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Fernando serves Maka his first spoonful of banana baby food.

  He ate sitting up just like a baby as Fernando fed him a snack of banana baby food from the jar with a metal spoon. And he ate it fast because he LOVES human baby food. But, instead of being a baby, he is an silverback adult male Western Lowland Gorilla named Maka living at the San Diego Zoo, California, United States of America.

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He opened his big pink mouth full of big white teeth and ate each spoonful in an instant. Fernando Covarrubias, a gorilla keeper for 30 years at the San Diego Zoo, cannot feed Maka fast enough. And if he stops, Maka knocks on his bedroom door or wall for more. Maka has 98% DNA of a human yet he is a gorilla with 2 chromosomes from being human.

All gorillas have access to the open air yard, and are rotated on exhibit and off exhibit throughout the day. When they are off-exhibit in their bedrooms, it gives keepers a chance to check their health and work on training.

 

Maka waiting for another bite of baby food.
Maka waiting for another bite of baby food.

 

Many times, Fernando explained, vitamins and needed medicines are mixed in the baby food to keep Maka healthy. And Maka always takes his meds because he loves his baby food so much and he doesn’t even wear a bib or get one drop of food on his beautiful black hair or his body.

 

Fernando, keeper of gorillas for 30 years, at the San Diego Zoo.
Fernando, keeper of gorillas for 30 years, at the San Diego Zoo.

For their main nutrition, Fernando gives each gorilla daily biscuits full of plant matter and vital nutrients because gorillas are leaf eaters. These biscuits are formulated to be like the nutrients gorillas eat in the wild. As the gorillas eat their biscuits each morning, they are kept separate so Fernando will know each one is getting complete nutrition.

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Now it was time for different vegetables and fruits like bananas, apples, figs and plant-based foods they feed the gorillas. Between the bite-size fruit treats, Maka showed how he communicates with Fernando.  “Show me your left ear,” Fernando said, and Maka showed his left ear through the bars in his bedroom. “Show you right foot,” and Maka lifted his huge right foot into Fernando’s hand so he could check it out.

Maka shows his ear for examination by Fernando.

Maka shows his ear for examination by Fernando.

 Next, Maka stuck his left hand out and Fernando held his hand and examined it. It was the cutest big plastic-looking hand with huge fingers twice the size of a male human adult’s. “Turn around and show your back,” and Maka showed his beautiful silverback so Fernando could look at it. “You are good to go for today,” Fernando told Maka, as he had just completed his daily medical exam.DSC_0428

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“We train the gorillas and all the animals here in the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park to respond to our requests so we can keep them healthy just like a Mother would do her child.”We are their keeper, primary nurse, chef, behavior specialist, maid and cleaner, friend, and teacher,” Fernando said admiringly. “We would like to teach Maka how to work a touch screen computer.”

20-month-old Monroe in constant motion
20-month-old Monroe in constant motion

While all of this was going on at the San Diego Zoo, 20-month old Monroe was romping, tumbling, rumbling, running and eating carrots for all the visitors to see at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park where he was born June 17, 2011. In a second, he would be riding the back of his surrogate great-great-grandmother, Vila, for a few feet and then she would put him off.

Vila died January 25, 2018 surrounded by her gorilla family group. She was 60 years old and the second oldest lowland gorilla in the world. DSC_1003

Vila held the record as the second oldest gorilla in the world living in captivity. when Monroe was nearing his terrible two’s, most of the adults in the gorilla troop don’t want to run and play full time with Monroe.

Monroe eating s snack on the run.
Monroe eating s snack on the run.

Enter Frank, a 4-year-old gorilla from another gorilla family troop at the San Diego Zoo, as a potential playmate for Monroe”, Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the Mammal Dept. at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park explained.

Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the Mammal Department at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the Mammal Department at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

“We’re bringing Frank and Monroe together so they can be together throughout their lives in a bachelor troop, if necessary, and it is best to introduce them as youngsters.

 

Watching Monroe!
Watching Monroe!

Monroe and Frank, being from different troops, however, are getting to know one another as they visit through bars in their adjoining bedrooms. Smelling, watching, touching, running back and forth, and playing is helping to bond these cute little gorilla children together so they can eventually grow up together in the same troop. After a careful introduction period, they were brought together in the same exhibit to run, play and have disagreements just like real brothers while the older adults continue to sit and watch. Vila,the great-great grandmother and Monroe continue to be best friends.

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Another one who doesn’t run and play much is Winston, the dominant silverback male, born in the wild in West Africa. “This huge gorilla with a beautiful silverback, loves to eat raisins that the keeper throws around the free roaming exhibit for him and his troop members to pick off the ground one at a time with those huge fingers,” Rex Little, volunteer docent at the gorilla exhibit, pointed out. Then 420-pound Winston walked around and collected 15-inch long lettuce leaves then sat on a log to eat them. He was a picture of contentment, happiness and joy as he sat on the log eating lettuce and watching Monroe.

 Monroe’s Mother, Kokamo, also closely watches her active baby as she goes about her daily life in the exhibit and he goes about his baby antics and is into everything. He practices pounding on his chest with his fists like a silverback gorilla does to show dominance. Monroe watches every move the adults make and then copies them.

  Another adult female listening to all the action is Imani. She is Frank’s surrogate mom who waits in her
bedroom with Frank until it is their turn in the exhibit yard. Imani is included  in Winston’s troop with Frank now.
Gorilla females can have a baby every 4 years, and, hopefully, in the future, Monroe may get another playmate in addition to Frank.

 After a full day of non-stop activities, Monroe, Kokamo, Winston, Vila, and Kamilah, sleep together in their bedroom on wood excelsior and other nesting materials. In the morning, after having their morning meal (including low starch primate biscuits), Winston, and Kokamo carrying baby Monroe in her arms, make their grand entrance into the exhibit together for the world to see the leaders of their family troop. The others follow, until all 5 troop members are in the exhibit eating their raisin treats.

 

Monroe "playing" with an elderly family member.
Monroe “playing” with an elderly family member.

And they all watch Monroe and Frank while they play, explore, romp and get attention and admiration of the guests at the Safari Park while Maka awaits his next snack of banana baby food at the San Diego Zoo. It’s a wonderful gorilla life.

Monroe and his antics.

Monroe and his antics.

Sitting and watching Monroe.

Sitting and watching Monroe.

Satu, the dominant male amoung the Orangutan family, wonders what Janey and I are talking about.

Satu, the dominant male amoung the Orangutan family, wonders what Janey and I were talking about.

Janey and I have a conversation in the Orangutan exhibit.

Janey and I have a conversation in the Orangutan exhibit.

Maggie with the San Diego Zoo Global on the left and Mary Moore, volunteer Orangutan expert, on the right.

Maggie with the San Diego Zoo Global on the left and Mary Moore, volunteer Orangutan expert, on the right.

Bai Yun and her baby hugging at the San Diego Zoo.

Bai Yun and her baby hugging at the San Diego Zoo.

Mr. & Mrs. Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo.

Mr. & Mrs. Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo.

An elephant puts her foot out so the keeper can give her a pedicure.

An elephant puts her foot out so the keeper can give her a pedicure.

OH, what a big yawn!

OH, what a big yawn!

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Carolyn receives the SILVER AWARD from the Traveler's Century Club (TCC), USA & International for visiting 154 countries. Presenting it to her is Kim-Kay Randt, (right)  leader of the Texas delegation to TCC.

Carolyn receives the SILVER AWARD from the Traveler’s Century Club (TCC), USA & International for visiting 154 countries. Presenting it to her is Kim-Kay Randt, (right) leader of the Texas delegation to TCC.

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It was our impossible dream. The first attempt at seeing those orange orangutans in the wild in Borneo had to be cancelled due to my medical problems. The second attempt at seeing them was aborted by the ship I was on due to a docking problem. The third attempt was an experience I will never forget.

Our first flight from home on a 3-leg journey to Borneo on August 1, 2012 was the beginning of our adventure.  The United Airlines jet took off as scheduled and about 20 minutes later, the pilot announced he was returning to our home airport because the air conditioning-cabin pressure was not working. I noticed I was freezing and then all of a sudden I was very hot and my ears were popping constantly. So we landed and all passengers waited in the terminal at the gate for repairs to be made.

That’s when the negotiating began between Maureen Taylor, my home-based A+ travel agent with Nexion, Inc., and Nancy Hamrick, an United Airlines Premier Dept. supervisor, because we just had missed our connection out of San Francisco to Seoul, South Korea and on to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo to see those orangutans, one of only 2 places left in the world where they live in the wild.Image

Hunting for 2 seats went back and forth. One minute we were going via Japan to Borneo, and the next minute, we were going via Hong Kong, then Singapore, and then Bangkok. Every possible route was examined for availability. It was like going through a maze trying to find that one open route. And Maureen Taylor was on the case with United Airlines from the minute I called her at 7:30 A.M. as we landed at our home airport. The value of having a travel agent proved priceless again. She knew how to work with the airlines, all the routes and how much we wanted to see those orangutans in the wild, plus she knew from experience to build in 2 extra days prior to a trip or cruise.

Maureen talked with Nancy at United Airlines for hours. Nancy was beyond super and gave beyond outstanding help and service, trying to come up with an itinerary that would get us into Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, Borneo by 2 p.m. Saturday, August 4, 2012 because we had a ship to catch. That ship, the Orion II Expedition Cruises out of Australia, was going to take us on a 22-day cruise around Borneo to see those precious orange orangutans in their natural wild habitat in the rainforests of Borneo.

But there was a problem. Every United flight was full and every class of service was full that would get us to Borneo by 2 p.m. August 4, 2012. Nancy and Maureen continued the challenge non-stop to find a solution. Somewhere, somehow, both were determined to find 2 open seats any way they could that would get us to Borneo by our deadline.

