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).

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Body Worlds Vital at SC State Museum, Columbia fun and exciting things to do with kids

Recently we visited the SC State Museum to see the renown Body Worlds exhibit. We took advantage of the special $1 admission (1st Sunday of the month) and ended up paying $20 total (adult and child tickets). We spent over an hour browsing the galleries and gift shop and we were impressed.

In the elevator leading up to the 4th floor gallery

So excited to see this!


My 7 years old daughter became fascinated with the heart and the circulatory system (see cool facts below). She took the time to complete the survey and gave the exhibit a rave review.

Body Worlds tickets allow full day admission to the entire museum
• $18 adults ($8 members)
• $15 seniors ($7 members)
• $12 children 3-12 ($6 members)

Hours
• Tue 10AM – 8PM
• Wed,Thu and Fri 10AM – 5PM
• Sat 10AM – 6PM
• Sun 1 – 5PM

Body Worlds Vital is the latest installment in the Human Saga by Gunther von Hagens. It features 200 real body specimens, presented without skin using plastination, so you can see bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels and all of the internal organs. You get a deep understanding of how the body works when is healthy and what happens when is sick. Smart displays drive the healthy lifestyle point home: respect your body or else.

Revealing posters lining up the exit of the Body Worlds exhibit

In your face...smoking kills people!

Things to know before you go
• Come early. We arrived at opening time and got in real fast. Most importantly we were able to browse all the stations at our own pace, taking time to see the displays and read all the explanations. Two hours later there were at least 200 people in line waiting to be allowed in the exhibit…not to mention those waiting at the museum check-in line!

• Not sure whether this is right for you and the kids? Check out the exhibit video, Family Guide and FAQ provided by the state museum. There is enough visuals to help you decide.

• Tickets are non-refundable and are good for just one entry. The Body Worlds exhibit closes on April 15, 2012.

People lining up to enter the Body Worlds exhibition

People lined up to see the remarkable Body Worlds Vital exhibit

Cool Body Facts
• At birth, humans have 300 bones. As a baby grows, however, many of the smaller bones fuse together so that adults have just 206 bones. Half of the bones are in the hands and feet.
• The brain uses 25% of the oxygen you take in. It transmits signals to the body at 100 miles an hour.
• Lungs are made up of about 600 million spongy bags called alveoli. Lungs are the only organs in the body light enough to float on water.
• If all the blood vessels were laid end to end, they would extend about 60,000 miles, far enough to circle the Earth twice.

We also enjoyed the Body Worlds gift shop, especially the pictures of plastinates from the animal kingdom. It’s fun to compare the inner workings of the human body to that of other animals.

Animal plastinate pictures at the SC State Museum gift shop

This is how you do it

While inside the museum check out the 125th Anniversary exhibit of the Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886, the greatest quake ever recorded in the eastern United States (biggest than the one in Haiti!).


Be smart, have fun in beautiful South Carolina!

Riverbanks Zoo Enrichment Day: wild fun, special treats, free activities and funny moments

On September 25th the Riverbanks Zoo celebrated its animals and visitors with special treats, surprises and fun activities for kids. The event was free with zoo admission ($11.75 adults, $10.75 seniors and military, and $9.25 children 3-12). Here are the highlights:

Fun stuff for kids
Feed Little Boy, the zoo’s only American alligator. Visitors who bid and won this “behind the scene” adventure got to participate in the alligator training session. They were literally feet away from the crocodilian monster!

Children get up close to Little Boy

A real special treatment...getting to feed Little Boy, the Riverbanks Zoo alligator

Kids made their own craft using pasta shells, string and construction paper and also got a free tattoo.

Make your own pasta craft

Fun free activities for kids at Riverbanks Zoo

Kids got to learn more about animals at the zoo, touch a bear skull and claw, cayman teeth and leathery skin, etc.

Hands on learning at Riverbanks Zoo special Enrichment Day

These are some very big teeth!

Animal treats
The grizzly bears seemed the most pleased with their watermelon and molasses covered boxes.

I have a sweet tooth...

The grizzly bears love their sweet treats on Riverbanks Zoo Enrichment Day

Chalka, the silverback gorilla, was intrigued by his colorful snack tube filled with goodies.

Chalka is happy with his new edible toy

Hmmmm, what can it be?

This youngster giraffe couldn’t pull away from the tree. Most likely the zoo staff covered the bark with a delicious treat, as he kept licking and licking it…

Funny baby giraffe playing at the zoo

Peek-a-boo! Giraffe playing hide and seek at the zoo

The lion got a little frustrated trying to open his present filled with tantalizing smelling meat. Eventually he hauled in the cave to “finish” it off in private.

Lions enjoy new toys special treats at Riverbanks Zoo

Reveal yourself to me says the Lion King

Although we missed the elephant feeding session we still got to see the ladies giving themselves a nice mud spa treatment.

Riverbanks Zoo Enrichment Day

As you get older you need to take good care of your skin...

Big and small, feathers and fur all animals got a special treat on Enrichment Day. This exotic bird enjoyed a fresh juicy orange.

Exotic bird enjoys new fruit at Riverbanks Zoo

I love oranges!

The male baboon will take no chances! He claimed this treat as his very own.

Claiming the colorful prize Riverbanks Zoo Enrichment Day

This treat is mine!

While at the zoo take the free trolley to the Botanical Gardens filled with hundreds of flowers, ornamental plants, trees, spices and funky art. There is a special children’s garden and a nice shaded playground.

Mark your calendar for the Boo at the Zoo, a Riverbanks Zoo & Garden Halloween Spooktacular! October 14-16 and 21-30, 6-9PM. Tickets are $6 members ($8 regular admission).

