Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jungle Island: A funny thing happened on the way to see the penguins

My four-year-old son is crazy about penguins. My toddler likes them, too, just because his brother does. So when we heard there were penguins at Jungle Island in Miami, less than an hour's drive from our home, we all had to make a trip.

The first thing we did after buying our tickets was ask how to find the penguins.

(OK, actually the first thing we did was leave our cooler at the guest services desk. I had packed it with food that my son can eat -- he has food allergies -- and Jungle Island doesn't allow food or drinks to be taken into the park.)

On our way to the penguins, though, we saw parrots. Lots and lots of parrots like this macaw:

And parrot-like birds, including cockatoos.

If you have quarters on you, get some bird food from the nearby dispensers, and feed the parrots. They're very gentle.

There are lots of unique tropical birds like lorikeets and conures in enclosures throughout the park.

On the way to the penguin exhibit (did you notice my son is carrying stuffed penguins in that picture?), we also saw primates like baboons and cute little monkeys. Their enclosures didn't make for good photos, though.

Finally, we saw penguins!

The penguins at Jungle Island are African penguins. Most people think of penguins as living in Antarctica, but some species live in warm climates -- all in the southern hemisphere. (Hey, I almost sound like a penguin expert!

We didn't stay at the penguin exhibit for long, and went through the serpentarium (that means snakes! alligators! a crocodile!). My boys bypassed the chance to play with the goats in the petting zoo and played on the playground instead.

Later, we watched the peacock and peahen, walked along the Everglades habitat boardwalk and through the plant nursery and saw a lot more birds everywhere we went. Including a rather aggressive flamingo. (He nipped a little girl next to us for no reason!)

Somehow, we missed seeing the camel, and we didn't catch any of the animal shows that Jungle Island is known for. But after two and a half hours (including going back to get our cooler and eat lunch at the cafe), my boys were ready to go.

I think two to three hours is just about the right amount of time to spend there. We'll be back -- our admission included an annual pass -- and ready to explore more. We have to play on the Jungle Island beach this summer!

Jungle Island is open every day from 10 am until 5 pm (weekdays) or 6 pm (weekends). Adult admission is $32.95; admission for kids 3-10 is $24.95. Parking is $8, cash only.