During these discussions, the original plane that had the air-conditioning-air pressure problem was declared repaired and ready to fly to San Francisco. And it was decided by both ladies that our number one goal was to just get to San Francisco, and the 3-hour flying time would give Nancy and Maureen time to find a route with 2 available seats that would meet our deadline from San Francisco.

Upon arrival in San Francisco, I called Maureen and she immediately sent us to the international United Airlines gate 100 because 2 seats had been found. “Go straight to Gate 100 immediately and don’t even go to the restroom, just go fast as possible,” Maureen said to me in her desperate sounding voice. And to our shock, the seats were in first class and they were the only seats available that would get us to Borneo in time to meet our Orion II Expedition cruise.

But there was another roadblock. It would cost more money to get those first class seats as we were not originally in first class. Nancy and Maureen then went to work on this new problem and a solution was found whereby a certain number of my United Frequent Flyer miles would be used to upgrade us to these 2 available seats. Finally, there was a solution for us to meet that Orion II ship.

But wait. Another problem then surfaced. Asiana Airlines, which was originally scheduled to fly us from Seoul, South Korea to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, Borneo, would not release our seats on their flight. Again, Nancy and Maureen went to work to find a solution to this new roadblock and they found it. A United Airlines supervisor at the San Francisco airport personally walked over to the Asiana Airlines desk at the airport and spoke to an agent about releasing our 2 seats due to United’s mechanical problem.

And to our amazement, Asiana Airlines released our seats and United was then able to confirm our 2 seats in United first class to Hong Kong, followed by 2 seats in coach on Malaysia Airlines to Borneo. And they were all in time to board the Orion II cruise.

But it was not that easy as another problem then occurred. Tom and I would have to spend the night in Hong Kong because we would arrive there after the one Malaysia airline flight had left for Borneo that day. So Maureen immediately grabbed a hotel room for us in Hong Kong, solving that hiccup, and then learning it was the last room available at the Hong Kong airport hotel. What luck!

Still, another problem occurred. We did not have a visa to enter China as we had not planned to go to Hong Kong. After much discussion, it was determined that “in transit” passengers did not need a visa to enter Hong Kong. So we were OK on this problem.

Photo & copyright approval by Dr. Birute Galdikas

But we were not out of the maze yet. The United Airlines gate agent in San Francisco could not help us claim our 2 first class seats because we did not have a boarding pass and she could not provide us one. Maureen and Nancy continued their work on this challenge and soon two United Airlines customer service supervisors arrived at the gate providing boarding passes for us. And then they escorted us onto the plane to our seats at 3H and 3K. What an experience we had just had and we weren’t even there yet. We were scheduled to arrive in Borneo on Aug. 3 and would spend one night in the Hyatt Kota Kinabalu in time to board that Orion II ship. Finally, our emergency re-scheduling had been solved and we were on our way to Borneo.

Photo & Copyright approval by Dr. Birute Galdikas

But it was due to Maureen and Nancy, who took the bull by the horns, to personally solve this unforeseeable and almost impossible problem and to get us successfully and safely to Borneo.

It was a dream come true and we are forever grateful to these two awesome ladies for never giving up until we were re-routed successfully to our dream destination and those orangutans. Going first class on United Airlines was amazing and our first experience was one of adventure, discovery and just plain luxury and enjoyment. Everything we wanted was provided and we thought we were royalty with the outstanding service.

To get us to the orangutans, these two ladies were on the phone working together non-stop to solve the problem for us. Changing an entire itinerary and airline at the last minute was almost impossible and therefore, took time to solve the unbelievable complexities. Beyond Priceless.

Finally, when I told this adventure to Kim, an attendant on our Hong Kong flight, she said “You are so calm and cool about it.” I told her I learned long ago to handle a problem remaining calm because you have to be to handle one and it usually turns out good if you do”.  Kim also was awesome and fulfilled our every need and wish on that first class flight for us. Priceless.

The third time was a charm and an adventure we will never forget because of those orangutans, Maureen Taylor and Nancy, Orion Expedition Cruises and United Airlines. It was a successful impossible dream come true!

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§  On our tour of Charleston, Savannah, Beaufort and Hilton Head Island, June and I recall the fun, interesting things, following memories and comments, in no particular order:

§  Visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Hospital and seeing sick turtles being nurtured back to health by Vets and caregiver assistants, and seeing a newly arrived Snapping turtle with medical problems being operated on by that Vet and his assistants. Priceless.

§  Seeing an assistant caressing and holding the leg and foot of that Snapping turtle with her hand as the Vet worked on it. Priceless.

§  Sitting on the front porch of Jekyll Island Club Hotel, watching 6 men and women play croquet on the hotel’s perfectly manicured lawn. The hotel is an old time southern resort that set the mood of this Charleston and Savannah Tauck World Discovery tour.

§  Riding the tram around Jekyll Island with Phyllis and hearing all her stories of the old days when the Rockefellers and other oil rich millionaires came to the island in January, February and March to hunt, fish and party.

§  Learning that the beautiful Spanish moss that hangs out of the trees is not a safe decoration or stuffing because the moss is loaded with bugs, parasites and other dangerous things.

