Posted Oct. 22, 2012
By MALEANA DAVIS
MIAMI, Fla. — A father and his two young children walk around the park in awe. Palm trees and exotic birds and animals are everywhere they look and they don’t know which way to go. They could head to the tiger exhibit to see to see the large felines lounging in their cage or they could go to one of the stages to see one of the park’s amazing shows featuring rare and wild animals.
Jungle Island, found along the MacArthur Causeway in Biscayne Bay and very close to downtown Miami, offers a unique experience for visitors of all ages to enjoy animals and plant life like they’ve never experienced it before.
From the outside, maybe driving by, it’s hard to tell what exactly Jungle Island is or what it offers, but it’s unlike like any zoo or animal interaction park.
The previous name, Parrot Jungle Island, is very fitting, as that is the first animal visitors will come into contact with when they enter. If they do not like birds, they should run through the entrance, as visitors are handed a parrot to “hold like a baby” while three are placed on their shoulders and one stands on their head.
While that is a great photo opportunity, it can catch people off guard as the park attendees work fast and before you know it, a bird is in your hand. Of course the picture isn’t free, but it’s very funny to look at, especially with one of the parrots baby-like in guests hands and one standing tall on a visitor’s head.
Dr. Jason Chatfield, general curator and staff veterinarian, said that after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, it was planned for the park to be rebuilt on Watson Island.
“The three-year construction began in 2000, Parrot Jungle Island debuted on June 28, 2003. With the evolution of the park came the evolution of its name. Four years after opening in its new location, the park was re-branded Jungle Island, a move that better encompassed the wide variety of animals, plants and activities available,” he said.
Jungle Island is unique in that it has birds sitting out, not in cages, just patiently waiting to be fed. There are numerous coin-operated machines that dispense bird food with the chance for visitors to feed the exotic parrots. Not only are there bird-feeding options, but the park also has a petting zoo, popular among kids and adults.
Visitors can pet the huge tortoises or have the opportunity to feed kangaroos, one of the more surprising animals to be seen at the park. Guests can also bottle-feed goats, pigs, cows, llamas and other animals. Visitors might think that section would be bombarded with many kids, but actually they’d be surprised to see grown men feeding the kangaroos, with no kids in sight.
The park also offers three interactive shows throughout the day. One show, Winged Wonders, features some of the world’s most fascinating birds.
Birds fly from behind guests and also walk in with a grand entrance. The hosts call the birds by name and put on a good show with describing some of the birds as if they were actual humans; one bird was described as being the “diva of Miami.”
Visitors also get to participate in the show, being asked to hold hula-hoops, so the birds can fly through them.
One bird, a Cassowary, stands at six feet, five inches and can swallow an apple whole. The hosts do a very good job of educating the audience on winged animals and before they know it, they leave the show very knowledgeable of some feathered animals.
Another fun Jungle show is the Wild Encounter Show. Being shown twice during the day, 12:45 p.m. and 3:25 p.m., this may be the park’s most popular feature. Guests are asked not to videotape because the show is a part of an ongoing show, but guests won’t forget this one. The three hosts say that audience participation is mandatory and often times walk behind with signs that encourage the audience to say things such as “wow,” “oooh,” and “ahhh.”
This show will definitely put a smile on faces especially when a white-handed gibbon and a tiger cub are brought out together and are described as being best friends. The gibbon sits on the back of the tiger with his hands wrapped around him, and guests cannot help but say “awww.”
A white Bengal tiger, a Siberian lynx, and the unfamiliar Binturong, also known as the Malaysian bearcat, are some of the other animals included in the show.
The host asks the audience what they think the bearcat is called and of course no audience member guesses correctly. At the end, visitors are given the opportunity to take a picture with the tiger cub and the white-handed gibbon for a price of $59 cash plus tax and many of them do line-up for the photo op.
Another fun animal in the park include the twin orangutans, Pumpkin and Peanut, who only seem to notice each other and only opt to stay put in front of the fan blowing into one side of their cage, but they are a lot of fun to watch interact with each other. The white lion and tigers exhibit is great to see the animals up close, but they seem to sleep during the parks operating hours.
The park is always adding new and exciting events and animals for visitors.
“Jungle Island regularly offers special offers, such as “Buy a Day, Get a Year,” and events including our Halloween Spooktacular and Easter Eggstravaganza. The park also recently opened its most exciting exhibit yet featuring a rare white lion, two royal white tigers and two snow tigers,” said Chatfield.
Jungle Island also has birds from all over the world, with exhibits showcasing them from Africa and Asia, the Americas, Australia, Central America and South America. It’s interesting to see the many birds throughout the park and they sometimes talk to you. When visitors walk past the Macaws, one is always saying “hello” and it sounds like a person is behind the cage playing tricks on people walking by.
Jungle Island is definitely in a league of its own when its come to interactive animal parks.
Chatfield said the park is the most popular choice to host an event.
“Building upon the rich tradition Parrot Jungle began in 1936, today’s Jungle Island is home to the world’s rarest and most incredible animals including a set of twin orangutans, a liger billed as the world’s largest cat and the most lethal bird on the planet, the cassowary. Guests participate in hands-on interactions with fascinating animals, marvel at the engaging animal shows and presentations, and are amazed by the park’s breathtaking landscapes and vistas,” he continued.
There are always park staff members nerarby if visitors have any questions and they seem always happy to help. There are vending machines throughout and also a playground to let kids run around while waiting for a show. The theme park has something for everyone and visitors can tell by the many different guests that stop by, varying in ages. From seniors to young children, everyone is enjoying the park and all the wild animals it has to offer.
IF YOU GO
- Address: 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Miami, Fla. 33132.
- Hours: Mondays-Fridays 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Saturdays-Sundays 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
- Phone: 305-400-7000.
- Admission Prices: Adults (ages 11-64) $34.95 plus tax, Seniors (ages 65+) $32.95 plus tax, Children (ages 3-10) $26.95 plus tax, Children (ages 0-2) free. Tickets can be purchased at the park or online.
- Strollers and Wheelchairs can be rented: Single stroller – $7.50, double stroller – $10.50, Wheelchair – $8.50, electronic convenience vehicle (ECV) – $30.
- Parking: $8.
- Directions: Coming from I-95: Take I-395 East, which is exit 2D towards the MacArthur Causeway. Take the exit on the right toward Fl-A1A N and follow the road around and under the bridge. The parking garage will be on the left-hand side.
- On-line: http://www.jungleisland.com