Tidewater Traveler - April 2011


Animal Travel
George W. Sellers

It is a beautiful March morning here in Lower-Slower-Delaware (intended to be a highly complimentary phrase describing our relaxed DelMarVa lifestyle). The temperature is fifty degrees at 8 a.m. and climbing. This could be the perfect day to hook up the hose and attempt to remove huge, greenish-gold globs of crystallized snow goose poop from the vehicles and house siding.
Massive clouds of snow geese were incredible to observe settling in the backyard over the past week, but it was not a good time to stroll without an umbrella. It is amazing how few direct hits are required to cover the hood and top of a Prius. Scientists should study this stuff; it might be the substance from which to make heat shields for the new generation of space shuttles.
Granted, farmers hate snow geese – no exceptions! The white-feathered critters are extremely destructive to crops. But consider how many thousands of tourists make their way to DelMarVa to observe and/or hunt migratory waterfowl. An economy has developed that relies upon the habits of ducks and geese stopping-over during their annual relocation ritual. I will spare readers the details of the actual removal process. But just thinking about the spectacle of thousands of snow geese descending into a small area inspires me to consider the role of animals in motivating people to travel to various parts of the globe.
For example, not often would someone travel to Australia just to see kangaroos, but hardly anyone would consider a trip Down Under without expecting to see some of the famous marsupials. Australia tourists will also expect to see many other examples of the world’s unusual animals. A trip to Australia will, for most people, include sightings of fairy penguins, cassowaries, wallabies, and perhaps a Tasmanian Devil. One of the reasons folks go out to the Great Barrier Reef, off the northeast coast of Australia, is to see exotic and colorful sea creatures.
I know that people visit the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., just to see the giant pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. Chinese natives and tourists alike flock to the Chongqing Zoo, the largest zoo in southwest China, to explore the nearly five-acre Panda House, home to one of the most successful panda breeding programs in the world. On my visit to the Chongqing Zoo, I was fascinated to learn there are so many variations of pandas, one of the most unusual being the red panda. After posing for several minutes of amateur photography, one of the red pandas gave me snarl that was captured by my digital camera as a toothy grin.
Animal enthusiasts plan their travel to include some of the world’s most famous zoos right here in the United States. Outstanding zoos (based on the number of species and population) include: Jacksonville, Florida; San Diego, California; Columbus, Ohio; Bronx, New York, and San Antonio, Texas. If you go abroad in search of animals consider: the Berlin (Germany) Zoo; Artis Zoo in the Netherlands; the London Zoo and the National Zoo of South Africa.
You may be surprised to learn that the Maryland Zoo (formerly the Baltimore Zoo) ranks very highly as a child-oriented zoo, as does Oglebay’s Good Children’s Zoo in Wheeling, West Virginia. And, tops among the world’s artificial animal habits is Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park near Orlando, Florida. It is the largest animal-themed park in the world with over 500 acres devoted to habit, care and exhibition of some 1,700 animals representing 250 species.
Think about the watery zoos. Like the Oscars, there are numerous ways that aquaria of the world are rated. But among the best seem to be: the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland; Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California; SeaWorld, San Diego, California; and The Living Seas at Epcot in Walt Disney World.
There are a few destinations that travelers choose almost exclusively because of the animals they will encounter. One such destination is the Galapagos Islands, a batch of volcanic summits protruding above the surface of the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of South America. The island cluster is located along the earth’s equator; it forms a province of Ecuador and is also designated as a national park and marine biological reserve. Tourists to the Galapagos can expect to observe some of the world’s most remarkable and extraordinary animals, such as: the blue-footed booby; marine iguana; waved albatross; sea lion; fur seal; and perhaps the most famous of all – the Galapagos giant tortoise.
Another destination chosen essentially because of its animals is sub-Saharan Africa. Travelers join safari tour groups hoping to catch sight of the Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and water buffalo.
Mount McKinley is spectacular, but nothing excites a tourist in Alaska more than the sighting of a bull moose. Denali National Park has its own Big Five: moose; caribou; Dall sheep; wolf and grizzly bear. Aboard a Glacier Bay cruise, the ship practically tips to one side (not really!) when the cruise director announces the sighting of a pod of whales.
Sometimes, travel adventures are experienced in the least likely locations. How about Pier 39, located in the posh harbor-front district of San Francisco. No one knows why they first started showing up about ten years ago, but at times, as many as 1,700 sea lions pile themselves two and three deep on the floating docks. Boaters have abandoned the docks, leaving the area entirely to the sea lions. When touring San Francisco, a visit to Pier 39 is a must do.
As you might have guessed, I decided to stay indoors and write this article instead of attacking the greenish-gold globs, but to the snow geese I must give credit for motivating me to consider the role of animals in the business of travel.
May all of your travels be happy and safe!

George Sellers is a Certified Travel Counselor and Accredited Cruise Counselor who operates the popular travel website and travel planning service www.SellersTravel.com. His Facebook and e-mail addresses are George@SellersTravel.com.