There’s one thing for sure, Gulf Shores, Alabama knows a thing or two about family adventures. Besides the beautiful white sand beaches they are known for, the city has many other outdoor attractions for families, including the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo animal encounters and their friends. It was a joy to spend time with travel writers, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, and the zoo workers. We were hosted at the zoo for lunch, a zoo tour, and a special kangaroo encounter.
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo Animal Encounters
Once known as “The Little Zoo That Could” in a documentary series on Animal Planet, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is far from that now. After going through two hurricanes, this zoo has managed to stay alive and well with dedicated employees and brilliant people who care about the zoo. The zoo had to be rebuilt from the ground up, and though they are still working on getting it in tip-top shape, the 199 species, 31 sub-species, and eight endangered species are doing quite well. It’s located six miles from the beach and is tucked away just off the main highway and includes Alabama’s first certified green restaurant. Be sure to scroll down to see my special animal encounter with the kangaroos.
I enjoyed our tour and the layout of the zoo. Michelle, our tour guide sure knows her stuff, and you could tell she loves her job. See her below holding one of the kangaroos. Obviously, the zoo workers love their jobs, which made our time there that much more special.
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo Kangaroo Encounter
Have you ever had a kangaroo encounter at a zoo or any other animal encounter? If so, you know how special they are. When I read that we were going to have an encounter with kangaroos, I was all in, and it was my number one pick on the list. To be able to touch and hold them is really all I wanted. I sincerely met a new friend today.
The three young red kangaroos that we saw today are all orphans for one reason or another.
Did you know kangaroos sleep most of the day? The kangaroo above had to be woken up so we could hold him. The zookeeper said he would fall right back asleep when we leave.
ZooKeeper Michelle holding one of the kangaroos. Michelle has been with the zoo for many years through thick and thin, including numerous hurricanes and evacuations. She has a diverse background and knowledge of the zoo and its residents.
Once you pay to enter the zoo, an extra cost for a Kangaroo Encounter at the Gulf Coast Zoo is $19.95 per person — and worth it. You won’t be able to hold one of the kangaroos as she is, but you will in their pouch like I got to do.
Animal Encounters At Zoos
Animal encounters at zoos are becoming a thing nationwide (I hope). It’s a great way for zoos to make extra money for their zoos and a way for us humans to get hands-on learning experiences about the animals. Getting to interact with animals is truly one of my passions. I love to see animals in the wild, and needless to say, I can not touch them, but getting up close and personal with zoo animals, I can.
A couple of years ago, at the OKC City Zoo, my grandson and I had a Hippo encounter where we got to feed him and touch his head. Then years ago at the Dallas Zoo, a handful of DFW bloggers got to engage in a Galapagos Tortoise encounter, and that was unheard of back then. Now, I get to add my kangaroo encounter to my list!
Meet Norman – An Eurasian Eagle-Owl at the Gulf Coast Zoo
This was not an actual animal encounter, but it felt as if it were. Brittney, one of the zookeepers and Norman’s trainer, loves what she does at the zoo. She has spent over four years with Norman and has built a bond with him. She knows his ins and outs. Can you imagine? We couldn’t get too close because Brittany can’t wear a mask because Norman would not recognize her. She told us all about Norman and how she trains him, and how she gets him to do what she wants him to do. Think food!!
Fun Fact: Though Norman is a large owl and looks quite heavy, he only weighs 3 lbs. We were shocked when she told us that under all those feathers, his body is quite small.
Alabama’s First Certified Green Restaurant at Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
Alabama’s first certified “green restaurant” is found at the zoo. You’ll find fresh fruits and vegetables on the menu from local farmers or their onsite garden and wonderful outdoor seating at the Safari Club restaurant. What you won’t find there are plastic straws and styrofoam.
The restaurant has a separate entrance from the zoo, which means buying a ticket to the zoo is not required to eat a meal at the restaurant. And, while enjoying your meal on the patio, you get to hear the sounds of the zoo! Best concept ever!
I enjoyed my delicious and healthy chicken salad with roasted tomatoes, all the while listening to the lemur’s scream a time or two (it must have been lunchtime for them too). It definitely was a special treat.
More Animals at Alabama Coast Zoo
As I write my article, I realize that most of the animals we saw at the zoo were males. Not sure why, and I know there must be females there as well. Ummm.
This bear wasn’t having it today. He kept pacing back and forth, so I didn’t get a proper photo of him.
I really think we took our tour during feeding time. This lion did not love our visit today. I finally got a photo of him out of his den.
I’ll leave you with — Spit happens at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
Be on the lookout for my next blog post about the awesome Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores. Here it is!