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Wildlife Explorers Unite

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance prepares to open Denny Sanford Wildlife Explorers Basecamp at the San Diego Zoo

Image Credits Photography by Mia Park

The highly anticipated Wildlife Explorers Basecamp, a fully reimagined area that was formerly the Children’s Zoo within the San Diego Zoo, will debut on March 11, welcoming explorers of all ages. Spanning 3.2 acres, Basecamp features four zones — Rainforest, Wild Woods, Marsh Meadows, and Desert Dunes — with distinct landscapes and examples of the wildlife that inhabit them, plus the Art and Danielle Engel Cool Critters building and the McKinney Family Spineless Marvels building, two state-of-the-art facilities designed to display an additional array of creatures from the zoo’s collection while immersing, engaging, and educating all who enter. Outside, one of the central features of Wild Woods, a multi-level structure created to resemble an ancient oak tree, invites little explorers to climb and play alongside spider monkeys in an adjacent enclosure. Throughout, Basecamp welcomes visitors to a hands-on environment that becomes a veritable “place of yes,” offering numerous opportunities to touch, try, experiment, play, learn, and ultimately, nurture a deeper understanding and appreciation of nature in the next generation.

Desert Dunes, a dry desert wash-themed area, takes center stage in Wildlife Explorers Basecamp, with boulder play opportunities for climbing, scrambling, hopping, and more. Hidden reptile sculptures and petroglyphs can be found among the rocks and cool caves that offer shaded areas for guests to beat the heat — like their desert wildlife counterparts — including the fennec fox, prairie dog, and burrowing owl.

The Rainforest area of Basecamp is centered around the 10,000-square-foot McKinney Family Spineless Marvels building featuring arachnids, a coconut crab habitat, and a real-life beehive with a larger-than-life honeycomb, inviting young guests to become the bee. And at the neighboring Rady Ambassadors Headquarters, guests will encounter a range of animals from all over the planet, including a two-toed sloth and a prehensile-tailed porcupine.

Wild Woods features the impressive Prebys Foundation Discovery Bridge and a 20-foot tall structure designed to look like an ancient oak tree. This dynamic nature-play tree structure offers multiple points of access for guests — from a suspension bridge and net tunnel to a spiral staircase in the middle — and provides a parallel-play experience because it is adjacent to the squirrel monkey habitat. Water-play extends into this woodland-themed area, with a waterfall grotto and splash pad, water jets, and a stream, plus, a bluff area with a boulder scramble at the side for exploration.

Marsh Meadows offers an array of plant life designed to evoke a variety of habitats, such as marshes, swamps, and estuaries that affect the health of our planet. Pathways include silhouettes of kid-size frogs and fish to help convey the idea that guests are inhabiting the marsh along with the wildlife that live here. Included in this area is the Art and Danielle Engel Cool Critters building, a two-story herpetology and ichthyology structure that offers 7,000 square feet of immersive environments, digital media, learning opportunities, and educational classroom spaces created to engage guests of all ages. The wildlife here includes snakes, amphibians, crocodilians, turtles, and lizards, including endangered Fijian iguanas.

The public ribbon-cutting ceremony to open Wildlife Explorers Basecamp will take place at 9:30am on Friday, March 11, 2022, hosted by Paul A. Baribault, president and chief executive officer of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Admission for Basecamp is included with admission to the San Diego Zoo. sandiegozoowildlifealliance.org   


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