Things to Do in Florida: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens features over 2,000 exotic and rare animals and more than 1,000 different plant species, providing something for everyone. It is constantly changing and growing, adding new animal exhibits and gardens, such as the Range of the Jaguar exhibit and the Savanna Blooms garden. The zoo also offers a variety of interactive and educational experiences for visitors. Next read: Best Things to Do in Jacksonville, FL Photo: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
»Range of the Jaguar
The Jacksonville Zoo's Range of the Jaguar exhibit has won a national award twice. This South American exhibit features a variety of animals in addition to the jaguar. While exploring the meandering halls of the Lost Temple, an abandoned Mayan temple replica, visitors can happen upon pygmy marmosets, cotton-topped tamarins, and more The building also contains poison dart frogs and variety of snakes, such as the anaconda, Amazon tree boa constrictor, and bushmaster snakes. At the River's Edge exhibit area, guests can catch a glimpse of giant anteaters, capybaras, and howler monkeys. The Jacksonville Zoo is a great place to visit with the whole family.
An array of animals can also be found in the Emerald Forest Aviary. Visitors will find freshwater stingrays, macaws so close they could almost touch, and an Inca tern flying above their heads. A pudu, the smallest deer species, may even dart across their path. The aviary also is home to the arapaima, the largest freshwater fish, that grows up to 15 feet and can weigh nearly 400 pounds. Guests can also find entertainment watching the playful antics of the rare giant otters.
Plains of East Africa
The 1,400 feet long boardwalk of the Plains of East Africa exhibit area features a huge variety of animals in an expansive open environment. Visitors can start their journey around the boardwalk look with the warthog exhibit, and then continue onwards to see the eastern bongo, southern ground hornbills, and a wild breeding wood stork colony in the bongo exhibit. Across from the antelope exhibit area is a pair of saddle-billed storks, a rare stork species and the tallest of the African storks. Guests will find the cheetah exhibit and wattled cranes, the rarest of the African cranes, in the same area of the loop. Another two-and-a-half acre exhibit area gives ostrich, greater kudu, and white rhinoceros ample room to wander around the land. Strolling further down the boardwalk, visitors can spot the Grevy's zebra and okapi.
The Elephant Plaza provides guests with intimate views of the Jacksonville Zoo's elephants and their exhibit area, which includes a pool with 275,000 gallons of water. The zoo has 1 male and 3 female elephants. The plaza also features klipsprings, bats, vultures, and other animals. Within the same area is the African Reptile Building, home to several of the deadliest snakes on the planet. Guests have the chance to safely look at mambas, cobras, and vipers.
Mahali Pa Simiba is the one acre residence of the Jacksonville Zoo's lions. Visitors can view these lions from the main path's viewing area or from the overlook on the boardwalk. Prior to the lion exhibit area, colobus monkey entertain guests as they leap from one tree to another. Near the loop's end are the endangered Amur Leopards that can be seen from the main path or the loop's gazebo.
The Jacksonville Zoo's Giraffe Outlook gives guests an opportunity to get eye-to-eye with the giraffes on an elevated viewing platform. The area's covered boardwalk provides visitors with a magnificent view of the replica of an African Savanna. Guests can observe giraffe and greater kudu grazing and wandering freely in the area. The Giraffe Outlook is located near of the zoo's new botanical gardens, Savanna Blooms.
Visitors have a chance at an up-close view of three different types of primates at the Great Apes exhibit area. The exhibit features apes, monkeys, and prosimians. The Westland Lowland gorilla, siamangs, and bonobo represent the ape group at the zoo. The monkey group consists of colobus monkeys and mandrills. The black-and-white ruffed lemurs and ring-tailed lemurs make up the exhibit's prosimian primate group.
Land of the Tiger
Walking through the Asia-inspired Land of the Tiger exhibit area, guests will find Asian small-clawed otters, wreathed and wrinkled hornbills, Visayan Warty pigs, and Babirusa pigs. The highlight of the exhibit of course is the two Sumatran tigers and three Malayan tigers. The tigers are able to roam about freely in their habitat through an innovative trail system. Visitors can view the zoo's tigers potentially from nearly anywhere in this unique 2.5 acre exhibit.
