Now that spring is upon us, I know many of you are going to start thinking about taking your kids to zoos, aquariums and the like.
So when a friend suggested I check out Indian River Reptile Zoo near Peterborough last summer, I first checked it out online to ensure it was an ethical animal sanctuary with some nod to rescue and endangered species breeding programs.
It had everything, so we packed up one day and hit the highway.
Like I mentioned, Indian River Reptile Zoo does have an endangered species breeding program and also focuses on rescue. These are important and shouldn’t be discounted. Good work is good work.
There’s antivenin on-hand should any of its poisonous snakes bite a chunk out of you. Which is highly unlikely because they’re all behind glass.
There are some neat-looking snakes. Although as my kids oohed and ahhed at the various patterns, as terrible as it is all I could envision were fabulous shoes.
There’s a live show that provides some edu-tainment, which was just OK but more good than gaffe.
There’s some “digging for dinosaur bones” sandboxes for kids who like to play in sand and play archeologist.
The best thing we saw and what kept our attention for a solid 10 minutes was a turtle who wandered over between two rocks and got himself stuck. We watched him reverse and go forward, reverse and go forward, reverse and go forward, over and over and over again.
I believe that Indian River Reptile Zoo is adding a new gator attraction this year.
On the website, we’re told there are more than 200 reptiles at Indian River Reptile Zoo; when you drive into the parking lot, a big sign reads “400+ reptiles!” Now, I don’t know where they’re keeping all of these reptiles, but we sure as hell didn’t see 200, let alone 400, of anything. Heck, even 100 would be really pushing it.
Let’s talk cost. It’s $15 per child (in the 4-10 age bracket) and $20 per adult. So we’re talking $70 for a family of four. Cheaper than, say, Canada’s Wonderland but about the same as the Toronto Zoo. But if we think about how much time you’d spend at Canada’s Wonderland or the Zoo — with four hours being on the short side, and a good six to eight hours for an average visit — that’s where the entry fee for Indian River Reptile Zoo starts to sound crazy. Because we were done in about an hour. Really. We wandered around for a good 45 minutes before my kids decided they were too starving to go on, left for lunch and came back expecting to spend the rest of the afternoon there. But we fought (hard) to find things to see and do beyond another 15 to 20 minutes. I even hunted down an employee and rhymed off everything we’d done and asked what I missed. The hiking trail, he said. Great! So we found that but read the sign that noted we couldn’t venture onto the trail in flip flops, took one look at our feet and turned around for the parking lot. So at $70 for an hour of entertainment, the value at Indian River Reptile Zoo is about as deplorable as LEGOland Discovery Centre. (Not to be confused with LEGOland Orlando, which is outstanding.)
There’s no healthy food to buy onsite, which means you have to go at least 10 or 20 minutes in either direction to reach civilization and grab a meal. (You do get stamped so you can return.)
But the real test? When asked if they’d want to return to Indian River Reptile Zoo, both of my kids said no.