§  Learning that Jekyll Island is now a state park and the land is leased for 99 years to the homeowners who are not allowed to own the land under their home.

§  Learning that the area’s Hercules Corp., one of the largest corporations of its kind in the world, extracts products of all kinds from pine trees.

§  Seeing, feeling and learning that the ballast rocks that ships carried to the Savannah port were used to “pave” the streets of Savannah.

§  Hearing from a city guide that 46% of the USA’s peanuts are grown in Georgia.

§  Seeing and learning about the 2 kinds of iron fences in Savannah-wrought iron and cast iron, and that New Orleans and Savannah have the most of both.

§  Learning that Savannah has 2.2 miles of ironwork on the homes and in the yards.

§  Discovering that the Girl Scouts of America began in Savannah March 12, 1912 and that the lady who started it, Juliette Gordon Low “Daisy” was born and lived in Savannah.

§  Knowing what caused Low to seek new directions in her life was being divorced by her husband, William Mackie Low, who considered her below his level.

§  Learning that this tour of Savannah-Charleston was the #888th for Tauck World Discovery.

§  Learning about tabby-sand, lime, oyster shell and water- construction and seeing several buildings made that way.

§  Learning about and seeing the Ha-Ha, a moat like trench built around a plantation or estate to keep the animals from escaping. It was named Ha-Ha because of the element of surprise when it was encountered.

§  Learning that the Georgia peach originated from China and that it is related to the almond, plum and cherry, and that Georgia is the third biggest producer of peaches in the USA.

§  Seeing how Oglethorpe originally laid out Savannah into planned squares pattern. The first planned city in the USA had 24 squares surrounded by homes.

§  Seeing the remaining beautiful 22 squares with fountains or sculptures and trees, blooming shrubs and benches.

§  Knowing that the Girl Scouts founder-Juliette Low-had ear and hearing problems that nearly left her deaf, and that she was an accomplished artist which was frowned on in her time.

§  Meeting magnetic Robert Baden Powell at a London luncheon in 1945 that she didn’t want to attend because she thought it would be boring, caused Low to found the Girl Scouts.

§  Learning that Johnny Mercer who wrote and sang “Moon River” lived in Savannah and that he had an affair with Judy Garland and was a founder of Capital Records.

§  Learning that Low was serious about making her Girl Scouts a success because all girls were invited to join.  And in 3 weeks there were 102 Girl Scouts. And by the time she died at age 66 of breast cancer, there were 165,000 Girl Scouts. Today there are 59 million Girl Scouts.

§  Enjoying the expert and excellent leadership of Tauck World Discovery’s tour director Andrea Rovito, who LOVED the South’s Savannah and Charleston, and had us loving them from the beginning.

§  Seeing the intricately custom built model ships in the Ships of Sea Museum that were used in the early years of Savannah, many which were built by the same man over 15 years.

§  Taking the free trolley tour and free ferry tour of the Savannah River

§  Seeing Chippewa Square, where Tom Hanks sat on that bench in “Forest Gump” movie, and knowing that 1 of 3 of the benches used is in the Savannah History Museum.

§  Learning that Savannah was founded as a colony where slaves, lawyers, Catholics and hard liquor were prohibited.

§  Knowing that Savannah was the first planned city in the USA and was laid out by Oglethorpe, who designed the city with 24 squares. Today there are 22 squares, with 2 made into parking garages.

§  Seeing the beautiful Dogwoods. Azaleas and Indian Hawthorne in full bloom, and then seeing Magnolia trees, Wisteria, and Jasmine, and smelling their wonderful fragrances.

§  Learning that South Carolina was the rice bowl to the world in the 1700’s.

§  Learning that all brick and rock have been brought into Savannah.

§  Seeing the holes blown in the walls of Fort Pulaski by the Union Army with their new rifle barrel machine guns.

§  Hearing that Sherman gave President Lincoln Savannah as a Christmas present, thereby saving Savannah and all the beautiful colonial homes.

§  Seeing the first Black Baptist Church totally built by slaves and the basement used for Underground Railroad activities.

§  Learning that stucco was put on homes for beauty and to keep moisture from penetrating the brick walls of a house.

§  Learning that Savannah was occupied over 2 years by the Union army.

§  Riding the Pedi-cab to and from the Savannah Theatre to see “Southern Nights” and “The Beat Goes On”, both outstanding performances which featured songs of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and both of which were fun and enjoyable.

§  Enjoying the 18th and 19th Century Savannah homes, in the style of Regency, Federal, Second Empire, Adams and Italian Renaissance.

§  Learning that Savannah has the second largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade and celebration in the USA.

§  Learning that the 1886 Cotton Exchange warehouses on River Street by the Savannah River are now tourist shops, bars, restaurants and hotels.

§  Learning that 7 ladies in Savannah got together to stop the destruction of the Davenport House, thus starting the Savannah Historical Society to save the past.

§  Learning that Fort Pulaski was built of 25 million bricks by slaves and area masons at the entrance to Savannah River and that, to this day, there are no cracks in the 7-foot thick walls.

