Traveling with kids: Jungle Island in Miami

Don’t get me wrong, the animals are nice, the grounds attractive and the covered walkway under the relentless Florida sun appreciated, but Jungle Island in Miami may have been a tad too expensive for what it was. For those who can recall the original Parrot Jungle, that orthinological paradise of halcyon Miami youth of yonder day, this new incarnation stuck between the exclusive Fisher Island and the busy Port of Miami is an expensive descendant. At almost $40 per adult and $25 per kid over 2, I was out $100 without even being inside the park. Immediately after the gate, you are assaulted by smiling leeches holding birds and crocodiles and godknowswhatelse for the touristic photo op. Yes, we stopped and let them take the photos but upon leaving, the line to see them discouraged us from wasting any more money on the prints. Another annoyance was that my dad was quite interested in one of the birds they had out and was rudely invited to fuck off because these were for the photos, he could go somewhere less commercially viable spot elsewhere in the park to stare at the birds. The park itself is pretty small – about 20 min walk from end to end on a limp – but has all the classic Florida things – alligators, palm trees and other tropical plants, the ubiquitous parrots, pink flamingos – that one would expect. There were also some monkeys and large cats to ogle. The thing that stuck in my craw was the $5 per person extra to hang out with the elusive wallabies. Red kangaroos were promised as well but the minimum wage guy taking the $5 bills probably didn’t know the difference between them either and was only concerning with raking in the money – even from my wife who didn’t care about the wallabies but who needed to enter for my daughter to be confident enough to do so herself. Now, once in, my daughter did love the animals but there was no explanation whatsoever – just the poor wallabies trying to escape the probing, poking fingers from 20 munchkins in a small confined space…the cafeteria was a grease spot (and a one-way one) which one was obliged to go through to exit the park. The food was pretty bad but what was worse was the gorilla/warthog that was snarling at the cash register grumpily removing more money from my wallet (almost $30 for a pathetic burger, tasteless fries, ok black beans and rice (counted as two separate sides!), and two drinks).
The jungle show was too loud – I think they scared the shit out of each of the animals with Aerosmith blasting out of the speakers and the dumbass jokes were far more annoying than funny.
The pleasant surprise: we forgot in our haste to visit this monument to pseudo-green tourism to bring a change for my daughter. Her reaction to the first two hours of Jungle Island was a stinky nappy so panic beset my wife and I. In a rare moment of inspiration, I popped over to the (overpriced) gift shop and found for the (reasonable) price of $3.15 an emergency nappy kit! Second surprise: nappy changing tables in all the men’s restrooms. So, you see, there was a silver lining.
The other plus was the bearded orangutan expert who was working with the massive 300 pound animal that is featured at the park.
And to be fair, someone in the head office was scanning twitter and saw my foursquare checkin and dispatched a girl to thank me for the tweet and give me a bag of free bird feed. A nice gest.
To end on a positive note, the show for which Parrot Jungle made it’s name – the bird show – was nearly impressive enough to make me forget the rest of the park. I feel obliged to say, as a Florida boy, that one must see this show at some point in time if visiting South Florida. It is as typical as the white beaches of SoBe or the blue water of the Bay.

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About mfinocchiaro

IT Architecture Guru for large PLM software company but dabbling in Web 2.0 and other stuff.
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