Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hot Date #7: A Walk on the Wild Side

As we near the end of our 10 weeks, 10 dates challenge, Steve and I decided to grab a date idea from the first date quicklist…and going to the zoo happens to be number one at the moment! Lucky for us, as the zoo here in Greenville offers adults-only “after hour parties” a few times a year. We missed the last two (Brew at the Zoo and Zoo-a-palooza), but we jumped on the chance to attend Sippin’ Safari!

We’ll spare you the details on Sippin’ Safari; suffice it to say, it’s a wine and food tasting sponsored by a local supermarket and, obviously, held at the zoo. The thing we were most excited about was finally having both a reason and the time to visit the zoo in the first place! The Greenville Zoo is fairly small and unfortunately doesn’t really have any room to expand, but as small city zoos go it gets rave reviews.

Of course, the real stars of this date were not us; they were the animals! Despite being such a small zoo, we were literally provided with hours of entertainment. First up—an animal we had never even heard of, the Alligator Turtle! We had coughed up the extra money for VIP tickets, which meant early entrance and a separate, less crowded area to in which to start our evening at the zoo. (Please note that when going on a date, especially early in a relationship, it’s never a bad thing to go VIP-style—so long as that’s in your budget, of course!) The VIP area at Sippin’ Safari was at the back of the zoo near the alligators, so after gathering some snacks and glasses of wine, we wandered off to find said alligators…and were instead treated to a view of giant turtles with funny-shaped heads! We actually watched these turtles for a few minutes before Steve looked up and realized that the alligators were just a few feet away. I guess you never know which animals will actually interest you until you see them!

As we exited VIP and made our way over to the main part of the zoo, we passed a lot of birds (including the toucans, which are always good for some Fruit Loops jokes) and an ocelot…and then we heard the noises.

These noises were definitely coming from some sort of monkey or primate—both of which are huge interests of Steve’s—and he rushed off like a little boy in a candy store (or, as a matter of fact, like a little boy in a zoo), leaving me behind. By the time I caught up with him, he was gaping at an animal that was definitely an ape, and apparently is called a “siamang”. Having never heard of them before, we had also never heard them before—and they were loud. Not only were they loud, but their noises were practically unearthly. We must have stood there for fifteen minutes, taking pictures, videotaping their antics, and just generally being in awe of them. Eventually, though, we figured it was time to let others have the front-row seat, and we made our way to the next stop—the leopard!
Now, we have four cats, so obviously we’re cat people. The leopard was pacing back and forth in front of the viewing window, but when Steve sat down it was like that big cat sensed something. It immediately stopped pacing, approached the glass, and stuck its tongue out at Steve!

(Okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly sticking its tongue out at Steve, but he was certainly hoping that was the case!)

This time I dragged Steve away fairly quickly, as he was monopolizing the leopard’s attention. They do say that a cat can always tell when a person is a cat person, after all…

Our next stop was the highlight of Greenville Zoo—a toddler orangutan named Bob, who was born there in 2006. Little did we realize that mom and dad were housed with him as well, and in just a few minutes we realized how scarily similar this primate family was to a human family. It was Steve who had to drag me away this time, as I could have sat and watched Bob swing around the enclosure for hours.

At this point, it was dusk, and we barely caught some time with the lions and giraffes before night hit and the animals were herded inside for the night. The lions were especially playful, possibly thanks to the slightly cooler weather, but eventually the male climbed up on his very own Pride Rock and turned his back on us, as if to say he’d had enough and to please go away. We then wandered next door to the giraffes—all the while wondering how smart it was for these two cages to back up to each other—and watched as they were fed and put up for the night. Watching them munch away led us to go find some more food; we grabbed the last of some really amazing salmon that was being cooked on an open fire grill and planned on calling it a night.

Until we neared the exit and I noticed, of all places…the reptile house.

Yes, for whatever reason—and much to Steve’s delight—I am utterly fascinated with reptiles. Or rather, with snakes. Seriously, if feeding them didn’t involve sacrificing furry little creatures, we would have a pet snake. Probably a king snake (yes, I’ve done research on this, but sadly always come to the same conclusion—I can neither kill a live rat nor buy a dead one and keep it in my freezer).

Therefore, so much for calling it an early night. We spent nearly 30 minutes in the reptile house, while Steve indulged my constant camera shutter clicking as I tried to catch every snake from every angle. We even learned some things—namely that there is an animal called a skink. Some sort of reptile, but we made more than one person giggle as we wondered what in the world a “skink” was and how it got its name. Steve insisted that it was a combination lizard/snake, but much to his chagrin the letters that make up those words simply cannot form an anagram like “skink”. Also catching our attention was a white amphibian—some sort of newt or salamander, I’m guessing—that looked like something from the Pokemon cartoon. Unfortunately I forgot to note its name, but we were simultaneously interested in and repulsed by it, and after snapping a picture and making some lame jokes (of the “Gotta catch ‘em all, POKEMON!” sort), we finally dragged ourselves away.

The good thing is, we have plenty of reason to visit the zoo again, if only to figure out the name of that Pokemon-type animal. The fact that we didn’t arrive until close to 6 PM meant that many of the primates, as well as the elephants, were hiding or sleeping (or both) by the time we came ‘round to their enclosures. Still, even with missing a handful of the zoo residents, we had a great time. Also, the regular concessions were not open, and we hear that you can even buy special crackers to feed to many of the animals on regular days. As dates go, we give an adults-only evening at the zoo a ten out of ten! However, we have to admit that this rating would have likely dropped a couple of points had we visited the zoo on, say, a Saturday afternoon—when it would be teeming with little children. But really, what better way to gauge a new guy or gal’s ability to handle ugly pets (alligator turtles, what?), obnoxious pets (those siamangs…), or creepy crawlies (snakes galore!) than with a date at the zoo?

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