Ethan and I love the Palm Beach Zoo. If you follow us on Instagram, you've probably noticed we're there a lot -- once a week at least, usually. Ethan and I are on our second year of being zoo members and our special days spent at the zoo are some of my most cherished memories. We're at that point where Ethan knows most of the animals by name and I'm only minimally skeptical of his claims that the Singing Dogs recognize him when he walks up. The Palm Beach Zoo is monumental in our memories and family adventures, so I was really excited to throw Ethan for a little loop and surprise him with a new take on our usual zoo trip.
On Wednesday, Ethan and I were able to go behind the scenes and get to interact with the zoo's amazing Aldabra Tortoises as part of the zoo's animal experiences feature. We were met with an off again, on again rain storm and a cold front we weren't expecting, but that didn't stop Noto the tortoise from making quick friends with Ethan. Seeing the glimmer in Ethan's eyes as he excitedly waited to feed and pet Noto made me forget all about how chilly it was for our South Florida blood.
Many people have negative perceptions when it comes to zoos. The Palm Beach Zoo does a good job at squashing the negativity in one visit. No, you won't see whales or penguins or elephants or other animals that couldn't possibly thrive in our South Florida temperatures or in limited space, but you will find an ethical zoo with zookeepers who love every last animal as if they were family (and, if you ask Ethan, Mardi the white alligator is totally part of our family at this point!). The Palm Beach Zoo is all about conservation and sponsor many conservation programs as well several on site programs. (We even learned the animals get acupuncture treatments which is just about the coolest thing ever!).
The love the zookeeper had for Noto and the other tortoises was so apparent from the moment he began talking to us. Not only did Ethan and I get to experience these beautiful animals up close and personal, but we learned so much in our time with them. Through talking with the zookeeper, Ethan learned the differences between tortoises and turtles as well as what tortoises liked to eat, how the weather can affect their digestion and activity and how old they can live to be. He also learned that tortoises can feel you touch their shells, so it is important to always be gentle when petting them. Perhaps his favorite part was being able to feel the skin on Noto's head and neck, not just his shell.
I like to say I'm a "homeschool nerd" who advocates for the importance of play as a learning tool. In the same sense, children learn so much from the world around them. In his short visit with Noto, Ethan was able to take away so much knowledge and experience -- more than we give children credit for. It was a completely magical visit and I am so honored to have had the experience alongside Ethan to meet Noto up close. When I get to be Noto's age (humor me), I still will never forget the glimmer and excitement in Ethan's eyes as he stood in front of Noto for the first time!
Ethan has also decided that he's going to be Noto for this year's Boo At The Zoo, so I've got my costume-making work cut out for me.
For more information on the Aldabra Tortoise experience, check out the zoo's website!
A particularly fun new "zoo fact" is that the zoo is planning a new eco-friendly garden to grow fresh food for the animals. Twice a month, the zoo also has a fresh produce market where zoo goers and South Florida residents alike can do some shopping. Perhaps my favorite new addition to the produce market is the zoo's new coffee.
What's so great about the Palm Beach Zoo's new coffee? It's actually a bird safe blend which means that it was harvested in a way that has no negative impact on bird habitats. (It's delicious, too!)
With a commitment to sustainability, to the animals and to education, I simply have no choice but to fall in love with the Palm Beach Zoo a million times over each time we step through those front gates (which is a lot).
The folks at the Palm Beach Zoo also graciously offered one of my readers the chance to win a family four pack of passes to the zoo! Enter below and, if you decide to give Noto a visit (and I would totally encourage you to do so), tell him his buddy Ethan says hello!