47900 Portola Ave
Palm Desert, CA 92260
The Living Desert and Botanical Gardens are a must see for any visit to Southern California. I had visited Palm Springs for years and had never been to The Living Desert because I thought that it was just going to be a walk through cactus and sage brush. I was wrong.
Though you can spend your entire day looking at the flora and fauna represented from every desert in the world, The Living Desert is so much more. I started my day with a tram ride around the park to get my bearings. Barbara, my tram driver, pointed out the highlights starting with the G-Scale Model Trains. “It started as a tabletop display, but due to the trains popularity, it is now a 3/4 acre display with up to 18 trains running at one time. The trussel bridge is over 200 feet long and is the longest one for any model railroad in the United States.”
The Living Desert features over 450 displays with birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. Barbara pointed out as many as possible, including the newest addition: A rare Arabian Oryx was born to the herd’s youngest female on Aug. 24, 2011. The baby is female and weighed 6.35 kilos when she was born. They also have a baby Grevy’s Zebra born earlier this year that they named Tisa, which means number 9 in Swahili.
I am a cat lover, so I enjoyed the playful bobcats, cheetahs, Arabian wild cats and the swimming jaguar. A memorable event for many visitors is getting to feed the giraffes. There is nothing quite like having an 18 inch long tongue take food from your hand!
You have an opportunity to go inside an aviary with the birds and see them up close. You can also go to the Petting Kraal and groom a Dwarf African Goat or a sheep.
There is a section geared toward the children that includes the “Endangered Species Carousel,” and it is located by the Discovery Center. The Miriam U. Hoover Discovery Center is an indoor interactive exhibit where visitors learn about the Coachella Valley region. There is a sand-colored, carpeted “dune” where children can crawl, roll, and play. It also has a darkened room engulfed by the deep desert night sky, filled with phosphorescent constellations, sounds of a desert oasis at night, animal projections, and glow in the dark tracks. You can also view the ant farm with 10,000 ants!
The Living Desert also has a modern animal hospital. At the hospital, I spoke with Annick and Lynne, two of the hundreds of volunteers that keep The Living Desert operating. They gave me a tour and a brief history on the building of this $7,000,000 facility. The hospital was designed so the public can watch as the animals get their annual physicals. The hospital also treats approximately 750 to 1,000 animals annually that people bring in that have been injured out in the wild. The animal will be treated and, if possible, will be released back into the wild. If the animal is too badly injured and unable to be released back into the wild it may become a permanent resident here, or they try to find another source for it.
If botany is your passion, then this is the place for you. The Madagascar Gardens are the only place in the U.S. that has plants and trees from Madagascar. You can also visit the African Garden, North American Garden, Demonstration Garden, and The Palm Garden. The Palm Garden offers 50 different varieties of Palm Trees for your viewing pleasure. If you see a plant that you would like to try growing at home you can visit The Palo Verde Garden Center and Nursery and possibly buy one to take home with you.
The Living Desert also has an art collection. It houses the Stephen B. Chase Collection: California Landscape Paintings. There are 49 paintings on display painted from 1900 to the 1930s. Some of the artists whose works are displayed are Granville Redmond, Marion Kavanagh Wachtel, William Wendt, Franz A. Bischoff, Edgar Payne, Jean Mannheim and Maurice Braun, among others. These are located in the Administration building.
The Living Desert is an amazing place and should not be missed. I have only touched on a few of the things there are to do and see there. I know that I will be back because I want to go on a camel ride in the desert which happens from the end of October to May. I hope to see you there!
47900 Portola Ave
Palm Desert, CA 92260
See the video of the swimming jaguar.
The photo of the baby Oryx is by The Living Desert.