Join our zoo community

Toronto Zoo Wild Encounters behind-the-scenes tours

Discussion in 'Canada' started by kknudsen, 7 May 2019.

  1. kknudsen

    kknudsen Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    26 Dec 2009
    Posts:
    88
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    My disappointment with the zoo is over!! Maybe you've already noticed, but I just saw that the zoo is offer behind the scene tours ... and they look amazing! I've been saying for years the zoo needed to offer tours and I'm so happy to see they have them! My first one will be of the African Rainforest for the lemurs! How exciting! I really hope the zoo will advertise these and that they are a huge success!
     
  2. TZFan

    TZFan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    3 Jul 2012
    Posts:
    5,384
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Why didn't I see this last week? I saw a tour of the lemurs Sunday. @kknudsen I think I saw them feeding the lemurs. It was a hard angle to say for sure who was doing the feeding to be fair so I could well be wrong. I thought it was a donor tour. I could have gone on one! I need to go on 8 of them. My life now revolves around going on the Indian rhino, giraffe and most importantly gorilla ones!!!
     
  3. kknudsen

    kknudsen Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    26 Dec 2009
    Posts:
    88
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Well TZFan if you didn’t know about the tours then I’m sure no one did!! But seriously - how is it possible that the zoo has introduced 16 tours at very reasonable prices and barely advertised it?? It’s not on their Twitter or Facebook accounts and the only way I could find it on their website is off the main page slide show. It should not be buried!! Where are the ads? This is such an amazing thing they should be shouting it from the rooftops!! My hubby says it’s probably a soft opening and so I should cut them some slack! But how can it be successful if they don’t advertise it?? I really hope the ads start soon!!
     
  4. TZFan

    TZFan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    3 Jul 2012
    Posts:
    5,384
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Judache likes this.
  5. Judache

    Judache Member

    Joined:
    12 Aug 2018
    Posts:
    23
    Location:
    Toronto
    Actually, they only went on public sale a few days ago, although I agree I'm surprised they haven't advertised them yet, at least on the social media accounts. They were offered in advance exclusively to members in mid-April.
    I would love to go to them all - but that's not in the budget unfortunately...so I'm doing the gorilla one! So excited!
    Then I'll do the white rhino one that is supposed to happen in September (not part of these current offerings).
     
  6. kknudsen

    kknudsen Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    26 Dec 2009
    Posts:
    88
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Well I'm super thrilled that they are offering the tours! When I did not renew my membership this year, they asked me why not and my answer was that they needed the behind the scene tours and their failure to have them made it so I did not enjoy coming to the zoo as much. So woo hoo they listened (to me and I'm sure many others!). I will say that I am super impressed by the number of tours being offered and the cost. I checked the website again tonight and apart from being in the slide show, there is not a link or information anywhere else that I could find. It is not with admission, tickets, camps/programs or event calendar. Hopefully they address that quickly.
     
    Judache likes this.
  7. TZFan

    TZFan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    3 Jul 2012
    Posts:
    5,384
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    When you click the home pages link for Wild Encounters it does open to this page...

    Toronto Zoo | Wild Encounters

    If you click on the read more under the tour you want and book now it takes you to this page...

    https://tickets.torontozoo.com/searchEventsSummary.aro?sum=WildEncounters

    There it lists the dates available for each tour ( looks like twice a week and only for that 40 minute window for now). You can buy online from there. I'm not sure if this is what you were looking for @kknudsen. It doesn't look like there is a membership discount but if I get to be up close to a gorilla it could cost a whole lot more and I would still pay. My love for Charles knows no bounds.

    If anyone goes on a tour would they mind posting a review of it for the rest of us? Maybe we should do a separate thread as we all start going on them so we have a one stop shop in a way to find out what they are like. Just an idea. The descriptions are so vague I really would love to know what they all entail.
     
    Judache likes this.
  8. Mr Wrinkly

    Mr Wrinkly Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    16 Jul 2013
    Posts:
    219
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    I signed up for four of the $25 - $35 Wild Encounters to see what they are all about and have done three of them. As a long-time frequent visitor I did not expect to learn a lot, but was hoping to get a chance to chat with keepers and see some behind the scenes areas that I have not been in.

