If you are homeschooling in the Fort Bragg, NC area, there's a good chance you are regularly seeking out educational field trip opportunities. As we spend time this year focusing on learning more about the area around us, we will be taking more field trips, and telling you all about them!
Our first review of a field trip opportunity is of the Aloha Safari Zoo, located in Cameron, NC. The zoo is located about 15 minutes north of Fort Bragg, just off of Route 87. When you hear the word "zoo" I'm sure a picture of a large facility with numerous animals and displays comes to mind. This isn't that sort of zoo. The Aloha Safari Zoo is certainly home to a large variety of animals, but we noticed right away that we were walking through someone's backyard. Admission is $8 per person with the option of purchasing a bag of food to feed the animals for $3. The bags are paper lunch sacks stuffed pretty full of popcorn, bread, goat food, and animal crackers (uh, what?!) so I felt like I was getting my money's worth on the food purchase.
The first stop, after a brief detour to the swing set, was to the goat pen. Inside the pen, there were several goats and a few pigs moving quickly toward the fence at the sight of outstretched hands filled with popcorn. We were pleasantly surprised to find several baby goats walking around outside the fence allowing us the opportunity to pet, feed, and snuggle with a few incredibly adorable kids (because a baby goat is called a kid, get it?!). Attention eventually passed from hungry goats to a baby tiger on a leash across the yard.
While the boys were very interested in hearing more about the tiger and listening to an engaging keeper talk, I was distracted by the 14 foot python slithering in the grass nearby. Even more exciting was that we were all permitted to pet her, though it took a little convincing for everyone to have a feel. There were two other animals out in the yard with a keeper that day; Wilma, a 34 year old Sulcata tortoise and a 16 week old beaver, aptly named Justin Beaver. I asked several questions about the tortoise and watched her for awhile as she chowed down on some grass growing in the yard--she can eat a pound of grass a day! We also watched Justin swim around in his baby pool and then stop to rest for a bottle.
We decided to continue on towards the building. Affixed to the outside of the building is a row of enclosures which house monkeys. As usual, monkeys are a fan favorite. The Capuchin monkey was rather chatty so we stopped to listen for a few minutes. As we finally made our way into the building, we saw a large empty pool in the center and a few birds in their homes. Around the corner were some playful ferrets and a sleepy skunk. We headed outside because the building is rather cramped. You can take the trail to the left and see a few more monkeys, a lovely giraffe, and also to take a ride on the safari train. The train ride costs extra and there were two summer program groups of kids visiting the zoo, so we opted to keep walking near the monkeys.
As the paved trail continues, we stopped to see the incredibly gorgeous tigers. The heat was a bit oppressive, so they were quietly enjoying the shade. We walked on to find several different types of fowl, though names weren't posted on the outside of their pens. We saw some amusing lemurs and beautiful horses. Near the end of the path, we found wolves also avoiding the sun. This was especially exciting for us, only because my 4 year old had recently developed an interest in learning more about wolves. The path took us to the bear, but just as we approached, he walked into his cool room to beat the heat. After seeing several turtles sunning themselves in the last enclosure, we had made our way through the exhibits.
The kids were mostly interested in the animals we saw in the yard as we entered the zoo. Perhaps it's because we could see them up close and personal or because there was someone available to answer any questions (and kids are a bottomless bucket of questions). Once we started seeing animals in enclosures, the kids started asking why some were able to enjoy time outside of their habitats and others weren't. Discussions ensued.
Overall, we were pleased with our trip to Aloha Zoo. We were able to see some interesting animals and touch a few that we wouldn't have been able to otherwise. We hope to return in the fall with visiting family members.
If You Go
The zoo accepts credit/debit cards (MasterCard/Visa) for admission, animal food, and the safari ride.
While hand sanitizer is set out on tables throughout the yard, bring some if you plan on touching animals.
Concessions aren't offered, but there are several umbrella covered picnic tables throughout the yard. Bring lunch and spend the day.
Don't forget your camera!
The website currently states that the zoo will only be open weekends, beginning in September. However, I'm not entirely sure how often the site is updated.