Though he was fed and cared for, the lion didn't have much room to roam aboard his owner's yacht. The owner didn't know what to do with the creature, which had grown too close to humans to socialize with other lions. So the owner reached out through a friend to Acadia Zoological Park, who took the lion in and gave him his own piece of land. Though the park's name has since changed to Kisma Preserve, the lion still lives on its grounds, alongside a host of other exotic animals that the three staff members have taken in from rehabilitation programs, zoos, and private owners. They care for a motley and majestic group of wolves, big cats, reptiles, birds, and primates in outdoor enclosures year-round.
The three guides—who also are handlers, feeders, and administrators—lead group tours among these habitats. During tours, they teach visitors the proper way to behave around the creatures and divulge details about the creatures' lives in the wild, as well as what brought them to the preserve. On animal encounters, zookeepers let visitors watch wolves during their daily socializing or feed and hold hands with gibbons, lemurs, and capuchin monkeys.
They can also grant visitors a closer look via private tours, in which guests experience one-on-one time with wolves, tortoises, alligators, and other animals. Though they love all the animals on their preserve, the guides are particularly proud of their tigers—a group of royal white and standard tigers, as well as one of only 50 known golden tabby tigers left in the world. Through each tour and encounter, the dedicated staff aims to engender the respect they have for these animals in others. To most visitors, that should come easily: as director Heather says about the tigers, "It's hard to stand in the presence of one and not feel something."
Biplane Rides Over Atlanta, Inc.'s practiced pilots leap into the air in fully restored antique aircraft to grant passengers a glimpse of natural and manmade majesties from above. In the open-air cockpit of a classic antique biplane, adventurers can taste the whipping winds of high altitudes over Downtown Atlanta, glimpsing Turner Field, the Georgia Dome, and Centennial Olympic Park, where the Farmer's Almanacs of previous eras are put out to pasture. Alternately, they can surmount the igneous crown of Stone Mountain and soar above the Mississippi riverboats that dot the surrounding lakes, or gently flit over the cityscape bathed in a golden aura during a romantic sunset flight.
Sporting three floors of exhibits on science, art, music, and more, the Maine Discovery Museum welcomes knowledge-hungry visitors with hands-on learning and family-friendly fun. Kids of all ages can ascend a two-story tree house and visit with live snakes and turtles at Nature Trails, then venture inside a giant human body in the Body Journey, where they can pump the heart, floss the teeth, and tickle the inner child with a mammoth moustache. The sound studio at Sounds Abound transforms kids into burgeoning Beatles and Beethovens as they create music videos and beatbox to different versions of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."
Acadia Air Tours grants passengers a birds-eye view of the coastal scenery of Acadia National Park and its surrounding environs—all while maintaining a respectful distance a half-mile outside the park boundaries to preserve the peace and quiet for park-goers down below. The company employs a fleet of biplanes that traverse the skies above Acadia on various tours. Each year, Acadia Air Tours donates flights to be auctioned off at various charity events.
As darkness overtakes Bar Harbor, a group of travelers huddle outside the Ledgelawn mansion. Inside, their guide informs them, several centuries worth of spirits patrol the halls, unable to reach the next life due to unresolved earthly business or tragedy. The tour guests shiver, recalling the other stories they've heard that night. One was about a woman whose search for her husband has continued beyond her death. Another described the hauntings of children trapped between worlds. Each legend has a distinct voice, crafted from a mix of folklore, documented history, and post-it notes found floating in front of abandoned fridges. To add authenticity to their storytelling, the guides don costumes for the one-mile trip, which reaches its eerie conclusion in the center of town.