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M. Man's New Mexico Trip

Discussion in 'United States' started by Milwaukee Man, 7 Aug 2015.

  1. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member

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    M. Man's New Mexico & Las Vegas Trip

    Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to post this until now. This year's vacation I decided to try something new. Over the course of about a week and a half, I'll be covering two different locations. The first half is in New Mexico, and the second half in Las Vegas.

    In New Mexico, already one day done, I am doing various activities like exploring the Carlsbad Caverns, White Sand Dunes, a rodeo, and of course, visiting a couple zoos.

    Today, I took on two animal attractions in Albuquerque, New Mexico: the Rio Grande Zoo (a nice surprise of a zoo) and the Albuquerque Aquarium (small but pleasant). In a few days will possibly be the Alamada Park Zoo. Unless something changes, I highly doubt I'll be visiting any animal attractions in Vegas.

    Reviews and photos will hopefully be up for the first two attractions in the next day or two.
     
    Last edited: 7 Aug 2015
  2. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    You realize there is a Las Vegas in New Mexico? Since you said in addition to New Mexico, I will assume you are visiting the Las Vegas in Nevada. Why is beyond me. Did you read Snowleopard's description of his recent visit? I actually lived there for four months and it is truly the most depressing city in America. It is also not very close to New Mexico. Why not come here to southern Arizona instead? :)
     
  3. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member

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    I changed the title and edited the initial post to avoid confusion; that's my bad I should've specified. :eek:

    The reason for flying to Las Vegas after New Mexico is because it's part of a family vacation, and I'll be celebrating my birthday there. Haven't been to either location before, so wanted to check them out.

    Arizona actually has been in the family for a while, as I used to have relatives down there that rented a condo and house. Last I was down there was in 2011, and I usually try a new location for vacations each year. Though I will admit; Reid Park's Expedition Tanzania and Phoenix's upcoming tiger habitat are pretty tempting. :)
     
  4. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member

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    Here is Part 1 to my busy August 6th day.

    Review of the Rio Grande Zoo

    https://www.cabq.gov/culturalservices/biopark/zoo

    The Rio Grande Zoo, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, opened for business in 1927. Today, the Zoo, made up of more than 250 animal species, is one of four sections of the Albuquerque BioPark; the other three being the Albuquerque Aquarium, Rio Grande Botanic Garden, and Tingley Beach.

    Much like the Buffalo Zoo a few years ago, the Rio Grande Zoo was a surprise for me. There are not many exhibits that really stand out amongst the major zoos around the country. However, what makes up for that is the well rounded animal collection, a great layout, and a gorgeous setting. The Zoo was much lusher than I anticipated, and the plantings really added a nice touch to some of the exhibit paths. I also enjoyed the attention to detail in many areas, particularly in Adventure Africa and Outback, two of this Zoo’s best complexes.

    Ape Walk – Three ape species can be seen in four different exhibits that are overall hit-and-miss in quality. Up first is a pair of gorilla exhibits, which are both grassy, have a few bushes, trees that are fenced off, and a wooden climbing area. Viewing is mainly across a deep moat where I saw a silverback climb down at one point, along with a cave with two small side windows that each look into an exhibit. With their small, narrow shape and grotto-like appearances, the two exhibits in my opinion reminded me of smaller and weaker versions of San Diego Safari Park’s Gorilla Forest. Up next is an average orangutan habitat with another deep moat, a large taller wooden climbing structure, and some tall plants. Something to note here is that I saw six of the red apes coexisting together – the most I’ve seen in a single Zoo enclosure. The best part of this complex is the last exhibit home to a trio of siamangs. The mesh habitat is quite lush and packed with climbing opportunities, with the highlight here being a bridge that visitors can cross over to a large platform, allowing them to view the lesser apes amongst the branches. Visitors wrap around one side of the siamang habitat down a ramp to view the ground level area. The complex ends with a view into the “Gorilla Playroom,” an indoor exhibit for the gorilla troop.

    Outback – Thanks to a few additions over the last five years, this section in my opinion has easily become one of the better Australian complexes in the U.S. Up first is a walkthrough lorikeet aviary where people can feed the squawking birds some seeds, followed by is a kookaburra aviary, and a shack that provides interesting information about the land down under. Across the path is a building called “Koala Creek.” Here two all-indoor exhibits are found for Matschie’s tree kangaroo and, of course, a sleeping koala. Both exhibits have sand floors and various trees and branches for climbing. Across the path one can enter a cave, where a kookaburra/snake-necked turtle exhibit, a Great Barrier Reef tank, and a snake (forgot the species) terrarium can be found. On the way out of the building is another walkthrough aviary – this time for a variety of parakeet species, along with separate exhibits for two species of cockatoos. Of course, the highlight species of this Aussie complex (and the Zoo for me) is just ahead – the Tasmanian devils (added in 2013). The carnivorous marsupials have a fantastic home here, half of it is lush with small trees and patches of dirt and grass, and the other half is rocky for the devils to clamber all over. There are also several logs and a pool to entertain the energetic creatures as well. Nearby is a pair of habitats for the country’s only group of Tasmanian wombats (added in 2010, and a first for me) that are pretty good with lots of digging areas and a pool in one of the exhibits. I’d definitely give this Aussie area a thumbs-up.