    The talks were not led by keepers and each leader followed a script that was basic information about the animals we saw. Each of the three I have been on so far walked thru the public area, stopping at a few enclosures, then we went into one or two off-exhibit areas and once or twice on each tour we were able to give snacks to the animals. Photos were allowed.

    These tours would be interesting for an occasional visitor or a kid but there was nothing special for me walking thru the public areas so I will only comment on the unusual opportunities.

    In Australasia we went into the Kangaroo/Wallaby indoor holdings and then out to their off-exhibit outdoor area where we could feed them browse. The animals have a choice on mild winter days to go out there and it is an open area that would be quite warm as it is all paved.

    In African Rainforest we were given mealworms to feed the Meerkats, and went behind Lake Malawi and up some stairs to the top of the tank, where we could toss in some snacks for the fish. I was surprised at the height and circumference of the tank - it is much bigger than it seems from the front. Where we stood was open so we had a view of other exhibits in the area from the top.

    During the Savanna tour we were in the Watusi exhibit, the zebra/eland/bird hoofstock barn, and outside next to the elands fence and could give the watusi and elands snacks. Best of all three of these tours was seeing three-month-old zebra baby Obi nursing and then standing with mom calmly watching us.

    I have put a few pictures in the gallery, but sometimes forgot about the camera!
     
  9. TZFan

    TZFan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    3 Jul 2012
    Posts:
    5,384
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Thank Mr Wrinkly for sharing your experiences so far. You have gone on three I'm mildly interested in. Love that photos are allowed. Bummer that it feels so scripted but maybe as they settle in with it there will be a little less formal feel and other fun facts will emerge. However I now want the job of tour leader. I would be all over that.

    I think its great you got to feed in all three places. I really wondered with those lower cost ones if that would be an option but that's fantastic. Gives me hope with the more expensive ones I'm dying to go on. I'm also more willing to go on the less expensive ones knowing that.

    I have often wondered about the kangaroos in the winter. I remember going back there as a kid on an kids program thing. The space I recall was tight and seemed small even then. I wondered how the mob got along in such a small space. But my memory might be fuzzy and redesigns might have helped.

    I thought the focus of the rainforest tour was the lemurs? Honestly I would be stoked to feed a meerkat maybe more than a lemur. I know it said that one would change up based on what was available. The fish stuff bored me. Could you elaborate on this tour more? It's definitely one I have really had my eye on.

    Cool you got to meet Obi on the tour of the savanna. I have a weird interest in seeing the eland and zebra barn. Not sure why. What was it like being close to the eland? They seem so big and impressive from a distance. I'm a little sad though this came about after the sable left. I would be way more interested in this tour if they were still here. I always loved Puff Daddy. That would have tipped me over the edge. That or a chance to go in the kudu and rhino barn. Geeze get rid of the watusi and do that and I would happily pay the $65 price.

    Thank you so much for sharing. Can't wait to read others experiences as they start to visit too. Time to hop over to the photos and drool over anything you have been able to capture.
     
  10. Mr Wrinkly

    Mr Wrinkly Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    16 Jul 2013
    Posts:
    219
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    Probably the leaders will be a little more relaxed and will have done more research themselves when they learn what questions are being asked.

    The indoor space for the kangas is adequate when you consider what other large animals have
    e.g. rhinos, Snows. All of them would be better off with more space but they are not terribly cramped.

    Lemurs, sorry, we did go in the path next to the outer side of the exhibit but did not feed and only 4 were out. They came right over but it was not much different than being on the public viewing side. Other than the Lake Malawi visit and feeding meerkats this tour was just what you can do on the public pathways. For a novice it would be interesting that Monty is one of the original animals at TZ and the Hammerkop nest includes mittens and a dollar bill, but it is all commonly known info. to a regular visitor and likely to everyone on this forum.

    Each eland weighs about a thousand pounds and they look huge when only a mesh fence is between you while you poke apple slices through the fence. A place where I forgot the camera while elands taller than me were gumming fruit from my hand.
     
  11. TZFan

    TZFan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    3 Jul 2012
    Posts:
    5,384
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Fair point about space. It's a distant childhood memory. The outdoor space looked boring but it will do to go out on a winter day.