§  Learning that the battle of Fort Pulaski, between the Confederate and Union soldiers lasted only 30 hours and that the Union won.

§  Knowing that the first use of the Union’s rifle cannon that had grooves in the barrel giving a spin to the bullet as it passed faster out of the gun, was the thing that won the battle for the Union.

§  Knowing that the fort was used as part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War and that it served as a prison at one time.

§  Visiting Hilton Head Island and seeing that it is 42 square miles.

§  Learning that Hilton Head Island was named for Captain William Hilton who discovered the island during a voyage from England.

§  Sampling Key Lime and Benne flavored Byrd Cookies made daily in Savannah, provided by our tour director Andrea Rovito. Delicious

§  Knowing that Savannah is one of the largest port in the USA and seeing container ship after container ship arriving with thousands of containers per ship.

§  Serving as the Gullah Queen in Aunt Pearlie Sue’s presentation of what it was like to be a slave who spoke the Gullah language. Priceless.

§  Hearing Aunt Pearlie’s Sue closing her presentation with love for all people and sharing it with all people. Priceless

§  Experiencing Antebellum Civil War, Beaufort, South Carolina, that was not destroyed by the Union soldiers in the Civil War.

§  Riding in a carriage pulled by Paul Newman, an 8-year-old Belgium Draft horse bought from the Amish, around Beaufort learning the story of the antebellum homes and Civil War.

§  Seeing the house and other buildings that were the subject of the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.

§  Learning how some residents in Beaufort buried their valuables in the ground so the Union couldn’t find it or steal it from them.

§  Getting a CD of Memories of our entire tour from our Tauck World Discovery tour director, Andrea Rovito. Priceless.

§  Touring the Drayton Hall Plantation outside of Charleston, built between 1738-42, that stands alone as the only authentic survivor of the Ashley’s River colonial past, intact and in its original condition and Georgian-Palladian-inspired architecture. Priceless.

§  Learning that Drayton Hall was saved from destruction during the Civil War because it was surrounded by red flags indicating a dangerous disease, serving as a “small pox hospital.”

§  Seeing the blue porch ceilings of the old Southern homes because it was believed these kept out ghosts. Ghosts wouldn’t go into BLUE water!

§  Learning that a brick fence with every other brick missing allowed air to pass through the fence.

§  Learning the pineapple was used as a sign of hospitality in colonial America.

§  Seeing that rooms with very small windows in them were to keep ghosts from getting inside.

§  Ordering Colored paint from England that was very expensive if any other paint was desired because the only color available was white.

§  Learning that Beaufort, South Carolina was occupied by then Union and served as the Union’s hospital supply, therefore, saving Beaufort as is.

§  Learning that indigo was a huge cash crop for plantations and that the 5-foot tall plant with dark berries was cut off at the ground and shipped to Europe for dyeing fabrics.         

§  Learning and seeing that there were 11,000 graves in the Charleston National Cemetery due to the Civil War.

§  Attending the Praise Session at the Circular Church of Christ by 3 ladies singing in Gullah and other songs that the plantation slaves sang as they worked the fields of the Old South.

§  Visiting several churches and their graveyards, some dating back to 1695, and hearing the stories of the various ghosts that appeared there.

§  Learning on the Ghost Tour that a tall, pillar-like slender stone in a graveyard indicated a life cut short, such as a child or murder victim.

§  Learning that several gravestones were stacked against the church wall because no one knew where they belonged after Hurricane Hugo removed them from graves.

§  Learning that sweet grass grew in the low land of South Carolina and that very fine, exclusive baskets are made of the grass and are super expensive due to the extremely labor intensive work to yield one.

§  Learning that in the year 2011, 102 cruise ships docked in Charleston harbor for a visit.

§  Learning that the Charleston City Market, now used for shopping on dry land, was built in 1807 and used to be the fish market on the dock where the boats unloaded their day’s catch.

§  Learning that the College of Charleston is now a state university with 12,000 students where women graduates wear all white and carry red roses and the men wear white jackets with a red rose in the lapel, all to receive their diploma.

§  Learning that in 1904, iced tea was served for the first time at the St. Louis World’s Fair

§  Learning that rice, indigo and cotton made Charleston the richest city.

§  Learning that a Charleston law prevents a structure from being demolished that is 75 years old or older.

§  Learning that Charleston’s military academy, The Citadel, has 2,500 students and the freshmen are called “knobs” because they have shaved heads and walk on the street beside the sidewalk. The females have their hair cut short. All have no obligation to go into service for their country.

§  Seeing that a person could get married, pick up their mail, pay their taxes and go to jail, all on the corners of one intersection in Charleston because there is a federal, county, and city office and a church.

§  “The shot heard around the world” that started the Civil War at Ft. Sumter only lasted 30 hours because the Union army didn’t have enough ammunition.

§  Knowing that The Citadel freshmen have to march to football games and then stand at attention while the seniors claim their seats first.

§  Being told that freshmen have to march to meals and eat square meals, i.e. their arms must make a square going up and down to the plate at all times.