    Adventure Africa – For me, this complex, which opened in 2004, is the best complex that Rio Grande has to offer. Not only are most of the exhibits nice, but the attention to detail here is superbly done as well. Plenty of African style buildings, props, and the overgrown vegetation on the pathways really added to immersive experience (along with the New Mexico heat). The journey begins with a pen for majestic Ankole cattle that is small, dusty, and viewed through wooden fencing. From there, things go rapidly uphill. A village comes into view featuring the Matunda café next to the Ankole cattle, an African-themed gift shop, and a gathering place featuring a variety of African scenery. After passing some restrooms, the first animal habitat comes into view – a nice tall habitat for de Brazza’s monkey that features good climbing opportunities and shady areas. Up next are two good side-by-side exhibits for muntjac (from Asia – oops!) and klipspringers (viewed through wooden fences). Then visitors cross a bridge over a great Nile hippo lagoon. For the most part, the best hippo habitats usually have vast underwater viewing windows; having said that this is definitely one of the better non-underwater viewing hippo exhibits in the country. The hippos have a land area that could’ve been a little bigger, but the pool is deep and refreshing, and there is a beautiful waterfall with boulders and logs in the back of the habitat. Visitors can also get within feet from the aquatic pachyderms on the bridge and by another area in front of the pool. The best part of this exhibit was the pod of hippos – I saw five of them including a cute four-month old calf. They were very active, interacting with each other, and playing with enrichment balls by biting and swinging at them with their colossal heads.

    Behind the hippo pool (when looking to the left of the bridge) is a red river hog exhibit that was all right, but nothing spectacular. Next-door are narrow, decent scrubland-like habitats for African wild dogs, a spotted hyena, and cheetah (this fleet-footed feline has two different ways of viewing: a glass window, and an ascending ramp with viewing through a rope barrier). Across the pathway is a very good aviary featuring saddle-billed storks, a marabou stork, two vulture species, and a few other bird species. Perhaps the most unique feature is a walkthrough portion where guests are surrounded by a chain-link barrier, and the birds can fly up on top of the tunnel. After passing a lush, but small, wattled crane aviary and a shaded area for guests with African-style painting on the walls, a small stream comes into view, which turns out to flow into the chimpanzee habitat – an exhibit similar in design to the ape habitats back on the Ape Walk. While there are plenty of large viewing windows, lots of grass, and a decent-sized troop of apes (including two adorable twins born last November), I felt there could’ve been more climbing structures and ropes – another average great ape habitat for Rio Grande. After passing a small amphitheater, one will come across an above average habitat for a trio of white rhinos. While barren, it is tastefully designed with several shady areas, mud holes, and a low rocky surrounding. This is followed by a pair of Sichuan takin exhibits that are misplaced and sadly severely lacking in quality; nice to see the unique animals again though! The path continues past a really nice habitat for a herd of Grant’s zebras that, while lacking any grass, have several shady trees that does well resembling and having the dry climate touch of the Dark Continent. The last area here is a pair of small reticulated giraffe exhibits that can also be viewed through a trio of African huts – one of which guests can feed the gentle giants from.

    Seal & Sea Lions – Located in the very center of the establishment is a decent pinniped pool for California sea lions, harbor seals, and gray seals. After passing a construction site on the left and a pretty waterfall area on the right, one enters a cave with underwater viewing. Unlike other exhibits for the species, where there are huge windows to see the animals glide through the water, here there are a series of small square windows that provide crystal clear views below the surface. Going up a ramp, a view into the rocky above water area is seen. It’s nothing fantastic, but still nice. Across the path is a cool-looking fishing shack that adds a nice immersive touch. According to the map, prairie dogs are featured in this section as well, but I didn’t see the exhibit. Whether I completely missed it or it was located in the area of construction in front of the pinnipeds, I don’t know.

