Photo: Two tortoises can be seen here in the midst of their huge habitat at the Honolulu zoo. The reptiles might have been relatively far away, but they still terrified my son with ASD. My oldest son was more than happy to leave the zoo, and I'm sure this is why.
Sometimes there is just no rationalizing with fear. My twelve-year-old son is scared, no absolutely terrified, of turtles and tortoises. The best explanation that he can give is that their shells scare him. I'm not sure why exactly and he cannot explain. I guess maybe it is because they poke their heads in and out in a unpredictable manner. He doesn't even want to look at them. We have explained that the shells are like helmets that people use, and are met to protect the animals. Our guy understands this to a degree, but still remains terrified of them.
The good news, I suppose, is that we don't encounter turtles and tortoises very often. The bad news is that because we don't face the issue all that often, my son's fear of turtles isn't high on our long list of concerns. Unfortunately I had forgotten all about this phobia before we visited the Honolulu zoo, but it did not take long for it to become an sudden (and temporary) priority. In short, this concern basically bit us in the butt. (All I can say is that the "bite" didn't leave marks.)
If I had to do it all over again, I would have visited the website to get a look at the map to see how the facility was laid out. If I had done that, it would have become apparent that we would have to be very careful with our route because the zoo's rather large tortoise exhibit was right in the middle of the park. It would not have been easy to dodge the tortoises, but it would not have been impossible either.
Of course we ended up walking right by the where the tortoises are kept, and of course my son noticed the reptiles immediately. I guess we can be glad he didn't have a huge meltdown. Instead, all it took was for my son to close his eyes and allow himself to be led past the tortoises as well as the turtles that were located in another part of the park.
In the end, the trip was a little bit stressful, but not ruined by the unexpected hazard. We saw plenty of animals that C1 wasn't afraid of. He liked the spider monkeys and he braved going into the reptile/amphibian house so that he could see his favorite animal...a frog.
As a result of this trip, I did learn a very valuable lesson. Next time we visit a zoo or aquarium we haven't gone to before, I will make sure to scout for tortoises and turtles ahead of time! This might involve calling the facility in question, because unlike tortoises, turtles aren't always marked on online maps. I have noted that sometimes they are added into informal displays like fish ponds...
So yes, our trip to Hawaii was filled with ups and downs. Thankfully, this episode was just a small valley, which was relatively easy to navigate.
Happy note: Our youngest boy loved the zoo, and was delighted to find a shark tooth necklace at the zoo's gift shop. It was really affordable. He and the necklace have pretty much been inseparable since then. :)