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Binder Park Zoo

May 16, 2010

  • 7400 Division Drive
  • Battle Creek, MI 49014
  • (269) 979-1351
  • Website

I got a pretty abrupt wake up call this morning.  My wife jumped back into bed and started pushing me out.  It was almost a child-like enthusiasm.  “Get up!  Get up!  Let’s go to the Zoo!”  I eventually gave in because it was almost 11:30, but hey, it’s still a Sunday.

We’ve been wanting to check out the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek since we lived in Lansing.  We always talked about it, but never did it.  J finally decided we were going to go.  The weather looked great, so why not?

After grabbing lunch in town, we headed out to the Zoo which is on Division Drive southeast of town.  It’s a pretty short drive from both the Beadle Lake Road exit if you’re coming from the east or the M-66 exit if you’re coming from the west.

Neither of us really knew what to expect.  Most places we have lived in the past have had a zoo in the middle of the city.  Binder Park is outside of town and they really take advantage of the space they occupy.

The parking lot is down a long, narrow drive way.  It was a pretty busy Sunday afternoon, but there was plenty of parking pretty close to the entry.  We found a spot then went to get in line for tickets.  There are six ticket lines and they all had a pretty long queue when we go there.  It took five minutes or so to get through the line, pay the $25 for two adults, and get on our way. 

The zoo is divided in to three areas.  The original part of the zoo starts as you walk in the gate.  There are walkways carved into the natural forest area.  The exhibits are built into the natural habitat and the viewing area differs at each exhibit.  There are a lot of open air exhibit’s in which you are just separated by a fence.  There are also some completely enclosed exhibit in which you go into a small hut and look through glass.  In these exhibits, there are two glass openings.  One for the little guys and one for the adults.

The vulture exhibit is the first thing you see when you get through the gates, so we started there.  After that, it was on to the Red Kangaroo, but they were sleeping.

The first action we saw was the leopard exhibit.  It was just hanging out for a while, but as we started to leave, it got up and started pacing around the exhibit.  All of a sudden, the viewing area was full of people taking pictures and picking their kids up to get a look.

We made our way around the loop checking out every exhibit until we eventually found the Swamp Adventure.  The map I had in my back pocket said it was a .8 mile walk.  It’s a very pretty walk through a wetlands area of the park and there are a lot of information signs scattered through the walk, but unfortunately, we didn’t see any sign of actual wildlife.  That doesn’t mean it’s not there.  The exhibit is set up as a natural, open habitat.  Some days you might see a lot.  As a walking trail, it’s a really nice walk.  An interesting note about the boards used for the walking path, they’re made from recycled shopping bags.

After that walk, we finished up making the loop around the main zoo area.  There are quite a few animals including prairie dogs, emus, snow leopard, wallaby’s, lemurs, and more.  The lemurs are always funny.

This part of the zoo also houses the Children’s Zoo which has a number of small domestic animals and the Conservation Discovery Center which has interactive exhibits.

We started to head towards the Wild Africa exhibit which is really the big reason to go to Binder Park Zoo.  The main zoo is gorgeous, but Wild Africa is incredible.

As you leave the Main Zoo, you pass the Binda Conservation Carousel and the Avenue of Flags.  The path leads to a tram station that takes you on a four minute ride to the Wild Africa Exhibit.  If you’re in the mood to walk, you can actually walk to the exhibit.  It’s a .5 mile walk and it’s how J and I chose to get there.

The walking path to Wild Africa goes along the same route as the tram.  There’s a white line along the side of the road that’s meant as a guide.  Not too many people use this option.  We passed only a couple people on the walk.  For a while, we really thought we were somewhere we weren’t supposed to be. It just had the feeling of being in an 0ff-limit part of the zoo.  There weren’t really any signs or anything other than the white line painted on the road.  It’s another great example of how Binder Park takes advantage of it’s natural habitat. 

When we got to the top of the hill, yes, it’s a half mile up hill walk, we came to “African Village.”  The Wild Africa Exhibit is set up to make you feel like you are actually in Africa.  You start in the Village where there’s a restaurant, a gift shop and restrooms then make your way out on the trail.

We headed in to the building marked “Zuri National Park Headquarters Entrance” which leads to the trail.  Again, it’s about .8 mile all the way through the “National Park.”

The first place you come to after the Ranger Station is the Twiga Overlook which overlooks the Savanna.  This is the coolest part of the entire zoo.  Out on the Savana are African Crowned Cranes, Grant’s Zebra’s, Impala, Greater Kudu’s, Bontebok’s, and the Reticulated Giraffe’s.  It’s cool enough just to see these animals, but there’s actually a place where you can feed the giraffe’s.  For a buck, you can buy a cracker and the giraffe’s come right up to the exhibit and eat the cracker right out of your hand.  Needless to say, this was a very popular spot and there were a lot of people crowded around the one giraffe who was hungry.

We hung out here for a while then continue walking the trail.  You come across a few more exhibits along the way including the Red-Capped Mangabeys and a couple walk through Aviaries.  The walk is a really neat walk through the forest which has scenes set up in the to look like there is a camp in the woods.

Once we made it back to the Village, we made a quick pit stop in the gift shop then headed for the tram to head back to the zoo.  Even though it was downhill, we were both getting a little tired and decided to take the tram back instead of the path.

After chasing a few more free range peacocks around the main part of the zoo, we decided to call it a day.  I was surprised it took us almost three hours to walk through the entire zoo.

J was very happy when we left.  She grew up going to Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and it’s still one of her favorite activities.  I know she’s been wanting to do this for a while and I’m glad we finally made the decision to go.

Binder Park Zoo is a great way to spend the day.  It doesn’t matter how old you are or even if you go with kids.  As long as you like animals, enjoy a good walk, and can appreciate the forest setting, you’ll love Binder Park Zoo.

Cheetah

Entrance to the Swamp Adventure

Peacock roaming the grounds

Avenue of Flags

Zuri National Park Ranger Station in Wild Africa Exhibit

Feeding the Giraffe at Twiga Overlook

Reticulated Giraffe

Red-capped Mangabey

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