Driving along scenic MacArthur Causeway, which connects downtown and South Beach, you’re sure to notice the massive cruise ships lined up to the south in Biscayne Bay. However, what you might miss if you don’t look the other direction are signs for Jungle Island, a tropical zoo that’s really worth stopping for.
As you enter the park, you’re greeted by dozens of exotic birds on hanging perches amidst dense, tropical foliage. You can even feed many of them right out of your hand. Jungle Island has birds of every color of the rainbow: parrots, macaws, toucans, cockatoos, lorikeets, flamingoes and many others.
From the highway, you probably noticed giant white sails poking above the zoo’s vegetation. This marks the spot where the Jungle Theater is located. Visitors can watch “Tale of the Tiger,” the park’s conservation-oriented, exotic animal show featuring tigers, leopards, lemurs, chimpanzees and gibbons, among others. Adjacent to the theater is an enclosure where Vulcan, the liger lives. A liger is a very rare hybrid animal fathered by a male lion and a female tiger, and is actually larger than either of its parent species. These gorgeous animals only occur in captivity since the habitats of lions and tigers don’t overlap in the wild.
Across the park is the Manú Encounter, an expansive walk-through aviary that allows guests to see some wild animals and birds up close and personal. I’ve been in aviaries before, but this one was different. Fashioned after the clay cliffs in Manú, Peru, there are huge macaws and parrots flying freely, as well as mischievous squirrel monkeys running amok inside.
Being that Jungle Island is in South Florida, it’s only natural that there’d be an everglades habitat. You can walk through a replica of this special ecosystem, which features much of the flora and fauna found in the natural environment.
Besides the “Tale of the Tiger” show mentioned above, Jungle Island offers several other animal performances throughout the day. In “Dr. Wasabi’s Wild Adventures,” visitors meet all sorts of animals—from a baby warthog to Hamadryas baboons and African penguins. Another entertaining and educational show is “Winged Wonders.” Held at the 1,200-seat Parrot Bowl amphitheater, this show features singing and talking birds as well as an enormous free-flying condor and a beautiful (but dangerous) cassowary.
The entire Jungle Island facility was planted without the use of any artificial fertilizers or pesticides, making it one of the only entirely sustainable theme parks or zoos in the United States. Jungle Island has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program’s Gold Level designation. This mark is awarded to organizations that have made a conscious commitment to adopt technologies and practices that reduce pesticide risk to human health and the environment.
What I like most about Jungle Island is that it gives you an opportunity to see many animal species in their native, tropical habitat. Also, the park is the perfect size for kids since it isn’t too big to wear them out. I loved seeing the liger as well as being able to pet and feed some adorable red kangaroos. (I was surprised at how soft their fur was!) I know many people go to Miami for the nightlife and beaches, but I was really glad I made the detour to visit Jungle Island.
Where: Jungle Island is located at 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, off I-395 between Downtown Miami and South Beach.
When: The zoo is open 365 days a year. Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
How much: Adults (ages 11 – 64) are $32.95 plus tax; Seniors (age 65+) are $30.95 plus tax ; Children (Ages 3 – 10) are $24.95 plus tax Children (Under 2) are free.
For more information: Visit their official website at: jungle island.com
Here’s a slideshow of some of my favorite photos from my visit: