The San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, is one of the largest and most progressive zoos in the world, with over 4,000 animals of more than 800 species. It is also one of the few zoos in the world that houses the giant panda. It is privately operated by the nonprofitZoological Society of San Diego on 107 acres (0.43 km2) of parkland leased from the City of San Diego, and ownership of all animals, equipment and other assets rests with the City of San Diego. Besides an extensive collection of birds, reptiles, and mammals, it also maintains its grounds as an arboretum, with a rare plant collection.
The San Diego Zoo grew out of exotic animal exhibitions abandoned after the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Exhibits are often designed around a particular habitat. The same exhibit features many different animals that can be found side-by-side in the wild, along with native plant life. Many species are bred in captivity for release into their native habitats where appropriate. The zoo offers a guided tour bus and an overhead gondola lift called the Skyfari, providing an aerial view of the zoo. The San Diego Zoo also operates the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which displays animals in a more expansive setting than at the Zoo.
Birch Aquarium (sometimes referred to as Scripps Aquarium or Birch Aquarium) is the public exploration center for the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. Birch Aquarium at Scripps has an annual attendance of more than 400,000 and the hilltop site provides spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Swami's, also known as "Swamis", is an internationally known surfing spot, a point break located in Encinitas, California. Swami's was named after Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, because the grounds and hermitage of the Self-Realization Fellowship ashram, built in 1937, overlook this reef point.