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Sleepin' Safari

September 10, 1997|BARRY FITZSIMMONS

Imagine my surprise when I opened my tent window and was greeted by a 6-foot red tail python. Luckily, Balboa, below, was wrapped around a handler and was just being friendly.

It was all part of the L.A. Zoo's Sundown Safari. Since last year, the zoo has invited overnight visitors, providing entertainment and a behind-the-scenes look at some of the animals. My daughter, Katelyn, and I were among 75 others, like Scott and Maude MacGillivray, bottom left, pitching tents.

Our outing started with animals being walked around the camping area. Then we had a buffet dinner, with items ranging from pasta, salad and chicken to peanut butter and jelly. In smaller groups, Katelyn and I visited the reptile house, then saw a tiger in her sleeping quarters. Katelyn snapped a picture of a red-faced Uakari, right. The calls of the wild filled the air; we heard monkeys squealing and peafowl squawking.

Back at camp, we settled down to an evening of storytelling and marshmallow roasting, then slid into our sleeping bags. But complete sleep wasn't in the cards--those peafowls got noisier, and then there was the human call of tee times at the nearby golf course. It reminded us that we weren't in the wild but in Griffith Park. We got up, took a brisk tour, greeting an alligator in the morning sun, above, then broke camp and returned to the real world.

* For information on the Zoo's Sundown Safari, call (213) 666-4650, Ext. 403.

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