This Florida Attraction Isn't a Theme Park, but Stars Can't Stay Away: What Is Jungle Island?
The popular wildlife sanctuary and botanical garden is spending millions to expand into a diversified eco-adventure park ideal for families and children of all ages
There may not be a human-size mouse on site, but the lemurs, kangaroos and flamingos know how to keep celebrity guests and their kids entertained at this under-the-radar Florida attraction.
Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling have taken their daughters, Esmeralda and Amada, on a private tour of Miami’s Jungle Island, where they touched the white collar of an Andean condor, interacted with two-toed sloths, fed alligators and met Ace, a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig.
Salma Hayek and her daughter Valentina enjoyed a VIP walking tour of the 18-acre destination where they saw hundreds of exotic birds and animals, even visiting with a troop of kangaroos.
Beyonce and Jay-Z rented Jungle Island for their daughter Blue Ivy’s second birthday so family and friends could hang out with the animals and tour the gardens.
And Shakira and her two children, Milan and Sasha, played with endangered lemurs from Madagascar, petted Australian red kangaroos and fed Aldabra turtles from the Seychelles island nation during their VIP tour.
“Celebrities love coming here because we give them anonymity and they blend in,” Dr. Jason Chatfield, Vice President of Zoological Operations for Jungle Island, tells PEOPLE. “They enjoy the immersion with some of the world’s most extraordinary animals like sloths, capuchin monkeys, parrots, penguins, flamingos and goats.”
Other celebrities like Paris Hilton, various Kardashians, Christian Slater, Bethany Frankel and Michael Caine have also visited this wondrous jungle of 350 animals located between South Beach and downtown Miami.
But now, there is an added treat for the holiday season! Jungle Island has just introduced Luminosa, Festival of Lights, a magical look at the night jungle filled with dozens of colorful Chinese lantern exhibits bringing the joys of the park to life.
The show runs through January 8, 2020.
In partnership with Zigong Lantern Group and China Lantern International, Jungle Island is featuring several dozen 20-foot whimsical lanterns, exquisitely handcrafted from colorful silk by 30 Chinese artisans and lit by more than one million LED lights. (All lanterns are made of water-proof and fire-resistant silk materials—11 miles worth— supported by steel frames.)
Luminosa takes guests on a memorable journey through light across 13 lush acres of winding, covered trails, thickly flowered hedges and smooth garden-mounds.
The show tells a magical story that begins with an exploration of wildlife, birds, blooming plants and the steel blue Biscayne Bay. The dazzling light show looks into the future through a narrative of transformation, grounded in adventure and infused with Miami’s vibrant urban art explosion.
“I am fired up because the colors and designs are so amazing,” says Chatfield. “Plus, the Chinese lanterns are thought to symbolize people letting go of their pasts and celebrating a new future, much like Jungle Island.”
Visitors of all ages will see a spectacle of oversized lanterns in various themed sections.
For example, a demure cassowary bird, silk parrots, and examples of beautiful orchids and flowers are part of the Birds and Blooms exhibit; a sea of glowing jellyfish stands out in the Biscayne Bay display; and a large assortment of animals, including a mob of kangaroos, several penguins, a flock of flamingos in the river, iguanas, pigs, alligators, manatees, and some of the world’s rarest species are part of the JungleTrail segment.
In addition, Luminosa’s themed exhibit displays a well-lit 114-foot long by 26-foot wide reinterpretation of Wynwood Walls, an outdoor destination filled with colorful street art painted by artists from around the world.
“Our transition from a decades-old zoological attraction to an interactive and entertaining cultural destination makes us like no other park in the U.S.,” says Chatfield of Jungle Island’s expansion.
Luminosa visitors can also experience Chinese acrobat shows, a rare bird show, Moet champagne bar and live entertainment on weekends as well as enhanced VIP animal tours with unusual animal encounters, and the exciting Super Flight, an outdoor flight simulator experience where visitors can fly as high as 15 feet in the air with an instructor. <
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By the end of the year, the park will launch a treetop village, aerial adventure park, and themed playground for kids with ropes and wood. Soon after, look for the Flying Squirrel trampoline park, a virtual reality barn, beautiful beach with a large crystal lagoon for swimming, lazy river surrounded by botanical gardens and animals, and new restaurant concept.
“While Luminosa is the best thing we have done at Jungle Island through a lot of creativity and innovation,” says Chatfield, “our future attractions, exhibits and discoveries will give visitors more real-life jungle experiences than they could have imagined.”
For more information, visit jungleisland.com.