    I'd still be stoked about feeding a meerkat. A lemur would work though too. Too bad they don't let you walk though the lemur exhibit. I mean the exhibit is huge just primed to be a walk through exhibit. Tons of other zoos do walk through lemur exhibits. I'll sign whatever waiver you want. Let me walk in there and I'll pay more. Just saying Toronto Zoo...

    I'm sure most of the tours would be filled with the mundane to most of us. It's the experience of seeing things from behind I like and yes feeding any animal they let me feed.

    The eland look huge to me across a yard! I am pretty interested in being right next to one. I'm happy for the fence between us though. My friends horse was intimidating enough and that was a friendly animal who was super sweet and tame. Not that the eland wants to hurt me but a thousand pound animal can do whatever it wants and I couldn't stop it. I'm sure the boys are sweeties though.
     
  12. cypher

    cypher Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    19 Oct 2013
    Posts:
    855
    Location:
    Toronto, ON, Canada
    Pretty nice feedback @Mr Wrinkly. I don't think I'd be that interested in these tours, but it's nice hearing your experience with them.

    Which tours to you plan on doing next, assuming you're doing more?
     
  13. ZooFuss

    ZooFuss Member

    Joined:
    29 Sep 2017
    Posts:
    13
    Location:
    Toronto
    We did the Capybara Encounter. We started outside the children's zoo and our guide talked a bit about the secretary bird and crested seriema. In the marabou stork enclosure, the ravens temporarily have a nest and are taking care of their chicks. We then learned about the capybara's relative the guinea pig and some interesting facts about how ferrets are used by electricians. We took a staff only shortcut behind the guinea pigs and then went into the capybara enclosure.
    We sat on some rocks and everyone had a chance to ask questions and learn more about capybaras. We were allowed to pet Diego (the capybara) and feed him lettuce. Once all the lettuce was gone he lost interest in us and went to sit down on the other side of his enclosure. It went as expected and we enjoyed ourselves.
     
  14. Mr Wrinkly

    Mr Wrinkly Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    16 Jul 2013
    Posts:
    219
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    My fourth Wild Encounter was Bird Ambassadors. I have been in the Bird Barn several times and it was always interesting so took this WE to get in there again.

    We walked around the barn, on one side looking at the birds through mesh and glass. The first ones were retirees such as Bald Eagle Wambli, and Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Douale, plus two of the Harris Hawks, Red-tailed Hawk Rosie, and Eurasian Eagle Owl Sheldon.

    On the other side the birds were out on perches in a grassy area, hidden by the barn, and behind a fence, but here we could get pictures. They had done the 11:30 show and would do the 2:30 show. Not sure this is all but there was Red-tailed Hawk Shriek, Spectacled Owl Owlbert, a Lanner Falcon, a Great Horned Owl, and one of the Ravens.

    The group leader again recited lots of facts about the birds and answered some basic questions. Many of these birds go on walkabout during the summer months and are familiar to frequent visitors. The last thing on the tour was a keeper bringing Shriek out on her arm and doing much as they do on walkabout, giving the bird's history, answering questions, and posing for pictures. Shriek is missing an eye and I have posted pics of both sides of his head.

    The whole thing was just under 30 minutes and we didn't get in the barn!

    Again, this was suitable for the occasional visitor and kids, and getting up close to the birds was good, but for regulars there was no new info.
     
  15. Mr Wrinkly

    Mr Wrinkly Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    16 Jul 2013
    Posts:
    219
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    On the whole the four encounters I have done were enjoyable.

    The Bug House, maybe at some point since it is also one of the cheaper ones and it is unfamiliar to me but probably I won't do any of the more expensive ones because I have been in most of those holdings free! The Gorilla one had me excited until I learned that the visit will be to the outdoor habitat, not indoors.

    I may sound somewhat negative but don't feel that way. These are a great novelty experience for people less familiar with the zoo and the animals. A few kids were on the bird encounter but one kept interrupting and monopolizing the leader so that was not fun, but generally it would be fun for kids.

    The leaders were fine, working from scripts, but able to answer most questions, which were pretty basic.

    Groups were small, 4 to 8 people which was good. No restriction on photos and except for the birds there was at least one opportunity to feed snacks to the animals.