§  Learning that the colonial home, kitchen and privy were all separate structures to protest the main house from fires, heat, cold and unpleasant fragrances.

§  Telling that the bricks in the old colonial homes were made by slaves because they had black spots in them.

§  Tasting she crab soup, a signature dish of the area that used to be made only of female crabs. Now, we are told, any old crab is used. It was rich, flavorful, hearty and just perfect soup that was full of crabs.

§  Eating raspberry crème bruleé which was “to die for”, extremely delicious and the best we ever had.

§  Learning that the traditional Charleston garden is shade and winter blooms.

§  Seeing the multi-colored row houses saved on the 1740 waterfront by several ladies and in 1950 were “tarted up”, spruced up and painted those multi-colors.

§  Learning that the AME Baptist Church stood for African Methodist Episcopalian Baptist Church that was formed by the slaves.

§  Learning that South Carolina is gaining a balanced economy with a great ocean front and port that is 5th largest in the US that exports more frozen chickens than any place in the US.

§  Visiting the only tea plantation and factory in the USA.

§  Eating fresh strawberries every day while touring Savannah and Charleston-priceless.

§  Learning that the tea plantation gets 7-10 leaf cuttings between May and September and that tea leaves are insect and disease resistant with no pesticides ever used.

§  Learning that it only takes 20 hours from the time the tea leaf is cut in the field until the tea makes it to your cup. Awesome.

§  Learning that 34 nations grow tea and that the USA buys 50% of its tea from Argentina.

§  Learning that 1 pound of coffee and 1 pound of tea have the same amount of caffeine but tea has less caffeine because it takes less tea to make a cup of tea than it takes to make a cup of coffee.

§  Discovering that first cut tea is the first time a field is cut and is the best.

§  Learning that 5000 pounds of tea leaves yields 1000 pounds of dry tea leaves.

§  Learning that tea leaves are flavored with natural protein of the seed or essence of the oil.

§  Listening to our Tauck World Discovery tour director, Andrea Rovito, telling the complete story of the Civil War during our tour from memory with no notes. Priceless.

§  Learning Middleton Plantation house was saved during the Civil War from destruction because little red flags were placed around it indicating a dangerous infectious disease was there and that all should stay away because of small pox.

§  Seeing that the Middleton Plantation House was Georgian-Palladian design, which was simple, symmetrical, balanced, boxy and beautiful.

§  Learning that the National Trust for Historical Preservation now owns the Middleton Plantation and 19 other properties to preserve not restore.

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Magic Moment Memories of Tauck’s World Discovery’s “Winter in Yellowstone” Event

*The pack of wolves howling on the other side of the valley while a wolf, a golden eagle and raven were on the opposite side eating an elk. It was so loud and lasted 2-3 minutes

*The ride from Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful Snow Lodge in a school bus yellow bulldozer-wheeled bus-Glaval-a one of a kind ride

*Seeing a wolf and raven thru a telescope eating an elk

*Seeing fumaroles, hot springs, geysers and mud pots while walking in the snow at Fountain Paint Pots

*Gerard Baker, the Mandan Hidatsa Indian, on our tour who spoke to us about his Indian customs and traditions—a priceless one-of-a-kind encounter. He wore a full length bison coat and coyote Davy Crocket style fur hat

*Bob Landis, the world renowned filmmaker-movie maker, showing us some of his outstanding footage of scenes in Yellowstone-the red fox diving head first in the snow, otters sliding down a snow-covered hill, a swan walking in the snow, 2 eagles grasping each other in flight and then letting go right before they fell to the ground and more.

*A coyote jumping up and then diving head first into the snow to get a rodent and capturing the instant it happened on my camera

*The snow and snowing to white-out was so much fun

*Walking in the snow and hearing crunch, crunch, crunch as we walked

*The Hop-On Hop-Off method Tauck used to tour Yellowstone- pull up to the dedicated path, get out, walk in a little loose snow, then onto the dedicated path, see the feature, and return the same way back.

*Standing in line in 23 degree below zero snow for 10-12 minutes waiting to use the “one-holer”  porta potty with a foot of snow on its roof. Priceless.

*A herd of snow-covered Bison on the road walking right by our Bombardier and blocking our passage

*Three Trumpeter Swans just a swimming in a snow-covered river while it was snowing heavily.

*The Indian Prayer given in native Indian language and English by Gerard Baker while we stood in the snow-covered road of Enchanted Forest surrounded by snow-covered pine trees in 23 degrees temperature. Priceless

*Stopping for hot chocolate and popcorn in a Warming Hut in the middle of a day’s sightseeing

*Seeing the “Ice Trees”, flocked trees, Rime Frost crystals and Needle Frost crystals around steam vents and hot springs and learning about them from Jim Halfpenny

*Having Janee and Jim Sundby as tour directors, both beyond outstanding

*Having the Tauck 3-generation family on tour with us and getting to know them

*Walking in the snow at night

*Dressed like mummies in so many layers to keep warm we could barely bend or move

*Getting the one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience this winter wonderland, thanks to Tauck World Discovery

*Getting the opportunity to meet personally with the best experts associated with Yellowstone National Park.

