Adorable Galapagos turtles and cute Komodo dragons babies, Riverbanks Zoo’s newest exhibits

We finally got to see the baby Galapagos tortoises that came with a big bang last fall. They are adorable…tiny and clumsy on their little feet, is hard to believe they will grow to weigh almost a ton! The hatchlings are on display inside the Aquarium, and as a bonus, next to them is a pair of Komodo Dragons juveniles that were born at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Galapagos baby tortoises, a welcome addition to the reptiles exhibit

Biggest surprise of the century! 100 years old Galapagos turtles giving birth at Riverbanks Zoo.

Here are the proudest parents at the zoo: mom, Alberta, came to the United States in 1951 as an adult and dad, Abrazzo, arrived in 1928, also as an adult. Riverbanks Zoo acquired the pair in 1995. Both are believed to be over 100 years old…love is truly timeless.

Alberta and Abrazzo

The happy couple

While at the zoo be a dare devil and try your acrobatic skills at Sky-High Safari, a 44-foot high vertical ropes challenge ($7 per climb, $5 for members).


Bad girls at sea…the amazing story of Mary Read, Anne Bony and Calico Jack

John Calico Jack Rackham was an English pirate who ravaged the Caribbean shores at the end of the Golden Age. His nickname stemmed from the colorful calico clothes he wore. He is famous for being the only known captain with female crew members and for his skull and crossbones Jolly Roger, nowadays most popular piracy symbols.

Brave blood thirsty ferocious women sailors privateers

Ladies of steel, Mary Read and Anne Bonny

Calico Jack met Anne Bonny in the port of Nassau, in Bahamas. Although Anne was married to an informant for the British government, the two quickly heated off and ran away, thus committing adultery and also voiding Jack’s pardon.

One day, Calico Jack captured a Dutch merchant vessel and its crew that counted the incognito Mary Read.

Mary “Mark” Read was an illegitimate child from England, similar to Anne who was an illegitimate child from Ireland.

Her mother would dress her like a boy to obtain financial support from Mary’s paternal grandmother.

As a teenager, Mary ran away and joined the army, where she fell in love with a soldier. They married and opened an inn in Holland. After her husband died Mary decided to dress like a man and venture at sea.

Not knowing she was a woman, Rackham welcomed Mary Read aboard his ship to join his crew. Anne Bonny started to have feelings for Read.

Fierce female pirate in the 18th century

You should not mess with Mary!

Legend has it that Mary revealed her gender to Anne by exposing her breasts.

The two women became fast friends, and according to some sources, lesbian lovers as well.

Rackham, become jealous and threatened to kill Read. He reportedly burst in the cabin once, finding them partially undressed.

Others say that actually Mary fell in love with a male crew member. Her love was so intense that she defended him with her own life by killing another man in a duel.

Captain “Calico Jack” made a career of plundering small vessels close to the Caribbean coastline. This boldness proved to be his undoing. In the fall of 1720 he cruised near Jamaica, capturing many small fishing boats, and terrorizing locals along the northern coastline.

“Come up, you cowards, and fight like men!…”
Jamaican Governor Woodes Rogers (a former pirate himself!) ordered the capture of Rackham’s ship and crew. The drunken sailors retreated to their cabins after the British soldiers boarded the ship. Mary Read, Anne Bonny, and one unknown pirate stayed on deck attempting to fight off the attack.

Pirates of the Caribbean in 17 and 18 centuries

He died like a dog...hanged, tarred and gibbeted

Mary Read was enraged by the drunken cowardice of the crew and fired her pistol into the cabin, killing a shipmate.

After a mighty struggle, the British officers overtook the crew and brought them to shore to be trialed for piracy.

At Calico Jack’s trial, Anne Bonny was asked to testify on his behalf and she told the court: “If he had fought like a man, he need not have been hanged like a dog.”

Rackham was hanged at Gallows-Point in Port Royal on November 18, 1720. His body tarred, hanged in a cage, and gibbeted on display at main entrance to Port Royal, presently known as Rackham’s Cay.

“Mi’lord, we plead our bellies”
Anne Bonny and Mary Read escaped execution by claiming they were both “quick with child”. Mary died of a terrible fever during childbirth. Anne disappeared from all historical records, spurring much speculation regarding her fate. Some believe her well-connected father bailed her out of jail, and she moved to America and had a family. Others say she returned to piracy.

Captain Charles Johnson putted best in his book: “What has become of her since, we cannot tell; only this we know, that she was not executed.”

Ready to plunder the high seas? Go to the SC State Museum downtown Columbia and enjoy the blockbuster Pirates, Privateers and Buccaneers exhibit. It runs till January 2011!

Easter Bunny Train Ride at SC Railroad Museum

All aboard! Looking for something special to do with kids this coming weekend? Then come Saturday, April 11 from 9:30 AM to 4PM to the SC Railroad Museum in Winnsboro for the second Easter Bunny Eggspress Train day. Fares are $15 first class and $10 for coach ($10 kids 1 – 11 years).

SC Railroad Museum Trivia
The tracks were built in 1883 to transport granite stone to Winnsboro. The tracks and museum are privately owned and the entire train crew is made of volunteers. Our guide was a self-described “Yankee from Brooklyn, NY”, a very nice and knowledgeable guy. Unfortunately you could barely hear him speak over the loud squeaking train wheels.

Hampton designed locomotive

Hampton designed locomotive

Noteworthy artifacts:
• Hampton and Branchville steam locomotive
• Authentic Norfolk dining and bedroom cars
• Pullman passenger car
• US Postal Service train
• Seabord and Nickel Place red cabooses

What to expect on the train ride
1. Wear something comfortable, avoid sandals and flip-flops. It’s dusty and rusty inside the coaches and on the grounds.

