The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens 47-900 Portola Ave., (760) 346-5694.
This spectacular, beautifully landscaped zoo exhibits animals from the deserts of North America and Africa, and you’ll get a close-up view of bighorn sheep, which are native to this area but rarely spotted by visitors. The noteworthy Indian Ethno-Botanic Garden displays and explains how various plants were used in the daily lives of the local Indians, and Village Wa TuTu is an authentic reproduction of a trading village in Northern Kenya that includes two dromedary camels and a petting “kraal.” The zoo's premier exhibit, Eagle Canyon, displays mountain lions and a golden eagle in a state-of-the-art habitat designed with the actual desert as a backdrop. Personally, I was most impressed by the opportunity to walk out of the searing dry desert heat into the dramatic, cooling shade of a real oasis. Note that in the hot, hot summer this zoo opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 1:30 p.m.
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers