What could be more fun than a trip with Allie, my adult daughter and a chance to see some wild life up close and personal? This past July, I had the chance to see what was new and different in the Quad Cities on a sponsored trip and one of the places I was fortunate enough to visit was the Niabi Zoo. Located near Coal Valley, we arrived early to experience the Giraffe Encounter.
The zoo is located in a rural area and we were amazed at how big the zoo was. Niabi zoo offers more than 600 animals representing over 200 species from around the world. We parked and entered the offices and caught up with Tammy Schmidt, the assistant director. Tammy took us on a whirlwind tour as we wound our way to the giraffes.
The first thing we saw when we entered was the new exhibit called Oceans. This educational exhibit is an aquatic-themed habitat that includes a giant Pacific octopus, a moray eel, jelly fish, fish eating anemones and more. What we loved was the bright colors of the fish and a placard explaining how the slim chances of being bitten by a shark. With a husband that watches and believes any and every shark threat, Allie and I were quite amused by this and took a photo to share with Keith upon our return!
Tammy shared that the zoo sits on over 40 acres and that the zoo has a deep commitment to preserving nature and ecology. Allie was quite excited when she viewed the Big Cat exhibits on our way to our giraffe encounter that was the big draw for her. There is a Big Cat Encounter and if it is as cool as the giraffe encounter, we may have to go back!
The giraffe encounter was amazing. We got a chance to see the two species of giraffes and we were amazed by how much larger the male was than the female. Our guide told us that it has only been recently that they have learned that there are distinct differences in some of the giraffe species, it is astounding what we are still learning year after year about animals, their environments and interactions.
The animal trainers have taught the giraffes to move through a shoot from place to place. They play with toys they have mounted on bars and the male giraffe was quite attracted to scratching his head against the bars. Never having been this close to a giraffe, I didn’t really realize how big and tall they really are. After watching them and learning about them for a bit, we had the chance to feed them large lettuce leaves and see their beautiful faces up close. What a wonderful thing to see and do. Elementary school and older children would love this opportunity!
After our encounter, we wandered through the zoo and saw the reptiles, the beautiful cats and we were entranced by the lovely snow leopard. We saw birds, goats that stood on high rocks and more. The heat of the day was the only downside to our visit. I would love to go back again in the cool of early spring or fall!
The Niabi Zoo has educational opportunities for kids and a zoo ranger program as well. When we traveled to our next stop, the Creekside Vineyards, the young man there said he was a zoo ranger and expressed how wonderful he thought it was to have the chance to be at the zoo and share information with the public was.
There is something for everyone at the zoo; there is a lovely carousel and even a train ride to travel around the zoo. They even have birthday parties, family reunions and other events that can be arranged. To find out more information, log onto http://www.niabizoo.com/ and make plans for your very own wild life encounter!