2. The ride is 5 miles each way, takes about 1 hour, and you come back on the same line. If you can, sit on the 1st or 3rd coaches on the way in and on the 2nd coach on the way back. This way you’re always facing forward. Riding backwards for half an hour is not that fun, trust me. My advice is to purchase First Class tickets.

The Coach ride experience

The Coach ride experience

3. The coach windows may be difficult to manipulate. Pay close attention on little kids so they don’t get their fingers caught.

4. The scenery it’s not very spectacular. Expect lots of wooded areas and run down buildings along the way. The ride highlights are:
• Old Greenbrier School
• Mini canyon, reminiscent of the famous Winnsboro blue granite stone
• Depot ruins and junk railroad yard
• Stopping to let the volunteers signal the train arrival to ongoing car traffic.

5. The Easter Bunny makes his entrance on the way back home. This is by far the best part of the ride. Kids for once stay seated waiting to shake hands and hug the fluffy character.

Photo with Easter Bunny

Photo with Easter Bunny

6. The kids’ most popular thing to do was to jump up and down the rock pile sitting on the grounds outside.

Rockton Rion and Western R.R. 2009 Season
• Summer Schedule (June 6 -August 29)
Saturdays from 9:30AM to 3:30PM. Train departure at 10AM, 1PM, and 2:30PM.

• Fall Schedule (September 5 and 19, October 3 and 17 (Caboose Days))
Saturdays from 9:30AM to 3:30PM. Train departure at 10AM, 1PM, and 2:30PM

• Special Event Days:
– Easter Bunny Eggspress trains on April 4 and 11. Trains depart at 9:30 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:30 PM and 4:00 PM. Caboose tickets are not available on these days.
– Santa trains on November 28, December 5 and 12.

Onboard Norfolk passenger car

Onboard Norfolk passenger car

Location and Train Rides Prices:
The SC Railroad Museum is located on the corner of SC Hwy 34 and Industrial Park Road, in Winnsboro SC. From I-77, take exit 34, then SC Hwy 34 towards Winnsboro about 5 miles. From I-20, take exit 70, then US 321 towards Winnsboro. Turn left on SC Hwy 34.

Fares Info:
– Coach $10 adult , $7 children
(ages 1 to 11)
– First Class $15 (all ages – includes light refreshment and snack in relaxed atmosphere comfort)
– Caboose $12 (all ages, if available)

The Red Caboose

The Red Caboose

Riverbanks Zoo: amazing photos, funny videos and great tips for moms (things to do with kids in Columbia)

You are never bored at the Riverbanks Zoo. There is always some drama unfolding with the animals and people alike. It’s relatively cheap, you get plenty of exercise and fresh air walking in the beautiful surroundings, and most important, the little kids can scream their hearts out and run around for a couple of hours while no one there really cares. When my daughter Lana was months old she got her best hour-long naps as we were strolling pass the big cats exhibits.
Fun climbing bronze statue at Riverbanks Zoo
Tips to know before you go
1. Get the membership it will pay for itself after two family visits.
2. Go during the week. By all means avoid Friday which is free day for Richland and Lexington counties residents and when most school, church and senior tours visit.
3. Get the 10 safari “bucks” for $8 ticket. This will save you $2 and lets you do a girls magnet pony ride or a 3D movie (each costs $4), two carousel runs ($1 per run and you get to join in for free…yeah! better not eat anything heavy ahead of time), and you can feed the animals along the way ($1 each). At the farm go with the goats, they’ll put on a show.
4. Know the animal shows and feeding times; this is when animals are most active and crowds gather to a specific location (so you’ll know when and where to get away!)
5. Young kids love to climb the many bronze statues scattered around the park. Let them do it; you’ll get a rest, they get a great kick out of it and it’s also a good motivation to keep them going “to the next one”.
6. If you plan on eating while at the zoo, Kenya café is your best bet although don’t expect Wolfgang Puck style dining. Get the hot-dog and fries combo with the yogurt smoothie or the salad box (each about $2.00). There are water fountains throughout the zoo so don’t spend money on drinks…unless it’s your only option to shut the kids up.

What you might run into at the zoo

Scrawny-looking lion is bored to death by the endless exhibit of photo shooting humans. He’s looking for refuge along the more self-assured matriarchs.Lion roaring at Riverbanks Zoo

Flute singing gorilla finds peace by the shade secluded rocksGorilla singing at Riverbanks Zoo

Laying around and eating upside down the lazy sloth got it all figured out. Flower, power.
Lazy Sloth Eating at Riverbanks Zoo

The stone face impenetrable alligator. If you ask me I think it’s a fake; he never moves!
Alligator sunbathing at Riverbanks Zoo

Relaxed lady elephants enjoy an afternoon snack, always socializing or scratching a perennial itch. They truly seem in their element in spite of the relatively small enclosure.

Elephants at Riverbanks Zoo

Super model frilly lizard will make sure to hold the pose until you get your best shot. Very professional indeed!

Riverbanks Zoo frilly lizard

The impassable tiger yawns heavily unfazed by the ruckus nearby Riverbanks Zoo Siberian tiger yawning

Brady Bunch little parrots will delight kids of all ages for a $1 nectar cup. Relax, stay still, pray for no “oops accidents” and enjoy the show. Check out these funny videos to get even a better idea of all the fun that awaits you there:

Parrots Eating Nectar

Little Parrots’ Food Fight

Gorilla Leaves When Phone Rings

American Idols at Riverbanks Zoo?

Riverbanks Zoo
500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia, SC 29210
Open daily 9 AM to 5 PM (6PM weekends), except Thanksgiving and Christmas day
Adult $9.75, Children (3-12) $7.25, under 3 years old are free.
Discount rates available for seniors, military personnel and groups
For more information and year round calendar of events visit or call (803) 779-8717