- Everything you Need for a Perfect San Diego Getaway
- San Diego Hostels that don’t suck.
- Skip San Diego Zoo; Head Here Instead
In a tiny, tucked away corner of Del Mar San Diego, close to a hundred rainbow birds sunbathe and sing sweetly. Some beg for mango pieces, others wildly flap their wings and shriek at no one in particular. One cockatoo is wearing a pink vest, to protect its naked stomach from further plucking. Congratulation! You have just found one of the coolest places in all of San Diego.
During a time when PETA is actively protesting SeaWorlds’ cruel use of Orca whales, and many other organizations are beginning to recognize that animals are far more like ourselves than we have given them credit, it can be difficult to support animal tourism. Although controversial, animal tourism remains one of the largest industries in travel today. Luckily, travelers are beginning to demand cruelty-free ways to encounter exotic animals. People are starting to see that riding elephants is inhumane. Animal lovers are shifting away from this kind of tourism, and are forcing the market to provide more support for the beings we love.
Free Flight Bird Sanctuary is an organization that you can stand behind. They are dedicated to the birds, not us, the gawkers. You still have the chance to have a meaningful interaction with a very exotic animal, but also have confidence in that animals well-being.
The Coolest Sanctuary You’ve Never Heard Of
Sure, it’s not a giant labyrinth like the San Diego Zoo. Compared to this behemoth, Free Flight is minuscule in size. But what it lacks in animal diversity, it makes up in personality. You have to take a few minutes to get to know each bird before immediately sticking your arm out to hold or pet one. No one is going to pity you here if you get bit. In fact, you will probably be chastised for not allowing the bird to get to know you first. (You wouldn’t accept a hug from a stranger, would you?)
I had a rather scary interaction with a colorful parrot that decided to make a flying leap towards me….. Being the wimp I am, I screamed and immediately ran from the 4-lb *murderous* bird. A young volunteer, about 12 years old, gave a small eye-roll and approached, plucking the bird from my lace sweater and placing him gently back on his perch. (The parrot only mocked me for a second before being locked away.)
The best part of Free Flight Sanctuary is the atmosphere. Although I was greeted by a lovely (adult) staff member who gave me a quick run-down of the facility, I was given more detailed attention by the preteen and high-school age volunteers. I’m still in awe of the young girls that work there. Full of confidence, knowledge, and a genuine love for their avian friends, I can’t help but admire their work here.
One of the girls sang to a “naked” cockatoo. The bird was missing all of its silky white feathers, except for the ones covering its face and wings. (The cockatoo looked a little like a rotisserie chicken.) She sang, danced, and flipped the bird upside down, before hugging and repeating. You don’t see this type of adorable interactions at the zoo! (Yes, the naked cockatoo was enjoying itself!)
Even bird lovers love koi fish. If you do tire of interacting with the parrots, grab a handful of fish-feed and entertain yourself with the koi fish. Try not to get splashed! One jumped right out of the water onto the rocks at me!
This facility offers the birds up for adoption to loving homes, and also acts as a “day care” for your exotic pet. They rehabilitate homeless birds and give the public a chance to interact in the most educational way possible. Make sure you check the weather before planning a trip out, because they only operate in weather suitable for the parrots. (And between the hours of 11-4!)
I grabbed an Uber from my hostel in Ocean Beach- Free Flight is just 15 minutes up the coast from the main attractions in San Diego.
Heres the address: 2132 Jimmy Durante Blvd. Del Mar, CA, 92014
Check out their website at www.freeflightbirds.org