Fun family weekend at Sparkleberry Fair in Columbia: cool rides, yummy food and exotic petting zoo

Sparkleberry Fair is the best spring festival in the Midlands. It is held every year the last weekend in April near Sandhills Village and Carolina Children’s Garden in northeast Columbia. Parking is $5, rides are $3-$5 (unlimited rides stamp is $25, excludes bungee jumping and water balls), food items are $4-6, while the petting zoo and most arts and crafts activities are free.

A bird’s eye view of the Sparkleberry Fair from the ferris wheel. My daughter really loved riding on the big wheel.

Fun rides games food at the carnival

Up in the air at Sparkleberry Fair

Kids can test their climbing skills inside the Monkey Maze. There were also many different theme fun houses to play in.

Fun going through the Monkey Maze

Monkey Maze playstation fun

The bumble bee was a very popular ride with the little kids.

Fun rides for little children in Columbia

Lets make honey little bee

The highlight of the day for young children: the caterpillar roller coaster!

Spring family fun outdoor Village Sandhills

All aboard the caterpillar roller coaster!

My favorite attraction was the farm, filled with classic pettig zoo animals like the bunnies, goats, cows, sheep, pigs, donkey, turkey and chickens and a surprising variety of more exotic animals: alpacas, lama, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, yak, and camel.

Farm animals petting zoo fun

They are so cute!

Pet the baby alpaca! Where else can you see, touch and even ride wild animals?

Exotic farm animals at thespring fair

Nice alpaca, nice...

The Native American exhibit featured live hunting demonstration, bow and arrow shooting lesson, traditional face painting, open fire cooking, a huge tepee, storytelling, singing and arts and crafts souvenirs.

Native American heritage and traditions

Checking out the big tepee

The Sparkleberry Fair has something fun for everyone!

Hello Columbia! Most adorable baby baboon is playing at Riverbanks Zoo

“I want to hug her!” my daughter kept yelling. That’s when you know you found cute. C’mon look at these big ears, little pink rump pads and round sparkling eyes!

Yara, the baby baboon is the new Hamadryas star at Riverbanks Zoo, which hasn’t had one for over 25 years.

Riverbanks zoo most adorable animal babies

She is cute as a button!

While mom Imi and dad Makale enjoy a relaxing grooming session, baby Yara busies herself chasing and chewing on a pine cone. It’s so good to see them at peace together, last time Imi had a baby it didn’t turned out well…

Amazing monkey photos

Happy family moments at Riverbanks Zoo

Here, delight yourself with some Yara cuteness…

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden admission is:
• Adults $11.75
• Children (3-12) $9.25 (under 3 get in FREE)
• Military and seniors $10.75
• Combo pass $28.75 (per person) includes zoo admission and unlimited rides

See more Riverbanks Zoo babies pictures.

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!

New at Riverbanks Zoo, Columbia wild fun thing to do!

I haven’t been to Riverbanks since the “Lights Before Christmas” event. Last Saturday my daughter and I braved the crowds and the heat to see what’s new at the zoo.

Newest exhibit: Kangaroo Walkabout
Although is hard to replace the feisty sea lions (remember Big Boy?) the kangaroos and wallabies held their own on the fun factor. Kids love to get close (really close!) to the strange looking creatures. The are two staff guides that monitor the animals and are happy to answer questions.

Red Necked Wallabies – Wallabies are the smaller cousins of the kangaroos.

Columbia Zoo newest exhibit

Happy to sit next to young wallabies

The red-necked wallaby is the largest of all the wallabies.

Like kangaroos, wallabies get around by hopping and raise young in a pouch in the female’s belly. They spend the dawn and dusk hours eating grasses and other plants, and rest during broad daylight.

Red-Necked Wallabies have been killed for their fur and because they eat same grass as sheep.

Red Kangaroos – Males are called “boomers”, females “flyers” and the young are called “joeys”. Kangaroos can live up to 20 years of age.

Handsome young male Columbia Zoo

Is fun watching the kangaroos only feet away

In the wild, males live lot less than females (5-10 years vs. 10-15 years) due to constant fighting with other males and their mostly solitary life.

An adult male red kangaroo can weigh 200 pounds and grow to be 5 feet tall, truly remarkable considering at birth he is as big as a jelly bean!

Kangaroos are mostly nocturnal. During the day they cope with the heat by licking their wrists.

They can hop over 6 feet tall fences, leap over 25 feet and reach speeds of 30 mph! When threatened, kangaroos stomp the ground with their hind legs and thump with their tales. They can deliver a powerful kick if necessary!

The Gorilla exhibit is still a family favorite. There is renewed interest after the short yet exciting escapade last year and the sad departure of Kimya, the youngest male, this year.

Silverback gorilla survivor Columbia zoo

The one gorilla who did not get away...


2010 Price and Food Updates:

Admission is now $11.75 adults, $9.25 children (under 3 get in FREE), $10.75 military and seniors. There is a new $28.75 (per person) Combo Pass that includes admission and unlimited rides.

Really cute meerkat Riverbanks Zoo

The Meerkat Manor of Columbia!


There are 2 new “Explorer” membership options, $99 individual and $149 family, which provide unlimited rides and attractions on top of the usual benefits.

See all the details here.

You can get a $20 Day Pass for unlimited rides and feedings. The price for each individual attraction has not changed ($5 pony ride, $2 train ride, $2 3D Theater, $1 carousel, and $1 giraffe and lorikeet feeding).

Best place to eat is still the Kenya cafe, which is open year around and offers indoor A/C seating. All grill meals include french fries and cost around $4. Choose from burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, chicken and BBQ sandwiches. There are grab-and-go salads, deli sandwiches, yogurt, fruits and more.

Stay wild, be cool at the Riverbanks Zoo!