Monday, July 23, 2012

Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens

Just south of Hilo, down a winding, jungle-road, there lies one of our favorite family hang outs:
The Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens.
Once you turn off the main road, drive about a mile and 1/4 til you reach the parking lot and entrance of the zoo. It's about a 5 minute drive from our house, which makes it more than just a hang-out for us; It's almost like a second home!

We love this zoo for so many reasons and come here as much as we can. It's small and cozy, and when we walk in, it feels like we're entering another country, like a rainforest community up in the jungles of India, or a quaint village nestled in the tropics of Brazil. To add to the exotic ambience, the variety of animals kept at this zoo are originally found in rainforests from all around the world, including Hawaii.
The first thing we do when we walk in is check for frogs in the frog pond. This is very important and can't be missed. You never know when a frog might be sticking it's head up out of the water!
Next we wander through the "monkey tunnel", as our kids call it, and search for the little squirrel monkeys climbing above our heads.
There are many peacocks along the path. This is when our toddler gets overly excited and starts screeching real loud, three times, just like one! He's really good at it! We thought the chick sitting on the Mama-Peahen's back was so sweet.
The exotic birds at the zoo are enchanting! Some of them can mimic talk, and one of them can say "Barbara" and also say "Bill", which are my parent's names. It can say a lot of other things, but the boys think it's uncanny that it can say the names of their grandparents.
We can walk around for hours looking at all the animals. We like to get there right at 9am when it opens, because a lot of the nocturnal animals are still active, like this one:
No really, the Binturongs from Southeast Asia are among our favorite! They are nicknamed Bear-cats because they seriously look like a mix between a bear and a cat! I couldn't get a good shot of one, but here's a google image to tickle your fancy. They are nocturnal, sleep in tree branches during the day, hunt small reptiles, and have prehensile tails. What's not to love about a Binturong?
There's a petting zoo every Saturday where the kids can come and scratch this pigs back. It's their favorite thing to do. There's other animals at the petting zoo, but none as cool as this pig, for obvious reasons.......
A morning at the zoo with our family is always relaxing and fun.
Sometimes we come just to play on the playground, which happens to be one of the best playgrounds in Hilo.
A few more awesome things about the Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens: There are over 100 varieties of palm trees planted from around the world, there's volunteers who put hours of work into making it a botanical garden with exotic flowers like Orchids and Rhododendrons, there's lots of nice, shady benches to sit and rest, and it's absolutely FREE to get in!
Odin took this picture below and wanted to make sure I included it:

I dug up an old photo of two of my siblings and I, posing in front of this very zoo in 1990. Our family had come over for a summer vacation from Oahu, and this was one of our many, adventurous stops. I remember falling in love with this zoo all those years ago, but never thought I would someday be living right here next to it! What a wonderful surprise!

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