TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The final stop for Destination Texas in East Texas is the Caldwell Zoo.

At the Caldwell Zoo there are many fun things to do.

“There’s a lot to look at,” Scotty Stainback, the curator of mammals at the Caldwell Zoo said. “We have North American, African and South American animals.”

There are two animal encounters that East Texans can enjoy.

At the Penguin Encounter guests can meet the Caldwell-raised birds Duncan and Sully.

“The penguins get fed twice a day and you’re able to watch it. They’ll actually talk to you while they’re feeding the penguins,” Stainback said. “They might say this is Duncan or this is Sully and tell you what they’re doing and a little bit about penguins as well.

The Penguin Encounters are held on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m.

Residents can also come face-to-face with a black bear on Wednesday and Saturdays.

People can meet the animals for $160, and this covers up to four people.

Those who meet the animals will have to arrive at the animal’s designated building and or exhibit 15 minutes before the encounter. If people arrive after the encounter begins, their reservation will be forfeited with no refund. To meet the animals, guests will need to keep their tickets to show the keepers to enter the encounters.

All participating guests will have to wear closed-toed shoes, and they will be able to store their belongings in a locker.

The encounter is for those ages six and older. Participants under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult older than 21.

The exhibits were built to allow guests to get up close and personal with the animals.

“Once you get that close to them, it just develops a whole different appreciation for them.”

Scotty Stainback, curator of mammals at the Caldwell Zoo

However, there are many other slithery friends to see including an anaconda that is 13 feet long and weighs 75 lbs.

“When you got an anaconda the size of what we have, she’s very impressive,” Stainback said. “Whether you’re scared of snakes or not, it’s really cool to see a snake that size.”

Visitors can also witness African elephants enjoying fun summer activities like the giant water canon.

Photo courtesy of Caldwell Zoo Facebook page

“They definitely enjoy the water. Our two males we got from San Diego will get in the water on a daily basis,” he added. “They’ll sit in there and fight with each other and dive.”

Guests can visit the petting zoo, visit the aviary and feed giraffes.

“You get to watch the giraffe come up and take (the food) from you and see how long their tongue is,” Stainback said.

Recently, the endangered Texas Horned lizards hatched. Stainback said the lizards weigh about less than a penny.

People from all over Texas visit the Caldwell Zoo to see the animals.

“We get guests from Dallas and Fort Worth area,” Stainback said. “They have two really nice zoos but they choose to come see us as well.”

Other things the zoo offers are education programs.

In the Fall and Spring, the zoo has a ZooSchool program designed to ensure all activities and lessons are age appropriate and engaging for all types of students. The classes are a mix of indoor and outdoor activities including experiments, games and crafts.

ZooSchool classes meet once a month for a total of six sessions in the fall and winter and three times in Spring. Classes will meet for three hours from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Throughout the year, teens can join the zoo crew. They will assist professional counselors to create experiences for the youth of Tyler. Crew members will have active rolls in leading activities, guiding games, helping with crafts and camp. Volunteer opportunities are usually held throughout the summer.

Zoo Crew members are required to commit to a minimum of two action-packed weeks. Daily hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day. 

Each summer, the zoo has a camp for all children from 4-13 years old. People have three choices.

They can go with half-day camps, full-day camps or get the all inclusive package.

Half-day camps are for kids 4-6 and cost $120 for zoo members and $135 for non-members. The half-day option includes registration, snacks and one t-shirt.

For full-day camps, members will pay $200 and for non-members $225. The full-day option includes snacks and one t-shirt.

The all inclusive package is $240 for zoo members and $265 for non-members. The all inclusive package includes registration, snacks, a hot lunch from café and two t-shirts.