Caves and Critters

This week I finished up exploring most of the things I wanted to do while I was here, starting with Natural Bridge Caverns.

Natural Bridge marked the last of the Texas Cave Passport caves for me to visit, and it’s here in San Antonio. There are 2 caves for exploring at Natural Bridge, and I decided that I wanted to tour both. The first tour I went on was of the original discovery area that has been open for tours for since 1964. It was many of the same features as the other caves I’ve been to, but it is still amazing that these features exist and it’s mind blowing to think about how much time it took for them to form and become so magnificent. After the discovery tour, I went on the hidden passages tour. This area of the cave was discovered a little more recently due to exploration of the area in hopes of finding more rooms from the original cave system that may have been separated due to the sink hole. The hidden passages area didn’t open for public tours until 1999, and it seemed far more untouched and natural than the discovery tour. It was really interesting to see the original holes where explorers were lowered down when the cave was discovered. It was also neat to get to see what felt like a much more secret and hidden part of the cave system. While I didn’t really do any of the above ground activities at Natural Bridge, it is definitely more developed than any of the other caves I’ve been to. There was ziplining, a full restaurant, multiple gift shops, and an exotic wildlife zoo to explore. Tour groups can get bigger at Natural Bridge than the other caves, but the weather wasn’t great the day that I went, so the tours I was on were much smaller than the usual. It has been really interesting getting to see so many different show caves and learn about how different they were in terms of discovery, history, and ecosystems. It was also really interesting how similar many of the features were in the caves despite have such different circumstances in their history.

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After Natural Bridge, I back to Austin again. I have really enjoyed taking trips to Austin, probably more than the time I’ve spent in San Antonio. While in Austin, I explored the Austin Nature and Science Center and the Austin Aquarium.

The Austin Nature and Science center is part natural history museum, part rescue zoo, and part education center. It is also located right next to the botanical gardens and nature preserve. It was a pretty small space, but definitely enjoyable. The visitor’s center had an exhibit on bats that was interactive and compared lots of different kinds of bats. There was also a hands-on research area where kids could take in bones they found at home or solve riddles to get to do different experiments which was really neat. The wildlife rescue section was pretty neat, and each animal had a little blurb about how they came to be at the center and why they couldn’t return to the wild. It was really interesting to get to see how many animals were pets or used for entertainment. I really enjoyed getting to see how much education and conservation were being integrated in to all of the exhibits at the center.

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My last stop of the week was at the Austin Aquarium. The aquarium had lots of different fish tanks as well as a collective of reptiles and birds, and most of the tanks and exhibits were touch and feed tanks. While it was definitely interesting that so many of the tanks were interactive, I’m not totally sure that having so many people reaching in to these animals’ homes with limited supervision was the best for them. I had decided not to go to Sea World because of the ethical concerns of how they treat their animals, but I’m not convinced that the Austin Aquarium is doing much better for their animals. It was definitely interesting to go from the Nature and Science Center where the care in giving the animals high quality lives in captivity was evident to the Aquarium where it was pretty questionable.

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It’s hard to believe that it’s almost time to pack up and say goodbye to another home. Time has flown by these past few months, and I only have one week left here in San Antonio. I’ve really enjoyed getting to see and explore the area, and I can’t wait to see where my adventures will take me next.

Sarah

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