    Asia – There are only two species exhibited here. First is a dusty Bactrian camel pen that is viewed through chain-link. That, however, is completely overshadowed by the area behind it. A herd of Asian elephants lives in a series of sandy exhibits that supposedly add up to 5.5 acres (correct if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard on here). At the time of my visit, keepers were preparing to rotate the different groups of pachyderms into new areas for the afternoon. A bull later came out of the night quarters (not open to the general public), a younger male was waiting in a side paddock to be let out, and a herd of four females (including a nearly two-year-old calf) was found in the largest enclosure far from the public boardwalk. The two front paddocks are mainly sand with two huge pools in one of them. The much larger enclosure with the females is mostly sand substrate as well, but has some large shady trees that are fenced off, along with more opportunities for enrichment to keep the large mammals busy. This on the whole is one of the better Asian elephant complexes in the nation primarily because of the size of the area and stable herd.

    Cat Walk – On the catwalk, on the catwalk, yeah, I see naturalistic exhibits on the catwalk…I wish (Sorry – couldn’t resist the song reference:rolleyes:). Despite a pretty nice collection of carnivores (and a few other species as well), the majority of the exhibits here are quite disappointing. Up first is a grotto for a single Bengal tiger; the central area with natural substrate and small trees is surrounded by poorly designed concrete and a waterfall with a stream that flows into a pretty shallow pool. This is followed by a dreadful dark cage (featuring very little space, a green carpet-like surface all over the place, and only one perching log) for a single bald eagle that has to be seen to be believed. The only reason I could see this depressing site existing is if the bird was a non-releasable animal that was severely injured or ill, and thus quite limited in opportunities. Carrying on, the path now goes under a shaded canopy structure that looks into a series of cages. While some of them have vegetation and a few pieces of scenery such as climbing logs and mock rock, the majority of the cages are way too small for their occupants. Species include: cougar (part of their exhibit goes over the visitor path, which to be fair is actually a pretty clever idea), jaguar (two exhibits), ocelot, snow leopard (two exhibits), bobcat, rock hyrax, tayra (a new addition whose cage is actually well-sized and nicely designed), binturong, and fossa (a new addition). After leaving the cage trail behind, a grotto for a pair of elderly African lions is seen; it is very similar in design to the tiger grotto. Across from the king of the jungle are two sandy tree-filled habitats for red kangaroos and emus. These are the only two exhibits on the Cat Walk that I feel are above average for their residents. Aside from a few bright moments, this is by far the lowest point of Rio Grande Zoo.

    Inukshuk Bay – An Arctic fox exhibit starts this complex off; unfortunately it is empty for renovations. One will then find themselves in a cool cave featuring two windows into the polar bear exhibit: one has underwater viewing into a large pool, the other is on land. After emerging from the cave, there is a viewing plaza that looks out over the majority of the polar bears’ area. It’s an interesting design with the main big pool overlooking a narrow land area that allows for scaling up and down the cliffs to the pool. A slide-like waterfall flows from the main pool to a smaller pool at the bottom of the canyon-like exhibit. The only downside here is the land area is almost all mock rock that’s got to get scorching hot for the great white bears. With its creative set-up that gives polar bears a solid challenge to navigate, this area was actually pretty decent and better than I expected, just nothing spectacular.

    Raptor Roost – A series of tall aviaries for a variety of birds of prey species. These are larger than most I’ve seen for their kind at other zoos, allowing for great height and opportunities for flight. They are nicely furnished as well, with tall grass, a few cave areas for privacy, and tall trees and rock areas to perch. Species include: Andean condor, bald eagle (way better than the prison over at the Cat Walk!:)), golden eagle, crested caracara, and ferruginous hawk (another first).

    Reptile Area – This complex is divided into two different buildings. After walking past a lush area for Aldabra tortoises, visitors come across the first building. It’s a warehouse-like building featuring two crocodilian exhibits: one for a huge saltwater crocodile, and the other for African slender-snouted crocodile (didn’t see). Both are quite small with not very deep pools (from what I could tell from up above), though at least the land area was filled with woodchips. From what I heard on here, the story is that the Zoo first got the saltwater crocs almost a decade ago and housed them here until a new exhibit for them was built in the Outback area. Unfortunately, the Zoo apparently hasn’t made any progress in that project and the crocs have always been held here since.

    Anyway, the second building starts out with an okay outdoor habitat for American alligators; something unique that stood out here was the mural on the wall, which looked a lot like the swamps of Florida. The main building is then entered on either side of the exhibit and wraps around behind the gators. Terrariums are set within lime-green walls for a collection that surprisingly has a big collection of venomous species. Apart from a few large terrariums throughout the building, the majority of the animals have tiny environments to live in. Notable species here include: Komodo dragon, Chinese alligator (two exhibits – one next to the Komodos that was empty, another on the other side of the building), king cobra, black mamba, an enormous alligator snapping turtle, gila monster, tentacled snake, quince monitor (another first), rhinoceros viper, green anaconda, and some rattlesnake species. Something else worth noting is that most of the signage is set up on tablets that sit in front of the terrariums and cycle through various pieces of species info – that’s an interesting idea. Overall, this is one of the weaker reptile houses I’ve walked through. It’s not awful, and there are a few good moments here, but just compared to some other sections of the Zoo and other zones I’ve seen for the cold-blooded critters elsewhere, I thought it was below-average.

