lemur metro 88 224.
(photo credit: Lydia Aisenberg)
It would seem that one of the best-kept secrets in Nahariya is the town's zoo and botanical gardens - although I do now remember reading of the evacuation of some of the animals during the Second Lebanon War. On a recent assignment in the area, had I not lost my way I wouldn't have been let in on this gem of a small but wonderful selection of Mother Nature's creatures - great and small - and a generous introduction to plants from all over the world.
Apart from the abundance of plants from here, there and everywhere, the Zoo-Botanical Garden offers a walk-through reptile house guaranteed to make some squeamish folk jump out of their skin at the sight of the slithering snakes and their none-too-friendly-looking housemates. A cacophony of chirps, screeches and tweets greets visitors in the walk-through aviary, and in a petting arena young children have a face-licking experience that produces squeals of delight. The animals also seemed to be enjoying the attention, even taking it in their stride when their "handlers" became overly boisterous.
Youngsters also have a corner where, together with their parents, they can be creative with activities aimed at tickling children's naturalist curiosity - and reminding adults a few things we might have forgotten and take for granted about the animal and plant world.
Visitors are provided a map marking off 12 enclosures in the compact, well-tended site situated in the Rasco neighborhood, where local residents have a rather special attraction for afternoon strolls with their offspring. As well as reptiles and birds, the enclosures focus on South America, Australia and Africa, separated by pathways flanked by beds of plants and flowers.
Pelicans show off their enormous wings and long yellow-orange beaks as they paddle around a recreated swamp area, and among the animals playfully leaping from rock to rock and tree to tree are brown-nosed coatis, lemurs, raccoons, meerkats, tortoises and much more. Wooden pergolas and ample benches offer the opportunity to sit in shaded comfort and marvel at the wonders of nature.
Opened by Nahariya municipality and the JNF/KKL in October 2003, the facility offers pre-arranged guided tours and the possibility to hire the distinctive venue for events.
In the Rasco neighborhood, I discovered a unique watering hole - a cafÃ©-restaurant in the middle of an orchard of pecan trees, an expansive lawn and play area for children and a colorful garden adding to the special atmosphere created in the family-owned eatery known as "Benhella."
One enters through an attractive iron gate, permanently open and embedded in masses of colorful flowers - with no fence on either side of the gate! The restaurant is decorated with sepia photographs of family members from times long gone, and the large deck area in the garden provides a pleasant arena to sit, admire the surroundings, enjoy the food and watch children play among the abundant pecan trees.
Sitting on a rock and watching the winding down of another hot summer's day, the azure Mediterranean glistening in the fading red, orange and yellow rays of sunshine was a perfect way to end the day.
Looking up, a flock of seagulls passed overhead. A message from the sky plopped on my shoulder, but I did not allow that to stain a special day in Nahariya, land bought in the early 1930s by Yoseph Levi, settled in the mid-1930s by Jewish settlers from Germany, and today a flourishing town of almost 50,000 residents.
Nahariya Zoo-Botanical Gardens, 8 Ben-Gaon Street, Rasco. Telephone: (04) 951-7491.
"Benhella," 17, Rehov Yitzhak Sadeh, Rasco. Telephone: 04-9512074.