Hal and Nancy's Vision Quest Ranch Visit, April 2019

This is our very brief report of Hal and Nancy's return trip to Vision Quest Ranch, part of the little-known Monterey Zoo in Salinas. Our previous visit was in September 2010, so this posting will be primarily photographs and a few brief updates from that trip. We spent a weekend in celebration of Nancy's birthday. We drove down Saturday morning and signed in for our VIP tour. This consisted of a guided small group tour around all of the facilities, a session washing an elephant, a modest lunch, and three sessions in which we were photographed with small animals. This experience was rather expensive, but we came way well satisfied. We overnighted in one of the bungalows/tents and woke up to a continental breakfast, followed by a session feeding an elephant. (Both of these elephant experiences were with Butch, a giant 41-year-old male, who is quite eager to interact with people in exchange for generous helpings of carrot sticks and apples. There are two other elephants on the premises, a 5 acre paddock that they share with two water buffaloes and a naughty zebra. We remembered all of these animals from our previous visit.) Late in the afternoon there was an animal walk, in which keepers brought two small animals up to our porch: a Coatimundi (which is sort of a South American raccoon) and a tiny monkey (whose species we did not remember). The monkey was really cute, trying frantically to dive down into the keeper's polo shirt for shelter from the wind.

Here are some of the differences from our 2010 visit.

  • The branding of the place is now primarily "Monterey Zoo" rather than "Vision Quest." The latter name now applies primarily to the B&B—overnighting in the tent bungalows. The odd thing is that Monterey Zoo would have a big tourist draw, but they don't advertise because they are not yet able to handle that kind of a crowd in the tiny facility. They do have some plans in the future to expand, including shuttle buses from the Monterey Cannery.
  • The VIP tour was new, including the elephant washing and the photography with the small animals. (The tour normally includes two animal photographs, but this weekend a schedule change prompted them to reduce the tour length by 30 minutes, so they compensated by adding an extra animal.) Our three animals were a Patagonian Mara named Ernie (an adorable, but unusual, rodent with skinny little legs like a tiny deer); a Binturong named Doc (sometimes called a bearcat, a native of South America); and a Lemur called Stitch.
  • The exhibits have expanded quite a bit. Some of the old cages now look rather grim and small, but the newly expanded ones are large and inviting, comparatively. They are not nearly as exotic in simulated terrain as with other modern zoos, but the animals looked content and were able to get exercise. The biggest changes seem to be in the big cat area, where there are four African lions and three Siberian tigers occupying a lot of space. These animals can be quite loud at night, roaring that is well audible hundreds of yards away in the bungalows. In our previous visit, we stayed in a bungalow that is now right next to the cats, so I'm sure the current occupants really got an ear full. This time, we stayed on the opposite side of the elephant paddock. Some of the noisiest animals were the hyenas, who never made the famous laughing/giggling sounds, but instead had deep wailing roars that could be heard all over the park.
  • In 2010, our breakfast was delivered by one of the elephants, handing us a basket at our bungalow porch, but this time a human delivered the basket and then we walked a few dozen yards to feed Butch outside his barn. The former had more memories, but we got a lot more interaction with the elephant this time.
5-acre paddock
Butch getting ready for his bath
His 1-inch-thick skin is really rough and tough to scrub
Afterward, nice and clean, he proceeded to take a dust bath
Leopard in an interesting pose
Siberian tiger
We got really close to these guys
Notice the unusual color on the left
Mighty lion
California black bears
Ernie the Patagonian Mara
Binturong, with his hefty prehensile tail
Doc showing off his equipment
Stitch the Lemur
Bungelow #8
Coatimundi (with our guide from the VIP tour, in the afternoon animal walk)
Tiny monkey with two of the elephant keepers
Breakfast for Butch—carrots and apples
Butch's teeth (his lost his tusks years ago)