We had plenty going on this past long weekend – Victoria’s Day here in Canada. On the Saturday night, my two boys and I went to the Toronto Zoo with a bunch of kids from their Beaver Troop (Boy Scouts) and we spent the night there at their Serengeti Bush Camp.
Here is a picture from the camp site itself, which was very clean and centrally located near the African pavilion – the camp was meant to emulate a night in the African wild. as you can see, there was plenty of room for running – that is Linus tearing around the site.
Our tent was called Ngiri. It was a 4 person tent with 4 cots inside – 2 adult sized cots and 2 kid sized cots. Honestly the worst experience by far occurred here as we got into the tent to sleep at 10:30pm after the campfire – where we ate smores - and it was pitch black save for a flashlight the zoo provided. I didn’t notice the cots came in 2 sizes so both boys were in the big cots and me, all almost 6 feet and 230lbs of me settled into a kids sized one where I couldn’t move. In addition, it was 30 degrees during the day, but got down to 5 degrees at night, which made me very cold in my shorts and t-shirt snuggled into a sleeping bag on a kids-sized cot. Oh, and I had to pee but was too cold to get up. All this means, I did not sleep a wink. Did I fail to mention the animals scratching at our tent during the night… There were raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, groundhogs and peacocks on the loose.
Our neighbour said she heard the velcro on her tent open, and when she flashed her light she saw an animals hand opening the zipper on her tent. It was a raccoon.
The probable culprit…
Our tent with respect to the campfire before the activities;
The cool thing about being in the zoo for this program is the fact that we were setting up camp and walking the site an hour before the zoo closed for the dayd. The troop received a detailed walk through of the African pavilion and we got to see many animals up close, and ask questions of the dedicate Bush Camp staff, Jennifer and Shannon.
We saw zebras.
Did you know zebras have stripes so they can stick together and protect themselves from lions. Lions have traditionally poor eyesight and when they see a bunch of zebras they see one giant moving stripe and they move on. Smart Zebras!
The Grévy zebra was named after Jules Grévy, then president of France, who, in the 1880s, was given one by the government of Abyssinia. Nice.
After the zebras we got right up close to the hyenas, this vile animal is depicted as being the villain in the Lion King and for good reason. These guys are bone crushers and when they catch and eat an animal, they eat the whole dame thing, bones included. The kids wanted to stay away from these, for sure, and at night when we were running through the zoo – in pitch black – with flashlights in hand, we were all hoping the noises in the bushes were NOT the hyenas.
After the hyenas, we saw hippos! They were cleaning their pen since our tour took place the next morning before the zoo opened so there was a whole lot of stink involved in this showing.
The other really cool animal we saw up close and personal was the penguin. We saw them swimming, playing and our troop got to see a special feeding of them from above the water and then below the water. We also got to see the babies they have at the zoo. Here is a picture of them playing in the water. It was really hot ans sunny outside so they are hard to see but there are 3 of them on this picture.
(Oh, and Linus was convinced he was going to be sleeping with the penguins at night).
Our last main animal we got to learn about was the giraffe. Once the zoo closed they took us into the giraffe pen and we were 5 feet away from them. We hung with the female giraffe’s and they were very curious about our little beavers possibly wondering if they were food, lol. But seriously, we go to see them eat carrots with their 2 foot long purple tongue (purple so it won’t get sunburned). They guys spook easily so the kids had to be as quiet as possible.
We also got to see baboons up close and personal and first thing in the morning while they were eating. One of the baboons took an empty burlap sack and placed it over his head, the n rolled around to entertain everyone. Silly monkey.
We also caught a glimsp of the white lions. Also real cool and we found out that the zoo is going to have a naming contest in the summer. We saw warthogs and snakes and porcupines.
We also saw cheetahs and jaquars. Did you know that black cheetahs also have spots on them like the regular cheetahs but from a far they just look all black.
So, all in all the overnight was incredible. We all learned about the animals, the accommodations were great, the bush camp leaders fantastic – we were their first of the season – and the food surprisingly good.
I wanted to do it because I camped as a Beaver, Cub, Scout and Venturer and I hated it. I didn’t want to pass judgement on camping to my kids, they needed to experience it themselves. As it was they got to stay up real late, run through the zoo morning and night as the only non-animal guests, they ate, drank juice, tons of chocolate milk, made smores and got to sleep with their daddy between them as we all held hands.
I loved it.
They loved it.
We’ll be back!
Thank you Jennifer and Shannon our bush-camp leaders and thank you Toronto Zoo.