Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

San Diego’s World Famous Zoo. Is it the Nation’s Best?

©Bert Gildart:  Last week Janie and I made a speedy three-day trip to San Diego essentially to see our good friends Don and Nancy, whom we met about six years ago. We left our Airstream parked at our site in Springs at Borrego, drove two hours, checked into a motel at Chula Vista and then drove one more mile to where Don and Nancy were camped in their Airstream.

To look at Don you wouldn’t know he has been fighting cancer for almost a decade.  Don has a full crop of Irish red-blonde  hair and he is in excellent physical shape.  He jogs, hikes, climbs mountains – and most recently, led (along with his wife Nancy) Janie and me on a full, day-long excursion through the world-renowned San Diego Zoo.  And that, folks, is the subject of this posting, not Don’s incredible demeanor and resilience — or his excellent physical shape, despite a chronological age that surely must getting close to mine.  (I’m staying the same!)


At the outset I want to say that  seldom have I augmented my photo library to the extent I did during our single-day eight-hour visit. And that is because of the incredible displays zoo keepers provide at their 100-acre tract of land.  Here, managers exhibit over 3,700 animals.


San Diego grizzly bear, showing reasons the species is so formidable. This particular bear was transported from Montana where it had been plaguing campers. The choice was to euthanize or move to zoo.

First to attract our attention was the flamingo exhibit, logically as it was located near the zoo’s entrance.   We were charmed by the species’s beautiful orange-red color but also by their behavior antics, which included displacement, aggression and warning gestures, the latter of which were created when the birds  extended their necks. — fully!

Like everyone else, we wanted to see the pandas, and specifically, we wanted to see Xiao Liwu (meaning “little gift”).  Five others have been born in the zoo, several of which were shipped to China to assist in its breeding program.

Xiao Liwu – OR “LITTLE GIFT”

Little Gift was born on July 29th, 2012 and was first let outside for visitors to see on January 9, 2013.  In addition to being able to view this rare animal species, the zoo’s “Giant Panda Discovery Center” has interactive exhibits that let visitors experience just how the animals smell and sound.

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L to R: Flamingos exhibiting group behavior; cormorants nesting; more flamingos, again displaying what may be a warning gesture.

Of course photography is dependent on activities at the moment you visit, meaning that you’ll need more than just a single day to document a species’ behavior.  Our challenge was great as we wanted to see everything, meaning as Don said, that you’ll have to come back.  Nevertheless because the zoo has created various types of aviaries we saw dozens of tropical birds and many colorful birds from other habitats including the tinkerbirds and the sociable weaver.  Outside the aviaries we also saw (in addition to the flamingos) cormorants and a bird migratory harlequin, which migrants to Glacier National Park, where we first met Don and Nancy — hiking the Highline.


Energetic as ever, Don insisted we see everything we could squeeze in and before the day was over we had seen various species of bears (I have a personal interest, shamelessly linked here to national coverage — Night of the Grizzly), hiked the monkey trail, seen the polar bear plunge, made the elephant walk, visited the exhibit known as “Absolutely Aps, “visited” the Australian Outback… seen the bonobos.

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L to R: Sadly as this naturalist explains, the world’s cats are diminishing.

Middle image is one taken along the “Monkey Walk” and represents my SON-IN-LAW.  Will is a reasonably intelligent man, but he is seen here 
contemplating the  zoo’s repeat message and display that THE WORLD COULD ACTUALLY BE WARMING — and that MAN could be influencing that warming.

Last image: Xiao Liwu – OR, “LITTLE GIFT,” perhaps the zoo’s most popular attraction. 


We’d also listened to talks on global warming in which they quote world famous climatologists, noting the world is warming because carbon in the atmosphere is increasing at never-before experienced rates. Their exhibit is convincing – and retired college professor Don Dennis knew we’d enjoy seeing THAT exhibit. I trust my son-in-law (shown just above — Ha!) will too.

Our only disappointment is that we needed more time, but as Don said, “you’ll have to come back.”


Maintaining welfare of zoo animals necessitates skilled professionals. Here, caretaker cleans hooves of an elephant.


We hope to do just that, because, yes, we do believe (We’ve seen dozens, to include the National Zoo in D.C.) that the San Diego Zoo may certainly be among the world’s best — if not actually the world’s best.




*Burrowing Owls & Bizarre Nests Needed to Survive







4th ed. Autographed by the Authors

Hiking Shenandoah National Park

Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.

$18.95 + Autographed Copy

Big Sky Country is beautiful

Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State

Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

What makes Glacier, Glacier?

Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent

Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

One Response to “San Diego’s World Famous Zoo. Is it the Nation’s Best?”

  1. Airstream Life – All About an Iconic Trailer | Bert Gildart: Writer and Photographer Says:

    [...] in my story.  Not surprisingly, perhaps by virtue of the condor image, the story describes the San Diego Zoo, the latter of which has played of major role in restoring this much beleaguered bird.  In fact, [...]