    Tropical America – Similar to the Reptile Area, this is another complex that I wouldn’t consider awful, but fairly weak compared to others of its kind. This area begins with a grassy exhibit that currently sits unoccupied (didn’t capybaras used to live here?), following by a small rainforest building that unfortunately has much more mock rock than lush vegetation. A long golden lion tamarin enclosure is first seen; this is followed by a medium-sized toucan aviary; a piranha tank; a mixed species exhibit for sunbittern, and two tortoise species; among a few other exhibits. The finale here is a tiny, poor enclosure for spider monkeys that lacks many climbing opportunities and is mainly artificial rock. An overall disappointment.

    Other Exhibits – After walking through a glass pyramid that serves as the entrance, visitors come across a pretty flamingo pond with an island filled with bamboo, and behind this exhibit is a grassy yard for birds such as scarlet ibis and geese. Next to one of the doors to Night Watch (see below) is a cave-like black and white ruffed lemur exhibit with some vegetation. Down the path from the polar bears is a great habitat for Mexican gray wolves; while the viewing could be better (it’s only seen from two open-air windows on one side of the habitat), the wolves have a very large area to roam with plenty of tall trees, logs, and tall grass. Across from Raptor Roost is circle of average quality mesh exhibits with the following species: howler monkey, ground hornbill, a corn crib cage for Wolf’s guenon, currasows, and a few other bird species. Finally, between the two reptile buildings is a densely vegetated habitat for a bird species that I thought was a roadrunner (there was no signage).

    Note – Two exhibits were closed due to renovation or waiting for new arrivals: Night Watch (a small nocturnal house by the indoor gorilla room) and the Parrot Aviary (located by the Reptile Area). Also, I ended up missing an aviary called “Birds of the Americas;” though I did see the aviary from a distance a few times.

    HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY (ZOO): Without a second thought, seeing the Tasmanian devils for the first time in my life stood above all else. A saw a pair of devils living together; one dozed the day away in the small shelter. The second devil on the other hand was quite active, scaling its mini-mountain, darting between the patches of grass and logs, and occasionally stop and sniff its surroundings. Considering that only one other Zoo in the nation (San Diego) has them (and more are apparently on their way to LA, St. Louis, and Fort Wayne), it was a real treat to observe the unique mammals. :D

    Overall: As stated before, Rio Grande Zoo sort of reminded me of my visit to Buffalo Zoo a few years back. There are not many individual standout exhibits at this New Mexico attraction; but the beautiful setting, a well-rounded animal collection, a fantastic circular layout with little backtracking, and better-than-expected quality exhibits made this Zoo a winner for me. Rio Grande has three great complexes (Adventure Africa, Outback, and Raptor Roost), and only one truly awful complex in the form of the Cat Walk. The rest of the Zoo (like the above average Inukshuk Bay, hit-and-miss Ape Walk, and below-average Tropical America) is somewhere in the middle. On the whole, I really enjoyed my visit, and might even visit again if I’m in the area.

    A year ago the Zoo unveiled a Master Plan that appears to be themed around certain river ecosystems around the world. The biggest drive at the moment for Rio Grande is an effort to raise funds for a new penguin complex. I believe it’s supposed to hold Antarctic species such as king and Gentoo.

    I probably would rank Rio Grande Zoo at #11 – between Phoenix Zoo (#10) and Knoxville Zoo (#12). I say this Albuquerque establishment is definitely worth checking out.

    Two other notes: first I'll hopefully get the aquarium review up in the next day or two. Second, I checked out the Alameda Park Zoo today - it's a cute zoo in a nice location. I'm not sure if I'd visit again, but I'm glad I saw it.
     
    Last edited: 10 Aug 2015
  5. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    I am glad you enjoyed your visit, although you certainly think more highly of this zoo than I do. (Apparently so does everyone else I know that has visited it). I would not call the white rhino exhibit above average, it is a smallish dirt paddock. I would also not speak highly of the hippo exhibit, which is a cement pond with a tiny cement land area barely big enough to hold three standing hippos. On all of my visits they had two hippos, however, it would be interesting to see five together. I will agree with you that they have a well rounded animal collection and the mature oak trees make the shaded grounds pleasant for visitors. Sadly the animal exhibits for the most part do not benefit from foliage.

    If you are looking for other animal experiences in the area I would personally recommend Wildlife West, about 45 minutes east of Albuquerque. (Although I think more highly of it than the couple other ZooChatters I know who have visited it).
     
