,800-acre wildlife park, is home to more than 3,600 animals representing over 300 species. More than 1 million guests visit each year, and see wildlife in herds of mixed species, in expansive savanna habitats. The Safari Park also maintains a vast accredited botanical collection of more than 1.3 million plant specimens, representing over 3,700 species. Guests are invited to take part in thrilling safari experiences and create lasting memories, while supporting San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s conservation efforts to save wildlife worldwide.”
I am pretty certain I covered all 1800 acres. There was a tram tour included with the ticket price, and I took that, but I still walked over 18000 steps according to my Fitbit tracker. Not very far thru the gate of the park, I started seeing the birds.
My photo’s don’t do it justice, because, honestly, I forgot to take photos most of the time. I was just enjoying the activity and the animals.
Since I was there with my simple “cell phone camera” a lot of shots at a distance were just not easy to get. Zooming in with the phone pixelates the image, and so I took a few, but mostly, just enjoyed the experience.
What I quickly noticed is things were very spread out in this wildlife park. The other thing was how much work had gone into the horticulture of the park. It was really like an arboretum. The area in California is very dry and arid, so seeing all this plant life carefully set let me know right away how much care was taken to give you a good experience, as well as the animals a good environment. This beautiful walkway led up to the area where the gorillas were housed. Not quite a jungle, but definitely not California desert.
This one little area of succulent plantings shows how much care went into the area the guests were visiting.
The views of the mountains in the background show a stark contrast in vegetation.
The Savanna habitat was huge, and to access it, you could take the included tram ride, around the perimeter, or pay extra for a variety of “safari” options. Those options looked very cool, but the price was pretty steep. You certainly got in closer to the animals with those options.
We could see a large variety of animals from zebras to giraffes from our vantage point in the tram. There were elephants and hippos wandering about. The big cats were in another area, separated from the animals they prey on.
It was so cool to see the numbers of animals and to see they had a lot of space in their habitat.
One thing that was most interesting to me was the California Condors breeding and nesting facility at the top of a hill. If you click on the link above, you can watch the “Condors Cam” during daylight hours. The California Condor was on the brink of extinction in 1987. “The California Condor has been to the brink of extinction—and back. By 1987, habitat degradation, poisoning, and shooting had nearly eliminated the California Condor in the wild. The 22 individuals remaining were captured for captive breeding programs, which are credited with the species’ survival. California Condors are now being reintroduced into the wild each year.” source – https://abcbirds.org/bird/california-condor/ That said, it was a serious hike up the hill to the area where we could view them from a platform. It was well worth the hike to me.
If you ever find your self in Southern California, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a nice destination for the day.
On our second visit to San Diego, I took a wine tasting tour out into Temecula California. Our first stop was the Wilson Creek Winery where we had a lovely lunch before our wine tastings. One of the most interesting things we tasted was a sparkling wine with an almond flavor. It was a lovely refreshing wine. It’s the one bottle I didn’t get a photo of. Our wine guide told us that particular product helped them to meet their 5 year business goal in 3 years, and is a resounding success. The Wilson Creek Winery is a rather newcomer to the wine makers in Temecula, and a lovely place to visit. I thought a “slide show” might let you peak at some of what we tasted and the views we enjoyed. The white Cabernet Sauvignon is very refreshing and not something I had ever tried.
In one area of the tour at Wilson Creek, we were able to see the “artists work” with wine corks. These might motivate you if you have a collection of corks!
Our next visit was to a Mount Palomar Winery, one of the oldest in the region. We had to choose from the menu for our “tastings” with little fanfare and no tour. The only info on the wine we received was from what we were able to gather from the menu. We were given tickets for our tastings, and could enjoy 5 different types. While the wine was nice, the ambiance in the tasting room was a little less than I expected. Walking around the grounds you could see there had been some effort in making outdoor tasting areas, which would have been a lot nicer. Looking further out at the hills, there was a lot of “replanting” and a lot of barren hillsides happening.
The area around Temecula is filled with wineries, and each has their own “special flavor” or style. Our tour guide pointed out a tour happening as we were driving out, and it was a “motorcycle with a double side car”. The rider takes his 2 passengers out for tastings at a variety of wineries and ensures they return safely to their hotel. So, lots of touring opportunities from every comfort level.
Both times we were in San Diego we left late in the evening. The city has a spectacular skyline, and it’s one of those places where you can sit to enjoy the view from the ship too.
There is plenty to do within the city and around the harbor, if you happen to find yourself in San Diego for a day. We’ve been there in the past and done some touring around the harbor, so I enjoyed these visits that took me out of town to something a bit different.
Note….yes, there was adventure in the wine drinking, the food eating and the day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park! Big thumbs up to the tour desk on the Grand Princess for suggesting the Safari park and a big thumbs up to the folks who made you feel so at home at the Wilson Creek Winery.
Have you been out having any adventures lately?? Do tell!!