    Highlight of the four was a first glimpse of baby zebra Obi and his mom who kindly posed for us.
     
  16. Yi Qi

    Yi Qi Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    24 Feb 2018
    Posts:
    617
    Location:
    Mississauga, Ontario
    I really hope to do either the African Rainforest or Gorilla tour on May 26, depending on what my mother agrees on.
     
  17. TZFan

    TZFan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    3 Jul 2012
    Posts:
    5,384
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    @ZooFuss sounds like you had a pleasant experience. The only part of the experience I would be really interested in is feeding and petting Diego. Capybara just remind me of all my dearly departed rodent pets which is why I love them. What does he feel like? Was he at all into you guys or was he just after yummy treats which you happened to be holding? Do you feel like that one was a good value for your money?

    Wow Mr Wrinkly way to get the ball rolling with four of the tours so quick. You have just further convinced me the bird one is not for me. Sounded boring. But I can see how it would be great for kids and keep them happy and engaged. I would have been miffed that I paid for a 40 minute experience and got a 30 minute one though. Did you get short changed on the other ones too?

    What could really top Obi.

    I think the biggest thing to keep in mind for most of us is that we are well beyond the person who these tours are designed for. The average person would find the scripted tidbits and facts pretty informative especially when we all have heard them totally misidentify a species (lions who are orange with stripes, hippos with horns on their face). I think the big allure to most of us will be the moments we can be behind scenes and the animal interaction. I would hope that the trend with these less expensive tours of animal feeding and possible touching continues with the higher cost tours (except for the dangerous animals). I for one can't wait until people start going on these ones.
     
  18. ZooFuss

    ZooFuss Member

    Joined:
    29 Sep 2017
    Posts:
    13
    Location:
    Toronto
    @TZFan We thought Diego's hair felt very coarse, almost like straw or you might even say a coconut. He didn't have very much hair and underneath was a dark skin. The keepers mentioned that capybara have to watch that they don't get sunburnt. He did check everyone out and sniffed our shoes and went for a crotch or two. You do have to be wary of those big incisors. They made us leave all our bags before entering the enclosure so maybe Diego gets too interested as to what might be inside them.
    As far as length of tour this was also just over 30 minutes. I think they say allow 40 just so no one has to run off and miss something if they wait for late arrivals or last minute washroom visits etc. Our guide also kept asking if we had more questions at the end and didn't seem to be rushing us to leave, so we could have continued the Q&A longer if we wished.
    We think some of these tours will change each year (they only offer them during summer months) depending on which animals the zoo has and their comfort levels. As far as the capybara they said Diego prefered keeping by himself rather than hanging out near the waterfall with his family. This made him more social with people. He was comfortable around us, but the other capybara may not be. Therefore, without Diego there might not be a capybara experience. We thought it was worth the price for this up close opportunity. As we said before, it went as we expected and we were very happy.
     
  19. kknudsen

    kknudsen Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    26 Dec 2009
    Posts:
    88
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Mr. Wringly and ZooFuss, thank you so much for sharing your tour experiences!! So amazing that members are taking advantage of what is being offered! I hope to get out a few times this spring/summer. I will say I am a little disappointed to hear that they are more for the novice visitor. BUT and this is a big but - I sincerely believe that this is the beginning! If these tours are successful and TZ gets feedback that more in-depth and more behind the scenes tours are desired, I fully expect they will begin to offer them. They had to start somewhere and from what I am hearing their start is impressive! When I go to San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, the tours costs between $89US and $350US for 2-3 hours. So TZ's tours are shorter and cheaper - there is still room to move here. I look forward to hearing about peoples experience and going myself!
     
  20. Mr Wrinkly

    Mr Wrinkly Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    16 Jul 2013
    Posts:
    219
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    Three or four years ago I did a similar tour of the rhino house at Buffalo Zoo that was led by a keeper and cost US$10.00. At San Diego Zoo and at the Safari Park in 2013 I did three 2-hr tours that cost US$70 each and were very much more informative and professional. This is a good start at TZ but it is a long way from other zoo experiences.

    @ZooFuss - according to the calendar on the booking page, these encounters are scheduled for once a month well into 2020 . . . but I doubt that is real.