  6. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the Wildlife West suggestion, Arizona Docent. However, the family and I are likely good to go in terms of zoo visits for this vacation. We wanted to see what else New Mexico has to offer; yesterday was making our way through the Carlsbad Caverns (super cool! :D), and today we'll be making our way back to Albuquerque to catch the flight to Vegas tomorrow, and make a few stops along the way such as a Billy the Kid Museum. I'll post an update if something changes though. Your opinions on Rio Grande were interesting to read as well.

    The Albuquerque Aquarium review is nearly done, and will be posted tonight at the latest.
     
  7. Loricua22

    Loricua22 Well-Known Member

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    @Milwaukee Man: Are you going to visit the American International Rattlesnake Museum? Visited there on the way back from a road trip to CA in 2013... it was awesome! It's in Old Town, Albuquerque.
     
  8. BeardsleyZooFan

    BeardsleyZooFan Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for another superbly detailed review!
     
  9. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Carlsbad Caverns is fantastic - almost unrealistic, like a science fiction set. As a photographer I also appreciate the fact that you can go on your own (as opposed to a guided tour) and use a tripod.
     
  10. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member

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    Thanks a lot, BeardsleyZooFan! :)

    Here is Part 2 to my busy August 6th day.

    Review of the Albuquerque Aquarium

    Aquarium ? City of Albuquerque

    The Albuquerque Aquarium first opened to the public in 1996, and is one of four sections of the Albuquerque BioPark; the other three being the Rio Grande Zoo (which I visited earlier in the day), Rio Grande Botanic Garden, and Tingley Beach.

    Visiting the Albuquerque Aquarium was an unexpected addition to not just that day, but to the vacation as well. The reason for this is that there is a discount if one purchases a package with the BioPark and train ride that takes visitors from the Rio Grande Zoo to the rest of the BioPark. While this aquatic establishment is likely easily overshadowed by the larger aquariums in the nation (like Shedd or Georgia), it’s a cute little place, and does pretty well with the small-sized building and collection that it has.

    Rio Grande – A series of tanks introduces visitors to aquatic species that have inhabited the Rio Grande in the past and at the present time. The tank of the past is home to thirteen different species like shovelnose sturgeon and gar, while the tank of the present exhibits a variety of fish such as silvery minnow.

    Trout Stream – Representing the Rio Grande River’s headwaters is an uninteresting average habitat for a variety of trout. One of these is the state fish of New Mexico – the Rio Grande cutthroat trout.

    Model Ships – This is a small hallway in the basement of the aquarium that feature several models of ships that have sailed the seas throughout the centuries. No animals are exhibited here, but the educational opportunities are very cool.

    Gulf Coast – There are two different tanks in this area: one is a cylinder shape, and the other is creatively designed around an abandoned oilrig with fish like the spotted drum and yellowhead wrasse.

    Salt Marsh – A small shallow pool with species that thrive in the salty low and high tides. Some of the residents here are various types of fish and invertebrates.

    Shallows & Shores – This is one the three best areas of the aquarium. It is a shallow tank that features an awesome array of species including barracuda, stingray (cownose, Southern, and Atlantic), porcupine fish, and a species of bird on a small land area (no signage around to indicate the species, but it had a black head and looked like a type of seagull). At the end, there is an informative sign regarding the dangers of pollution and oil in the ocean that was very well done.

    Surf Zone – Two fish species, pompano fish and I believe kingfish, are located in an average tank (with only a sandy floor) across from the Shallows & Shores.

    Atlantic Coral Reef – A magnificent large tank featuring a plethora of fish that can be seen after going down a ramp past several mounted fish species. One of the mounted creatures that stood out was the enormous goliath grouper.

    Pacific Coral Reef – An underwater tunnel goes through this gorgeous tank, which has underwater rock walls on both sides and some bits of seaweed scattered on the tank floors. Blue tang, triggerfish, and butterfly fish are just some of the many fish species that can be seen swimming amongst the rock or over your head.

    South Pacific Gallery – Several nice tanks surround a starfish-shaped bench in the middle of the room, along with some solid information signs. Species here include: clownfish, giant clam, cuttlefish, seahorses, among others.

    Jellies – Several moon jellies live in a cylinder tank; Japanese sea nettles in a nearby exhibit are pretty cool to see; and sea walnuts are found next-door.

    Inside the Wreck – Several types of fish, along with a huge lobster, can be seen weaving around the scenery that is inspired by a sunken ship at the bottom of the sea being overtaken by aquatic wildlife; the wall surroundings even resemble the inner part of a ship. The best part of this tank is the window in the back, which looks out into the next-door shark tank. Seeing the vicious fish swim by the window is a cool touch to the shipwreck theme.

