Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Return To "Down Under"

I ended the month of April with a day of recreation at a unique local zoo. It's "a little piece of Australia" about 20 miles from our driveway. Kentucky Down Under is a unique facility that offers its visitors the opportunity to see animals from a continent over 9000 miles away.

This was my 2nd trip to the park. The last one was in 2004 with Paula, James, and my Pennsylvania family (who were here on vacation).

On Saturday, my wife and I  went with my son, Michael and daughter-in-law, Heather. They asked us to go with them because the park was having "county days". Patrons from surrounding counties only pay a $5 admission charge. It's usually $22.

The park hasn't changed much since the last time I was there. The walk up the rather steep hill from the admissions building to the main area was a lot easier this time.

The first thing we did was walk through the bird garden area. There we saw a Papuan Frogmouth, my favorite of all the birds. We also saw a Laughing Kookaburra. I can't help but think of my dad every time I hear the word "Kookaburra". He used to sing a song about it all the time.

We took a little walking tour of the "Outback" area of the park. In this exhibit we saw a black swan, an emu, wallabies, and kangaroos. We even got to pet one of the kangaroos. You can see a couple of the kangaroos in the picture at the top of this post.

Next on our agenda was a tour through the Kentucky Caverns cave. Because we'd had several days of heavy and intense rain in the area prior to our visit, the cave was very wet inside. There were droplets falling on us from the cave ceiling all the while we were walking through. It wasn't slippery but we walked through a lot of puddles on the pitted floor. The picture at the top right side of this post shows Paula, Heather, and Michael walking up a set of rather steep steps in the middle of the cave tour.

Because of the dripping water, the puddles, the relatively dim lighting, shadows, the steep steps, and the cave formations we had to duck under or squeeze through, the tour was a bit more difficult than I though it would be. It was fun but I was afraid I'd slip and throughout the entire tour.

Upon exiting the cave we walked around the park's nature trail; stopping at the observation deck. We would go see the sheep herding demonstration at the grazing pasture and the shearing demonstration (no wool was actually shaved) and a lecture in the Wool Shed area.

Without a doubt the highlight of the day for me was the 2 visits we made to the "Land of Lories". It's a giant enclosure that houses a group of rainbow lorikeets. You go through the first of two doors into a little shack. There a park employee takes your ticket and gives you a small white paper cup (its like the cup you get after dinner mints in at a wedding reception) with about 2 table spoons full of liquid "nectar" in it.

The attendant makes sure the first door is closed before opening the second door to allow you to enter the aviary. Once inside you are rushed by at least 3 birds. They know you have something for them to eat. If you're not ready for their approach it can be a bit alarming. It seems as though this "nectar" is some type of "birdie crack". They land on your arm, your shoulder, and even your head to try and devour every drop of what's in your cup. Even after its empty the lorikeets use their brush shaped tongue make sure they get every drop.

Once your nectar is gone so are the birds. They fly away searching for the next visitor with a full cup of food. At least that's the usual behavior. But when I was in the aviary the first time, the birds were interested in me for a reason other then the nectar in my cup.

As I mentioned we had been walked around the park's nature trail before we went to feed the birds. The day had gotten a little warm and some of the trail was up hill. So when I was in the enclosure with the lorikeets I had been sweating just a bit. The perspiration formed small beads in my hair. One of the birds, who had been sitting on my shoulder, discovered the salty liquid and began to lick my hair.

If you look at the first picture at the top of this post you'll see my feathered friend getting an extra treat from my hair. It may look like he's whispering in my ear but he's dining on my perspiration. That may sound a bit gross but that's what happened.

The rainbow lorikeets are beautiful birds. Their combination of blue, red, green, and yellow feathers make them look so cool. I enjoyed being in that aviary so much I took a second turn at feeding them after we visited the Wool Shed.

About noon we walked back to the front of the park and visited the gift shop. In an aquarium in the side room what led to the rest rooms there was a large glass terrarium that held a pair of blue tongue skinks. They looked just like the one James got shortly after our last visit to the park.

We bought some souvenirs and some of their homemade fudge. I also bought a "Kentucky Down Under" magnet for our refrigerator.

Once we were done shopping we decided that there wasn't anything else in the park that we wanted to do. All four of us were hungry so we left to get something to eat. We went to a local Cracker Barrel restaurant for lunch before heading home.

It was just after 1 o'clock when we got back to "the Grove". We were all pretty tired but agreed that we had a good time. Although their regular admission price is a bit steep ($22 for adults and $13 for kids 5-14 years old); if you're ever in our area, and are looking for something different and interesting to do,  I recommend  you visit "Kentucky Down Under" at least once. It's a fun and unique experience.

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