June 4, 2009, only a few weeks after being let out of school, four people piled into a small Dodge Caliber along with their luggage. We were ready for our summer adventure. About 15 or 16 slow hours were driven from southern Illinois to Canyon Lake, Texas to stay in a resort called Silver Leaf’s Hill Country Resort. We had our own home away from home in this apartment style condo.
The resort had many things to keep you busy like karaoke, an arcade, mini golf, pools, shopping, etc. But when you were ready to embark into the unknown area, San Antonio was worth the hour drive. We took an educational route visiting the San Antonio Botanical Gardens celebrating my mother’s birthday and love for flowers, and the historic Alamo followed by the River Walk. We were surprised to discover that the Alamo was surrounded by such a large quantity of city atmosphere. We also hit up one of the best barbeque joints around, the ‘County Line’ with ribs that literally fell off the bone.
On one of the slower days, my cousin and I ventured out in our car to Natural Bridge in order to see the Wildlife Ranch, a ‘Texas Style’ drive-through African Safari. We were so close to the animals we could almost touch them. The llama wanted us to feed it with the food that is provided before the drive. The ostrich wanted to eat the steering wheel, and many forms of antelope and gazelle were spotted. The zebras were a little shy, staying far back and behind the shadowy trees. My cousin and I were slightly disappointed to find no lions in the park, but on our second thought were quite thankful to avoid the risk of being eaten. The Wildlife Ranch contained a petting zoo to visit after the drive, where I made friends with a very small newborn pig and other visitors made enemies with the many greedy goats.
Personally, my favorite day was SeaWorld. We first went through the aquarium, looking at a range of different aquatic animals including sting rays, jelly fish, sharks, crabs, and even colorful coral fish. We watched wide eyed as Shamu the killer whale starred in his show, ‘Believe.” We also watched ‘Viva,’ a more vibrant show with fantastic and well coordinated divers, dancers, an acrobat, a white neck dolphin, and two beautiful beluga whales. The amusement park also contained six thrilling rides for the enjoyment of all ages and a splashing water park. The absolute best part, however, was the interaction with the animals. We watched the sea lion feeding, and were allowed to offer small fish to the dolphins. What an experience.
Overall, the vacation was a success. Fun in the sun combined with a great learning experience is the key. This vacation was excellent for me in particular because I have been dreaming about working with marine animals a long time. Visiting SeaWorld was one of the best experiences for this dream, giving more information about the animals as well as an insight of their daily lives with training and in captivity.
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