*The Bighorn Ram looking down at us from a 15ft. hill

*Getting the opportunity to have a first-time encounter the entire tour with Gerard Baker, a real Indian that we could relate to and understand

*Learning that our final Bombardier ride would be the last Bombardier ride in Yellowstone because of new snow transportation being introduced.

*Getting to wear very casual, plain warm clothes everyday of the tour, including to Cocktail Parties and Welcoming and Farewell Dinners. Priceless

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Instantly, we became tigers and others became lions, elephants or hippos. And, in case we forgot, a simulated tiger skin wristband imprinted with our tent number reminded us. Next came a t-shirt. Then the tiger group was on its way to a roaring and snoring good time on a safari in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Hand luggage in tow, we began searching for our tent, one of 46 overlooking the African savannah where giraffe, Northern White Rhino, Cape buffalo, African crowned crane, grant gazelle, oryx, and giant egret roam daily in the Safari Park, 35 miles north of the Zoo.

Finally, we found our tent #37 written on a tree stump stool. Unzipping the tent “door” revealed a normal hotel room encased in a heavy canvas tent. The electric lamps, fan, heater and hot and cold water all worked so we were in business next to the elephants..

The 17 elephants were putting on a welcome show for us: eating hay,  pooping, swimming and submerging trunk and all under water, rocking and rolling and twisting to their silent music, and flipping over in their daily ritual. And they could do this because their exhibit compound had just been cleaned by 4 keepers who had hand raked and collected their poop from the previous day. Each day, 2,000 pounds of poop is gathered and placed in a Bobcat bulldozer and larger truck, then delivered to local farmers for fertilizer.

Too soon, the tiger group had to leave the elephants and continue our orientation tour.  This time our hunt was for the restrooms, as there were none in the tents. A block or so away we found our target, full-service restrooms including showers.

The dinner bell was calling us so off we went for cocktails, then chicken, green salad, squash, and cake overlooking the Park’s African savannah. All 87 of us ate dinner on wooden picnic tables while watching the sun and animals end another day.

On our safari, we were given a glimpse into “as the elephant world turns.” Drought-stricken Swaziland, Africa, allowed the San Diego Zoo to acquire 7 elephants, arriving via 747 aircraft. They were going about their daily lives, eating, pooping, sparring and resting with each other. Since males only associate with females for mating, one solitary bull elephant was by himself and was busy throwing dust all over his body to kill insects, to cleanse and to cool.

Meanwhile Umngani, a female elephant, was standing in the elephant yard nursery waiting her third calf’s birth. Her male and female offspring, Ingadze and Khosi, were visiting every day to see if they had a new playmate.

As we became more involved in the elephant world, we learned that male and female African elephants have tusks, but only the Asian males have them. So, when an Asian bull elephant first saw a female African elephant, he didn’t know she was female. He only knew females did not have tusks. After a few days, he figured it out and started showing her what a strong elephant he was by picking up a log and running with it and dropping it near her over and over.

In the Rhino world, two female Rhinos looked like they were in relationship as they napped side by side in the savannah.  But then we learned only one male and female  Rhino pair was put together in an exhibit, but no baby Rhinos were born. By
1972, the solution was discovered when another female was added to their exhibit. Like elephants, a female Rhino only associates with a male when she is ready to mate. The rest of the time, female Rhinos prefer being with their female Rhino friends. Now, there are many baby Rhinos.

After a break for S’Mores and hot chocolate by the fire pit, we revisited the elephant world to find six elephants of all sizes and ages taking a late-evening bath. They totally submerged themselves in the water, rocked and rolled over with all four feet in the air, and did elephant acrobatics. What a soothing and calming experience this was to watch.

After dark we entered the lion family world, invited there by the lion’s keeper into their kitchen and bedrooms. Their freezer was filled with large round stickless popsicles made from meat blood drippings. “The lions LOVE them, the keeper told us. And every time she works with the male lion, Izu, she collects hair shed from his huge mane and keeps it in a plastic container for all to feel. It was downy soft. What an unexpected and rare glimpse into a world we would never have known.

Finally, it was time to snore at this Roar and Snore safari adventure. We had no trouble meeting the 10:30 PM “lights out” curfew. Having been warned that elephants would trumpet and lions would roar during the night, we asked others if they heard the sounds. We didn’t know since we slept so soundly in our comfortable bed in the tent. So at breakfast, everyone we asked said “Yes” and we never heard one sound as we enjoyed snoring in our tent.

The grand finale was petting and feeding a rare Rothschild giraffe, Chomoa, and a rare Northern White Rhino, Bhopu. Caravan safaris are a regular event at the Park and these two animals know treats are available from the truck. So, each voluntarily nonchalantly sauntered straight to the truck to pose like a movie star with each person for photos in exchange for their favorite green leaf snack. Amazingly, each animal knew when all photos were taken so they just turned around and sauntered off just like they had come. The movie star Choma was finished with this truck and awaited the next safari to arrive. Then it was time to leave an awesome roaring and snoring fun safari adventure in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and return to our normal everyday lives. But it sure was hard to leave those precious, priceless animals and their fun, unique personalities.

