California’s Second-Largest City, A Laid-Back City Renowned For Its Ideal Climate, Impressive Beaches, & Benchmark-Setting Zoo
The USS Midway at sunset. Harbour Drive in San Diego Bay. April 16, 2013
I had heard from more than one source that San Diego, the southern Californian city renowned for its ideal climate, impressive beaches, and benchmark-setting zoo, was a nice city. It is. Although it has a population of almost 1.4 million, making it the second largest in the state of California & the eight-largest in the entire US, it somehow manages to ooze calm, its laid-back approach meaning it’s a much more enjoyable experience of a city than Los Angeles, its (much) bigger, busier & more impersonal northern neighbour. I enjoyed the 2 days I’ve just spent here, my last few days, for now, in the US. But before I cross tomorrow over the nearby border into Mexico, here’s a little of what kept me busy for the last few days I’ve spent liking likable San Diego.
Harbor Drive || Ships & Sunsets
Petco Park || Home of the San Diego Padres
San Diego Zoo
San Diego for me was always going to be about its world-renowned zoo, where I spent the best part of today.
– Sir David Attenborough
San Diego Zoo, located in the city’s Balboa Park, has built something a reputation that marks it out as possibly the world’s premier zoo. It encompasses over 100 acres of displays & habitats. Animal shows run constantly and there are creatures on display here that aren’t visible in any other zoo on the planet, or so they claim. Definitely worth a visit, but you need a full day (or more) to really do it justice.
San Diego Zoo was awesome and I can see why a lot of similar establishments the world over try to emulate it. That said, I felt a bit removed from some of the zoos most popular inhabitants, a consequence of being maybe just a little too spoiled over the years. The elephants? They were cool, but I just wanted to jump into their enclosure and hug their trunk, just like I did at the Elephant Safari Park in Bali, Indonesia. The bad-ass snakes? Instead of just laying there I wanted to see them do something cool right in front of my eyes, just like they did at the Snake Temple in Penang, Malaysia. Monkeys? They swung here, swung there, as monkeys do. But I wanted to get right up beside them, just like I did most recently in the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali. Likewise the orangutans. Having already seen them swinging from the trees in a Borneo jungle meant seeing them from behind glass wall this time around was a bit of a letdown. The tigers? Everyone seemed to love the fleeting, far-off glimpse they got of the lone tiger I saw as it pranced around its pen. I wasn’t amused and wanted to get right in there with it, just like I did in Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. And I didn’t even visit the koala zone, content with having made freinds with some of the residents of the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Australia. Yep, I guess I’ve been spoiled.
OK, so my visit to San Diego Zoo wasn’t a total bust. I did like the pandas, even if I had seen them before (in China, way back in 2004), and even if they did nothing more than lay around eating, which, being honest, is all they are pretty much programmed to do.
The polar bear was also cool (no pun intended), even if it was a tad weird to see a polar bear sunning itself in the heat of a San Diego late-April afternoon.
However, the highlight of my visit to San Diego Zoo was this guy, Ndjia the gorilla.
A final capture from here in sunny San Diego.
I’m leaving tomorrow but I’m not flying out of San Diego. I’ll be going the short distance (30 kilometres or so) south of the city to the international border crossing with Mexico, destination Tijuana ahead of a few months of travel through Mexico and further afield to Central America. Best brush up on my Spanish.