Part 2: Madison

The following day, we headed out to the Henry Vilas Zoo. This was yet another thing that I had failed to do while living in Madison. It was even in walking distance from my apartment; few things not in central Madison were. But it was in the opposite direction from campus. Which is a terrible reason not to go. I loved animals then as I love them now. So it was time to right that wrong.

And off we went! It’s a free zoo so we just walked in. We also learned that it was open in the winter though some attractions weren’t. We first spent some time looking at the goats. Lots of goats. Nearby, we discovered a small mammal house with two very active red pandas. Unlike the ones at the Lincoln Park Zoo in the past, you could see these bright red creatures. They were very active, wandering around their habitat, in and out, sometimes scenting the terrain. It was super cool to see them up close and in the snow! They also had an exhibit with porcupines with giant quills.

Red Panda
Red Panda

After the small mammals, we found ourselves in the reptile and amphibian house. I didn’t love it. It seemed very small (yes, I’m comparing it to LPZ) but it seemed a cross between a museum and a zoo. There were some live animals and then some specimens to examine. They also had those chongololo that I saw in Namibia! Eew! But one of the things that depressed me was the giant turtles. These were the largest turtles on earth. However, they stood on mats in a small habitat. It didn’t seem to sit right with me.

Then we went off to see the giraffes…which were the hardest to see. There were two giraffes, separated in a small enclosure. After seeing giraffes wandering in large groups in the wild, sometimes running, it was hard to see just two giraffes in such a small place. We quickly moved on to another habitat.

Then things seemed to turn for the better. We saw a  tiger, wandering around its habitat. We also saw some very active lions. We aren’t sure what they were annoyed about, but they were active and vocal. (Probably more active than all the lions we saw in Africa). We also enjoyed the tropical area with bright beautiful birds! We also had a good time in the ape house. At one point, one of the chimps straddled the ceiling using the bars on a skylight. Very impressive. And there were South African penguins. More penguins please.

Active Lion!
Active Lion!
Obligatory photo of penguins
Obligatory photo of penguins

All in all, it was worth going even if some enclosures were a little small for my taste.

Near the zoo, there were several bodies of water. One was a lake and another was pond. Both were frozen over and people were enjoying winter on them. We ran out on to the lake, which felt crazy. It was fairly solid. You really have to imagine that there was water underneath. My Madison friend said that sometimes you can hear the water underneath but not this time. I decided to try lying down. Because frozen lake.

Then we decided to go ice skating on the pond nearby. This was another thing that I had never done. I’ve been ice skating at various rinks around the world but I had never skated on a pond. So we strapped on our rented skates and went out. It was an interesting experience. The ice is not flat; it’s kinda bumpy. But the pond was so much bigger than any other rink that I had ever been on.I also had the pleasure of looking under a bridge from below! People were playing pick up hockey games. We raced each other. It was simply magnificent to ice skate. I never skate enough during the winter.

That’s all for now! I’ll talk about the show that brought us to Madison tomorrow.


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