Take your own photos at the places I’ve been to!
Busch Gardens is located in Tampa, Florida. If you arrive at the front gate around 10:30 you will most likely be able to see flamingos going out for their morning walk and you can feed them for free at Jambo Junction at 11:00 am. I highly suggest looking at all of the keeper talk times listed on your park map or on the LED boards throughout the park. These are times when you will find the animals most active and more than likely you’ll be able to watch feeding and training sessions. The cheetahs will typically be ran at the 11:30 am talk but if not you can always ask the keepers. If you’re interested in learning about veterinary care visit the Animal Care Center as soon as you can because all of the patients are scheduled right around park opening. The list of animals you will be able to see in the zoo hospital will be listed on the LED boards or up on tv screens inside the building. You can feed and pet kangaroos throughout the majority of the day as well. The lorikeets are near the roos and cost $7 to feed them which may sound expensive but it includes one photo and you can request for your nectar to be split into multiple cups. There are also a lot of hidden animal areas in the tree top trails located in the Jungala area of the park. You can go to the park just for zoo areas and wrap up your trip by 1:00 pm or by 4:30 if you do multiple talks for the same animals.
There are currently 3 locations for SeaWorld including San Antonio, Texas, San Diego, California, and the one that I visit in Orlando, Florida. I don’t typically get here at park open because I like to stay until park close which can be after 9 pm in certain seasons. I use their app to keep track of all the showtimes and I plan my day around which shows I want to go to. I typically aim for one daytime and one nighttime show for the orcas. They are usually two different performances but if they offer multiple times of their main show and I can get photos both during daylight and when the stadium is lit up at night I try to go because the behaviors vary for each show and make my subjects more interesting. I also do my best to watch a Blue Horizons dolphin show that has a segment featuring the pilot whales because they are not used in every show. I am personally not a big fan of taking photos of the Pets Ahoy or the Sea Lion High show so I don’t often go to those. Instead, I prefer to visit the sea lions that are at the Pacific Point because I like the more natural look. The stadiums at different park locations vary but whenever there is a slide out that is the best place to sit. It will also mean you are in a splash zone so investing in a poncho or some sort of protective gear for your camera’s sake is a must. Personally, I also find it very difficult to take photos that turn out the way I like if at all in any of the underwater viewing areas. I have much better luck from an above ground view even though you’ll be getting a different look. Penguin viewing is also a bit tricky because unfortunately you are required to wait in line before you are let in to see them.
Lowry Park Zoo is located in Tampa, Florida. There are several zoos and aquariums in the United States that are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and some of them offer discounts if you have a membership to one of them. Click here to see if your zoo membership is on the list. Lowry is an easy zoo to get done in a few hours. I absolutely love their animal collection because you can see several endangered species such as manatees and okapi. They also have a stingray touch tank which can be a fun stop as well however it is not near as impressive as other zoos and aquariums. I am not a big fan of their habitat designs because I am often finding myself trying to edit out unattractive fencing but on a good day with the right lens and the right angle you can actually get some really nice photos.
The Georgia Aquarium is located in Atlanta right next to the Coca Cola Factory. You should really buy your tickets and a parking pass and print those off ahead of time so that you save yourself a lot of trouble. The food is really expensive so be sure to eat ahead of time. Also expect it to be really crowded that you’ll have to fight your way through the sea of people to try for a photo. Their exhibits are incredibly beautiful and you can get amazing underwater shots. My personal favorite animals are the belugas, sea otters, and whale sharks. When I went with my sister she loved the penguins, dolphins, and octopus which are all very cool as well. I’ve only been to the aquarium twice and the last time I went we chose not to see the dolphin show simply because we wanted to get back on the road and head for home, but you should know that no photography or videography is allowed during the shows. Instead, there are times that are typically less crowded when you can see the dolphins in underwater viewing if you ask the employees who are at the entrance to the show. The last thing I suggest dong is visiting the upstairs learning center. It has very educational interactive areas, a couple of touch tanks, and above water viewing for both belugas and whale sharks.
The Zoo Atlanta is located just a few exits off the highway from the Georgia Aquarium. This zoo also has discounts like Lowry Park so you can get in for a really reasonable price. I found that this zoo was almost divided in half in that the entire right side of the zoo was designed for children and all of the major animal habitats were on the left hand side. When I went to visit it had been raining for a few days prior so the ground was incredibly muddy which means a lot of animals were either not out or were covered with red clay. The habitats were huge which is great but that means you need a good zoom lens and I wish they had more grass in some of the areas. They do provide a lot of areas to potentially get really close up to some of the animals. One of my favorite spots was this squareish viewing area that had two walls of windows that let you get up close to both the Sumatran tigers and the Malayan sun bears. This zoo is also outstanding because it is one of four zoos in America that has giant panda bears. This is a really popular habitat to be at but I had no trouble sitting down in front of the glass and taking photos as people came and went. Personally I prefer mammals but if you’re into reptiles they recently built a state of the art indoor facility for your scaly friends. Overall the zoo was great and you should definitely pay a visit if you’re in the area.
West Palm beach is a beautiful zoo! All of the habitats have great viewing areas and it was a very easy zoo to walk. I didn’t have much difficulty with fencing getting in the way of photos either. This zoo had such a nice flow to it and quite a lot of unique species like jaguars, capybaras, giant anteaters, and tigers just to name a few. Everywhere I walked made me feel like I had just stepped into the jungle book itself with waterfalls, rivers, and tropical foliage the guest side and animal side seemed like it was one. I would love to go back anytime!