Friday, May 05, 2006

A place called Avilon

Well who would have thought that in a sleepy area like San Isidro, Rodriguez a world class zoo can be found? I first heard of the soft opening of the Avilon Zoo in 2003 from my co-teacher. At that time, the zoo could only be visited when joining a group tour. The comment I got was that it was not yet complete and there were few animals. That had stuck to me and I had not attempted to go there until I had read a blog in another site.

We had other plans for that day. We had wanted to check out a place in Tagaytay to have a camp-out. Somehow we figured that there'd be a lot of people in Tagaytay because it was a Holy Saturday and agreed to go where the other people would probably not go to avoid the traffic and thought of the Avilon Zoo.

It took us only 40 minutes to get from my place to the zoo. It was 11 am when we got there and had lunch before we started to go around. As is my daughter's habit, we went to see the toilet first which we found to be very clean and even had an oil diffuser which made it smell of flowers. Impressive for a zoo. I have yet to see as clean a powder room in a zoo as this.

The food in the zoo is surprisingly cheap - it costs only 90 pesos for 1 cup of rice, 2 viands (1 meat dish and 1 vegetable dish) and a bottle of water or can of softdrink. Tea could be had for an additional 5 pesos. Aside from being cheap, it also tasted pretty well, I should say.

After lunch it was time to go. I had wanted to wait for the guided tour which was scheduled at 2 pm (since we didn't catch the 1st one at 9 am) but we thought that we would just go ahead on our own and catch up with them soon after. This proved to be a wise decision since we were there late and had to leave early too. The sun was high up and the heat was burning our skin so we opted to go to the shady area first. The funny thing with the Avilon Zoo is that despite its 3-year existence, they still have not produced at least a sketch of the places to see when you want to go on your own instead. although the first animals that we saw were some mallards, the area was not part of the "zoo proper" because these were not in cages and were sort of "sent out to fend for themselves", so to speak. In the vernacular, "sariling-kayod".

So, like I said, we went where it was shady, moist and a little damp so we would feel cool. and what creatures did we first meet? ones that thrived in these areas - the nasty, cranky crocs! Well, not exactly nasty. But of course for starters you'd want to see some creatures that are endearing and charming. Not their fault anyway. So, yup, we saw 'em crocs. Ikee had made up a game of spot the animal with us and was so surprised that I was fast at it. Nah, I'm just probably scared of them so I have to see them before they see me! hehehe

We saw several creatures. there were the capybarra, the raccoon, the puma, cockatoo, toucan, emu, ostrich, tapir, sheep (yes, with thick wool even! poor guys...), the arapaima, civets, leopard (or something that looks like it anyway), the lovable ape, some owls, a porcupine (would you believe!), etc. etc. et. the list goes on and on. There are several hundreds of bird species (which is why the place is named avilon in the first place) and a few hundred other animals. the one that we loved the most were the myna that we went to see those creatures 3 times. Andy why won't we enjoy when we were able to teach them to snore and to say bird flu! and with great success I tell you. The usual things that they said were, "kumain ka na ba" (have you eaten already?), hello, goodbye. they particularly liked to meow and whisper things that you couldn't even understand. copycats! hehehe

The place is unexpectedly larger than I had expected. But since there were several benches in shady areas to rest at and a snacking station right in the middle of the zoo, it wasn't so difficult to go around. The toilet here is even better than the one we had seen at the entrance! A nice treat for the visitors is how the owners of the place have arranged to have some interaction between animals and humans. For a 50-peso fee, pictures could be taken with them. There was also a part where you get to feed the arapaimas which are large carnivorous fish from Africa. We were told that the ones that were there we still young. and already they were the size of my leg!

We got really tired after 4.5 hours of walking so we decided to go home. Although we only got to join the tour for a very short while, we saw practically the whole place. And yet, Avilon is such a wonderful place that we have all intentions of going back. Sooner than later I hope.

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