The Monsoon Asia exhibit area features both exotic animals and beautiful, tranquil gardens. The hope with the area's creation is that it will resonate with people who have experience with Asian cultures. The garden area consists of a Lotus Pool, Koi Pond, Moon Bridge, the Orchid Pavilion, and several waterfalls encompassed by bamboo and other Asian plants. The Bamboo Mist Forest, including panda sculptures made of bronze, is a hit among both children and adults. The main animal showcased in Monsoon Asia is the Komodo Dragon. The Komodo Dragon exhibit is designed to look like a fishing village on the Island of Komodo in Indonesia. The animals seem to wander the village's backyards or bask in the sun during the day. Guests may also have the chance to watch the zookeepers train the Komodo Dragons via an interactive panel.
The Australian Adventure exhibit area showcases many different animals native to Australia, such as wallabies, red kangaroos, and a cassowary. Visitors will also find the colorful lorikeets in the exhibit's free-flight aviary.
Next read: Orlando to Tampa and Orlando to Jacksonville
The zoo's Wild Florida exhibit is located on a 2.5 acre habitat of natural wetland. The area is home to native plants and animals, including Florida panthers, alligators, red wolves, bobcats, black bears, white-tailed deer, an owl species, bald eagles, and whooping cranes. The exhibit is also the site of The Reptile House that features over 25 various reptile and amphibian species. One such species is the Eastern Indigo snake, one of many threatened species protected by the state.
River Valley Aviary
The 9,000 square feet River Valley Aviary is home to a wide array of species of exotic birds. This two story is built to let the birds fly freely throughout the enclosure. Bird species include the lesser flamingo, white-bellied bustard, yellow-billed stork, turacos, and whistling duck, just to name a few.
Play Park and Splash Ground
The Play Park and Splash Ground area of the zoo is the perfect place for children. Here they have the opportunity to have tons of fun while reconnecting with nature. The 2.5 acre play area is located in the middle of the ZooLoop path, just beyond the Wildlife Carousel and Range of the Jaguar exhibit. Visitors can try to navigate two different mazes and afterwards jump, climb, and get a little wet in the 4,000 square feet Splash Ground. Rather than get wet, guests can also create and discover in the Discovery Center. Kids will delight in climbing on vines while trying to imitate the squirrel monkeys in front of them, or petting and grooming pygmy goats in the Animal Care area. There is also a tree house and rock walls to climb on, as well as the Forest Play area where guests can dig in search of artifacts. In the Play Park, Tuxedo Coast gives guests an opportunity to get up-close to penguins. Visitors can also view the penguins swimming overhead from a tunnel window.
At Stingray Bay, visitors have the opportunity to feel and pet stingrays in an interactive and entertaining exhibit.
Save the Frogs!: Amphibian Conservation Center
The Amphibian Conservation Center aims to teach visitors how they can help frogs and other amphibians that face shrinking habitats and a deadly fungus. The center provides a sanctuary for the amphibians threatened by the deadly fungus, as well as offers guests a chance to see the threatened species and listen to the sounds of those species that have become extinct.
The Jacksonville Zoo has developed three major garden zones as part of its Botanical Garden Concept Plan. The hope is to create a unique botanical garden within the zoo, integrating the gardens with the animal exhibits. The zoo's goal is to establish a new standard for zoos.
The first major garden zone is The Main Path, also known as The River of Color. Guests begin their exploration of the gardens at the Main Camp Garden, where they are greeted by a stunning display flowers and foliage. Ribbons of swirling colorful blooms and foliage off in the distance will draw in visitors as they follow The River of Color throughout the zoo, finding the gardens linked with the animal exhibits through this line of color.
Themed Pocket Gardens, the second major garden zone, is a collection of unique gems of horticultural display. These gardens immerse guests through plant themed courtyards that serve as an entrance to the animal exhibits. The Jacksonville Zoo currently has several different pocket gardens: the Asian Garden, Savanna Blooms Garden, native gardens of Play Park and Wild Florida, South American-Range of the Jaguar Garden, and the formal Gardens of Trout River.
The third zone is The Primary Gardens. The area has been put aside as something very special as a result of the stunning native plants along the Trout River and the amazing panoramic views. The gardens will be spread out over around 12 acres, and will also include the Conservatory and Collections Gardens.
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Contact: 370 Zoo Pkwy, Jacksonville, FL 32218, Phone: 904-757-4463
Things to Do in Florida: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
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