When my husband asked me this morning what I had planned for the day, the last thing he expected me to respond with was, “I’m going to the Reptile Zoo.” Granted, I’ve been known to send him photos of me and snakes (the bigger the python or boa the better) for the purpose of freaking him out…so I think he thought I was kidding.
Reptiles don’t bother me. (Insects, that’s a whole other story for maybe another post.) In fact, snakes fascinate me and I grew up with younger brothers who always had some sort of lizard or frog as a pet. We had two iguanas at one point when I was in high school until they got too big and aggressive with our dogs.
I was looking forward to checking out our local Reptile Zoo in Fullerton, which is fairly unassuming from the outside given it’s located in a strip mall.
I’ll admit, I didn’t expect today’s adventure to last very long when I pulled into the parking lot. Rest assured, it’s much bigger inside and you’d be amazed at how many reptiles can fit stacked in aquariums along walls. It’s like a maze of creatures of all colors.
Upon entry, you hear jungle nature sounds mixed with native chanting to set the ambiance of the Amazon. There is a large enclosure to the left with a giant 8 ft long Monitor lizard. Just beyond that, I see a father and his two sons feeding tortoises some vegetables.
To the right is a large pond full of large grey fish and at least 50 Red-Eared Slider Turtles, which visitors can feed live worms to with tongs. The kids I saw there seemed to love this!
As you continue to the right, there is another pit of seven 200 pound Sulcata Tortoises, which you can also feed. One in particular was quite interactive and inquisitive.
Once you’re past the petting and feeding area, you realize it’s a brilliant marketing tool to sell pets. I wandered the store looking at the various lizards, snakes and tarantulas (ranging from about $8 to $300 each) before I realized that this wasn’t the zoo. I asked an employee who was cleaning the cages how I get to the zoo because the other doors were closed. She informed me that I could buy my $5 entry ticket from the cashier and she would show me back to the zoo area.
So with my bright blue wristband entry ticket, I stepped beyond the bamboo fence to hundreds of reptiles and insects. WOW. Now this is what I came to see.
On the left was a giant aquarium for three giant Reticulated Pythons. They were beautiful.
I then found the petting zoo area where I was given a choice of various lizards and snakes to hold. I chose to hold a baby Ball Python who was perfectly content staying balled up in my hands while watching me. She was beautiful and so smooth. Even as small as she was, I could feel her strength when she changed positions.
Then I sat down to watch the alligators. One was asleep in the corner, while two seemed to enjoy swimming about and watching the visitors.
I asked the gentleman working the petting zoo area if I could pet the alligators too. Why does everyone think I’m kidding?
No seriously, I once pet an alligator who was tied up and soon to be someone’s dinner at a restaurant in Guangzhou, China. The restaurant had taped his mouth closed, and while not the wisest of decisions, I felt it was fairly safe to give it a try. They only had him on a leash, not in a cage. After all, when would I get another chance to do that? I thought today was that other chance! (Sigh) No such luck, but they were awfully cute.
In a pond enclosure behind the alligators was a giant Asian Water Monitor. He was bigger than the alligators! Did you know it is the largest species of monitor lizard and capable of growing up to 10.5 feet in length?
As I wandered the zoo, looking in each cage and each aquarium I was amazed at the variety of shapes, sizes, lengths and beautiful colors. The entire rainbow and then some was covered. There were reptiles I’ve never heard of before like the:
Rhinocerous Iguana with a large horn on its nose and from the island of Hispaniola which is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti (not shown)
Crocodile Monitor from New Guinea and can grow to 6-8 feet (not shown)
Radiated Tortoise from Madagascar with shell that looks like sun rays,
Monkey-Tailed Skinks from the Solomon Islands that hang from their tails just like a Spider Monkey,
African Bullfrog that fits in a bowl the size of a personal pizza,
Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman that looks like a little crocodile,
False Water Cobra, which can flatten its entire body like the cobra does its neck, but is not venomous,
and Black & White Tegu from South America, which is believed to be the most intelligent and highest adapted of all lizards.
Plus a variety of other lizards, snakes and yes, they also have spiders for those who want an extra couple sets of legs for good measure.
All in all, I did not expect to see and learn as much as I did. I’m excited to go back and bring my husband and 2-year-old niece, who will be elated to discover there are live “Dinonaurs” (her s is pronounced as an n).
If you have kids and live in Orange County, I highly recommend taking them here and taking your time exploring each one.