    Shark Tank – The grand finale of this small aquarium, this tank is by far the highlight of the facility. Enormous windows look out into a nicely designed roomy tank filled with several sharks (sand tiger, zebra, sandbar), a sea turtle (no signage to indicate the species), barracudas, humongous stingrays, and several schools of various fish species. There is even a small seating area in front of the tank, and it’s quite peaceful to just sit back, relax, and watch as the ocean predators lurk through the water when there are no crowds around.

    Note – I ended up skipping the Route 66 Theater, which is located behind the Rio Grande Tank – honestly I forgot it was there until I looked at the map again after my visit. Though I didn’t go outside to take a closer look, I did see the cool-looking Shrimp Boat (located just behind the Gulf Coast tanks) from the nice chilly indoors. Lastly, the Shark/Ray Encounter was closed for maintenance.

    HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY (AQUARIUM): Watching some of the interactions between species, particularly the various types of stingrays, in the Shallows & Shores tank was probably the most entertaining part of the trip to the aquarium.

    Overall: I’ll admit, I’m not as huge a fan of aquariums as I am of zoos, but I still don’t mind visiting them here and there. Usually they draw my attention if they really go all out and/or get creative with their exhibits; or if they have a popular species, such as otters, pinnipeds, or cetaceans. For me, Albuquerque Aquarium managed to succeed in the first criteria. It has plenty of eye-catching areas with the best three being the Shark Tank, Pacific Coral Reef, and Shallows & Shores, and really, there isn’t any area of the facility that I would consider awful, or even bad. I don’t think it’s worth driving out of one’s way to see, but I think it’s an enjoyable establishment. I’d say if you have some time before/after Rio Grande Zoo and need a break from the heat, I think it’s worth a visit.

    The future at this small aquarium looks pretty bright as well. According to the map, a river otter habitat is in the plans, and will be located next to the outdoor Shrimp Boat. I imagine visitors will surely enjoy the energetic antics of these crowd favorites.

    I’m not sure where I’d rank the Albuquerque Aquarium at the moment. The next time I post an updated ranking, I’ll probably include my very first aquarium rank list.
     
  11. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member

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    Review of the Alameda Park Zoo

    Alameda Park Zoo

    Nestled within the small town of Alamogordo, New Mexico, is a tiny wildlife facility known as the Alameda Park Zoo. It was established in 1898, and claims to be the oldest in the Southwest, along with the smallest AZA-accredited zoo at about 12 - 13 acres in size. It fell into despair in the 1970’s, and was given the ultimatum to either improve or be shut down. The decision was made to improve the Zoo, starting with a perimeter fence in 1986, and replacing some chain-link cages.

    We had a long drive from Albuquerque to the main destination for the day – the White Sands National Monument (which is very cool, and fun to sled down the dunes by the way!). Aware of this, we planned to take a break from driving by stopping at this small zoo. It was about what I anticipated – a tiny zoo with a pretty park setting, exhibits that are (as a whole) okay in quality, and an tiny animal collection that had mostly familiar species (like bear, cougar, monkey) along with a few rarities (guanaco, Mexican gray wolf, markhor). There are no exhibits that are anything spectacular, and the majority of them are view through either black metal or chain-link fencing, but at the same time I was glad to see that there wasn’t anything I would consider an atrocity either. They all have at least some kind of natural substrate and/or enriching elements to keep the animals busy.

    Because there is no concrete animal complex, this review will be different from my usual “in order of being seen” set-up. This time around I’ll organize the exhibits into groups by animal types. Note that mixed-species exhibits with a mix of mammals and birds will be categorized into what is mostly represented in the enclosure.

    Large Mammals – Most of these enclosures are found closer towards the back of the zoo property, and are the better ones in terms of quality. In the central area, there is a cougar exhibit that, while not huge, is nicely designed with plenty of bushes, and even a staircase leading up to a rest area that can be seen right above visitors’ heads reminiscent of what I saw at Rio Grande Zoo a couple days ago. Next to the cougars is an area for American black bear; this is one of the Zoo’s weaker exhibits with only a few logs, a tiny pool, and a slightly hilly dirt area for entertainment. Towards the back is a decent habitat with a dirt hill, some logs, a few shrubs and trees for a lone coyote; followed by a markhor (didn’t see)/Hawaiian nene exhibit with a rocky central area; a grassy enclosure for guanaco, rhea, and (later in the day) muntjacs; a tree-filled Australian yard with red kangaroo, emu, and (later in the day) muntjacs; another lush mixed-species exhibit for mule deer and male Indian peafowl; and a pair of Mexican gray wolves have probably the best enclosure in all of the Zoo. The highly endangered canines have a few places for privacy, tons of green grass, and plenty of huge shady trees in their nice-sized habitat.

    Small Mammals – The first exhibit that people come across is a black metal cage that is actually of average quality. Two species of lemurs (ring-tailed, and another species that looked like brown lemur), share a grassy area with some logs built into a climbing structure alongside a single African spurred tortoise and (later in the day) a muntjac. The central area of the establishment has several cages that all have plenty of dirt, logs, rocky areas, and the occasional shrub. These are home to: red fox, coatimundi, ocelot (didn’t see), American badger (this enclosure I found kind of mediocre), and river otter (with two good-sized pools, one of which has underwater viewing). Near the coyote exhibit is a pair of average capuchin monkey cages that actually offer some good vertical height, several logs to climb on, and a scattering of hay on the ground. Finally across from the markhors is an African crested porcupine wood and chain-link cage with mostly dirt and a large burrow. The first time I walked past the cage, a single porcupine was dozing in the burrow; the second time around it was still there, but I also saw another one happily chewing on a log next to the front viewing area.

    Birds – Most of the Zoo’s feathered residents live near the center or front of the establishment. In the same area as most of the small mammals, a row of birds of prey aviaries don’t offer much space, but are nicely furnished. Great horned owl, Harris hawk, ravens, and red-tailed hawk live here. The best bird exhibit in this area is for a pair of bald eagles. America’s symbolic birds have a very tall space with lush grass, several logs for perching, and a few mid-air platforms for perching way up high. Across from the black bears is a new walkthrough aviary; unfortunately there was no signage to indicate any of the species, but they look to be a variety of ducks. Next to the Australian enclosure is a huge habitat full of plants for a pair of African crowned cranes, a trio of Reeve’s muntjacs (man this Zoo loves these little deer!), and a flock of female Indian peafowl. Next to the entry building is an enormous lagoon with a boardwalk that stretches to the center of the area. The ground area is mainly dirt, but the variety of large trees and plenty of pools (one of which had a pretty waterfall) make up for it. This area is home to several species of waterfowl; some I noted were more Hawaiian nene, black swan, and a huge variety of geese. The birds also share this huge area with a lone capybara, which was fairly active exploring its surroundings and even came up close to the boardwalk.

    Reptiles – Right next to the bird/capybara lagoon is a medium-sized American alligator exhibit (didn’t see any) that has a small land area, but a decent pool with several plants penetrating the surface. Next-door is a turtle pen (don’t remember the species) with the only piece of scenery being a cool-looking fountain. Lastly, across from the crowned crane habitat is a small building with two small terrariums: one for green tree python, the other for green iguana. Both have a few logs and potted plants.

    HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY: The muntjacs were quite active in their lush exhibit, sprinting across the green grass, darting through a sprinkler that was on in their enclosure, and at a few points trying to elude the territorial crowned cranes.

    Overall: Alameda Park Zoo was a cute little zoo that I had a decent time at. It has a few crowd-favorite animals to hold one’s attention, a few surprise creatures (guanacos, markhor, capybara) for animal fanatics, and a very nice setting. Speaking of which, the location probably is the best part of the zoo. There’s something about being located in the middle of a small town or park, being able to peek through the perimeter fencing, and being able to pay a small fee to walk around the pretty, mostly clean grounds that really grabs my attention. In some ways, I would even consider it peaceful. I wouldn’t say it’s worth driving to from a long way, but if you happen to be driving through Alamogordo and need a break, this is a nice little way to break a sweat.

    The only thing in the future that I know of for this small Zoo is a construction zone next to the capuchin monkeys. According to one of snowleopard’s photos (who just visited this zoo a couple weeks ago and also gave a nice mini-review), this will be a new home for the energetic capuchins.

    I would place Alameda Park Zoo at #19; that is between Gatorland (#18) and Smithsonian National Zoo (#20 – dead last). However, that is in no way saying Alameda Park is a bad zoo – far from it. It’s just that I can think of several other zoos I’ve visited that I would rank higher than it.
     
  12. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member

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    Well, here is a surprise review for the thread. Tomorrow, we are leaving Las Vegas, Nevada, where we had a fantastic time, seeing a few shows, checking out Hoover Dam, and of course, celebrating my birthday! On August 13th, we explored a few of the massive casinos, including Caesar’s Palace and Mandalay Bay. Speaking of Mandalay Bay, this is where our added attraction comes in.

    Review of the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay

    Shark Reef

    In early 1999, the colossal Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino opened its doors. One year later, the Shark Reef Aquarium followed. Celebrating its 15th year of business this year, the Aquarium consists of a total of around 1.6 million gallons of water. Today it is home to over 2,000 specimens that make up over 100 species.

    I’ll be honest I was somewhat hesitant to visit this establishment for a few reasons; one of which was that I had already seen three animal attractions (one of them was an unexpected addition) during the New Mexico half of the vacation, and was looking for a break from observing exotic large mammals, fish, etc. But, we needed to kill some time before our next show, and I finally relented. I’m happy to say that it for the most part exceeded my expectations:D! Let’s “dive in,” and take a look.

