In search of a new activity, we drove to a nature preserve in the north of Holland and visited the Burger's Zoo. The drive took about an hour each way, but the zoo made the trek worthwhile. What a great zoo! The weather was crap (cold grey drizzle with wind), but the great part of this zoo is the major exhibits are all indoors and are connected by tunnels...so the weather didn't matter! What is special about this particular zoo is that it is designed to allow the animals to move as freely as possible in their natural habitats. The animals there aren't too spectacular (they have to be small and harmless for this to work), but the environments they've set up for them (especially the rainforest-like Safari section) are incredible! The three main zones/exhibits are Desert, Safari, and Ocean. Desert and Safari are connected by underground tunnels that look like they've been mined, with small exhibits on various stones and a climbing area inside the walls for kids. Ellie just had fun running through and listening to her voice echo. The Ocean exhibit was of course an aquarium, but the tanks were set up in the most natural, realistic ways we've seen. The largest tank (containing sharks and other fish) contained half a sunken boat with sea life all over it. The stingrays swam around in shallow tanks beneath docks and among large boulders. We had a great time!
Ellie also now has a new friend. She is a HUGE fan of Sesame Street podcasts on iTunes (if you have a toddler, I can't recommend these free video podcasts more highly). Each week features a new word-as-subject, and one of her favorite podcasts is "Squid." Well, at the gift shop, Mama found a small stuffed-animal squid made by the World Wildlife Federation. Ellie LOVES it!!! She has been named Sally the Squid, and Ellie has not let her go since her purchase. Sally is up there in status with Monkey and Lolo. Ellie carried her all around the rest of the zoo, holding Sally up high so she could see the animals. She also made sure to make quick and proper introductions to Monkey and Lolo, who were in the stroller. Sally loves to dance and twirl her tentacles. Doing the Hokey Pokey with Sally is a very involved business. I hope to catch a picture of them soon, and I will post it when I do.
Happy New Year's to all you revelers out there! We will be celebrating at home, probably happily sacked out on the couch wearing earplugs to drown out the firecrackers that have been going off here since 10 this morning.