Photo Copy ©  2015 carolyntravels.com 

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Three orangutans with toe sacks over their heads, a bear that used to dance, a jaguar wanting meat, and an elephant having a pedicure were part of a unique animal experience Christina and I had on our behind-the-scenes tour of the 94-year-old San Diego Zoo. Stepping into the lives of this menagerie of animals for a few minutes reminded me of my many African safaris. And visiting one of the top zoos in the world for preservation of species and humane treatment of animals was a thrill.

The purpose of my trip to the 100-acre San Diego Zoo was to see the seven elephants in their new multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art Elephant Odyssey and Care Center. As I came upon the center, I was surprised to see that the custom-built treatment enclosures were in full public view.

In one, a huge, 10-foot-tall African elephant had a foot sticking out of a hole in the enclosure. The elephant’s veterinarian was filing its toenails. Having seen hundreds of elephants in zoos and on African safaris, I had never seen anything like this. How such a huge animal could submit and place a foot out of a hole in the fence was beyond my comprehension, even though I had cared for many cows, bulls, and calves on our dairy farm when I was growing up.

I learned it takes months of training to show the elephants how to do the procedure because the San Diego Zoo uses cooperative training where the animals are never forced.  One thing that kept the elephant cooperative was the keeper sitting next to the veterinarian. This keeper was feeding the elephant 18-inch-long lettuce leaves. As the elephant got its pedicure, it would stick its trunk out of another hole in the 15-foot-tall steel fence to grab a lettuce leaf.  It did this every 10 seconds throughout the pedicure. I just couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing.

When I watched veterinarians and keepers shining a flashlight into the eyes and ears of another elephant, I asked what was wrong. One veterinarian replied, “She has an infection.” As we watched, they gave the elephant a shot in the hip to cure the infection.

Our next stop on the Zoo tour was a visit with Tanya, the keeper of the Orangutans. It was so funny because it was raining and two orangutans were sitting on a tree branch with a toe sack over their heads to keep dry. Next to them on another branch was another one with a toe sack over its head. Keeper Tanya told us that 39-year-old Clyde, the adult male of the bunch, was in his bedroom because he did not like getting wet. Also with him were Satu, Inda and Janey, who brushes her hair every morning, loves to paint and has sold several of her paintings. Janey is the only Sumatran orangutan in the Zoo. The rest are all from Borneo.

The highlight of this stop was when keeper Tanya went into the orangutan habitat and fed them a morning treat of grapes and other fruits. Two of them stood up on their back legs ready to receive the grapes thrown to them just like humans stand to catch a ball. Tanya told us the orangutan gang loves air-popped popcorn, nutritional biscuits, leaves, fruits, vegetables, termites, honey, and barbecue sauce.

Tanya explained that the Zoo has a glass wall to separate the public from the orangutans because “they don’t have immune systems like we do so they easily catch human diseases.” The final fact we learned was why the concrete viewing area floor was covered with shredded rubber tires. I thought it would be to keep my feet and legs from hurting after standing for so long enjoying the antics of the orangutans. But no, that was not the reason. It was because the orangutan’s bedroom was right under the viewing area and the rubber “rug” would keep the bedroom quiet while the orangutans rested!

Our next stop was to see a Sloth Bear. Now, I had never heard of a Sloth Bear until the keeper told us it used to be known as the dancing bear that performed in circuses and animal shows. It would “dance” like a ballerina with skirt and all. Ken was the cutest bear, with long fluffy fur and long, long claws just like a sloth has. But the highlight of visiting Ken was when the keeper fed him a bottle of water and honey with a straw. A Sloth Bear’s lips are flap-like, enabling it to suck food and water. Watching Ken form those long lips tightly around the straw made us laugh out loud for several minutes. Even funnier, while he was noisily sucking the water and honey, Ken was sitting on his behind with his legs straight out front. Oh, he was so cute.

Next stop was a visit with Orson, a velvety and beautiful black Jaguar. The entire time we visited Orson, he enjoyed five pounds of ground beef. His keeper explained that Orson weighed around 150 pounds and that a female jaguar is gold with black spots and half Orson’s size. Jaguars come from Central and South America, and have huge feet and a head full of muscles that can bite through a skull.

The Zoo is a breeding ground for many species, and one is the California condor, which has the longest wing span of any bird. Thanks to the Zoo, there are now 400 California Condors in the world. The experts at the San Diego Zoo work with other zoos and animal research centers around the world, helping them with their animal challenges in nutrition, diseases, medical needs, and habitats.

Experiencing the San Diego Zoo on a behind-the-scenes tour gave us the total animal encounter, with surprises all along the way and an education too. Watching the elephant get a pedicure while eating long-leaf lettuce has to rank as one of my most wonderful unexpected sights to behold. If only I could have told that elephant how beautiful it looks with its new pedicure!

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