    Jungle – This is the first complex that everyone sees on their one-way trek through this establishment. My first reaction here was of amazement because the temple-themed pathway, statues, and walls added an authentic feel to the area along with the lush plantings. Unfortunately, I felt some of the exhibits were on the disappointing side. It starts off with a pair of large reptile exhibits, one for golden crocodile (a first for me) and the other for a huge Komodo dragon. Both have temple-themed walls, large pools with underwater viewing (do other Komodo exhibits have underwater viewing?), and a little bit of sand substrate (at least in the dragon’s case); the problem though is that both are pretty small for their occupants. Across from the Komodo dragon is a tank with various African cichlids. Down the path is mixed-species exhibit featuring Burmese python, arowana, and Fly River turtle. Aside from a couple climbing logs for the snakes, the entire land area of the habitat is almost all ruins with no natural substrate that I saw, while the fish obviously inhabit a large pool.

    A well-done tank featuring pacu, arapaima, razorback catfish, and motoro stingrays swimming in and out of the submerged ruins is next, followed by a roomy lush tank for piranha, and a green tree monitor terrarium. The lizards have an average exhibit featuring plenty of height, a scattering of hay on the floor, some vines for climbing, and more ruins for walls. The final animal habitat is a large tank for denizens of the reef. This is a great tank for zebra shark, a small hammerhead shark species (species help please?), grey reef shark, and many more. The first viewing of this exhibit is through a couple large viewing windows, followed by an underwater tunnel in the Temple area, which we’ll get to next. Visitors wind through the vegetation on a ruins path (and past a statue) before leaving the lush environment behind.

    Temple – One will begin the Temple area in a well-themed room, with the first exhibit being a colorful tank full of Caribbean reef fish. Fascinating reefs and a cool statue make up this mini-sea home to parrotfish, French grunt, queen triggerfish, porcupine puffer, sergeant major, and French angelfish. Next is a long underwater tunnel into the previously described reef tank. From here, people can get a much better vantage point of the fascinating critters and immense coral reefs that make up this tank. The area then emerges into another large room with several exhibits for a variety of marine life. The center of the room has a medium sized touch pool home to smaller species of rays and horseshoe crabs. Along the left-hand wall is a mid-sized sandy tank for four or five lionfish; another reef exhibit featuring Port Jackson shark, cownose ray, fiddler ray, and epaulette shark; a well designed roomy reef for Pacific giant octopus; and a wide cylinder tank for jellyfish.

    Shipwreck – The final complex of the aquarium, and by far and away the best in my opinion. Guests enter the destroyed bow of the wooden vessel “Neptune’s Fury,” and come across a large, tastefully designed viewing gallery into the single enormous tank in the area. A TV screen scrolls through information about the species on display like sand tiger shark, bowmouth guitarfish, green sawfish, a green sea turtle, Southern stingray, sandbar shark, grey reef shark, a scalloped hammerhead shark (another first, and one of three aquariums that house the species), and many more. The feeling of being within the well-designed sunken ship is enough, but what really elevates this area is the two glass panels within the ceiling and floor of the ship. Predatory fish are able to lurk directly below or above visitors – an even further feeling of immersion, and another point for this complex. The final viewing area of this marvelous tank is an underwater tunnel protruding from one side of the ship. Glass floor panels can be found here as well, but only a single small fish swam beneath my feet. On the whole, I was awe-struck by “Shipwreck,” and it’s easily the greatest aquarium exhibit I’ve ever seen so far (still got to get down to Georgia). The attention to detail, the species on display, and various vantage points make this 1.3 million gallon tank more than worth the price of admission.

    HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY: Several times during my time in the Shipwreck’s underwater tunnel I had several large species swimming over my head. These include ferocious sand tiger sharks, menacing sawfish, and the odd-looking guitarfish.

    Overall: There are only fourteen total animal displays in this aquatic facility, which makes for a fairly short visit. Having said that, the attention to detail in all three areas is magnificent, particularly in the Jungle complex, although the animal habitats there are hit-and-miss. After that, the Temple area is overall good, and the Shipwreck, as said before, is mind-blowingly spectacular. In my opinion, there really isn't a single exhibit I would consider terrible, or even that bad. I wasn’t expecting much, but left quite impressed by my tour, and was very glad I visited. If you’re in need of a break from gambling or the intense Nevada sun, this aquarium is a great way to spend some time.
     
  13. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member

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  14. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Moderator Staff Member

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    I enjoyed your reviews. I also found Shark Reef to be a very good aquarium, especially the large shark tank at the end.
     
  15. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member

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    I appreciate it, DavidBrown. :)