Thursday, February 23, 2012

Traveling Thursdays: San Diego Wild Animal Park

This batch of black and white photos have quite a history. My grandmother passed away back in 1983, and many of her possessions stayed boxed up at my mother's house for years. Flash forward to the year 2003. My brother and I happened to be visiting mom at the same time and all of us decided to tackle some of the boxes of photos and slides that had been sitting unseen for the last 20 years. As it turns out, my grandmother's slide camera was in one of those boxes. How cool! The uncool part was that it started out in my brother's hands. I made the unfortunate mistake of saying, "I wonder if there's any film in it?" My brother promptly opened the camera to see. I can still see what happened next moving in slow motion in my mind's memory bank. As soon as I saw the exposed film, I grabbed the camera and shut it. Sadly, it still exposed much of the roll. I put the camera in my luggage and took it back to California with me. After going to three different camera shops who all told me that they couldn't develop that type of slide film anymore. I ended up sending the canister to Colorado, to what was apparently the only lab in the country that could still develop these photos for me.

Even though the film was color stock, the lab also said that they could only develop it in black and white. I was very much disappointed. Still, I ended up with some interesting shots that showed my family's first visit to the San Diego Wild Animal Park (now known as the San Diego Zoo Safari Park) back in 1972.

The Wild Animal Park opened on Wednesday May 10, 1972. Designed by Charles Faust, the park took about 10 years to create. It included a large lagoon with a jungle plaza, an African fishing village, and an aviary at the entrance of the park.

I loved going here instead of the zoo, because the animals would be exhibited in a natural environment rather than in cages. Guests could take a Monorail (which was eventually removed due to high maintenance costs), the Wgasa Bush Line, which ran through the Wild Animal Park. The best time to ride the Monorail were early in the day before the sun came out and caused the animals to hide in the shade.

The last two photos from this vintage batch show my brothers and I riding the front of an elephant. I have no recollection of this, nor do I know who the two people behind us are. Freeloaders!

In the summer of 1985, just before starting my senior year in college, my dad took me back to the Wild Animal Park.

These photos show a replica Congo fishing village located in the Nairobi Village of the park:

There I am, back when my hair had a color other than gray!

During the bird show, I was elected to have the bird fly out and land on my head.

Here is the Asian Savanna and African Plains section of the park which were seen in the black and white shots from 1972 in this post:

I hope you enjoyed this vintage tour of the San Diego Wild Animal Park. It has been almost 30 years since my last visit there. Time to go back!

See more vintage & current San Diego photos on my San Diego web page.


TokyoMagic! said...

Dave, I lost my dad just last month and the exact same thing happened when we came across his old camera. I just assumed that all the pictures would have been ruined, but my uncle said he would have the film developed anyway. I better follow up with him and make sure that it gets developed.

Great vintage photos of a park I still need to visit. Too bad I missed out on riding the monorail though. I kind of remember seeing footage of it somewhere....didn't it have "open-air" cars similar to Magic Mountain's monorail?

Kris said...

The Wild Animal Park has change SO much. I have been going since I was really young and I remember the monorail very fondly. Sure it was cold but the tour was longer and you got to see more. The new tram drives you through the enclosures but it is shorter in length.

They've added a bunch of new stuff: "Heart of Africa" is a great walk, got a zip line, hot air balloon ride, Lion Camp, and many other animals. I used to get the pass but now I go once a year for the Butterfly Exhibit at the Hidden Jungles.

Anonymous said...

What a pleasure it is to find old photographs thought lost forever.

Thanks for sharing those, and the stories, Dave.

They will never grow old.