The Phoenix Herpetological Society in Scottsdale makes for a fascinating field trip for all ages! It is the largest reptile sanctuary in the United States, operating as a surrender and rehabilitation facility to hundreds of Arizona native and non-native animals, as well as offering summer camps, tours, and other programs. You will see tortoises, snakes (so many snakes), lizards, crocodiles, alligators and more at this unique “better than the zoo” activity.
We’ve had our eye on visiting for awhile, and finally joined a group of friends this week to take a tour! The employees were amazing – friendly and cheerful, so happy to answer any and every question. Also loved how they took time to explain terms (like herpetological!) that guests might not be familiar with. The tour was kept at a steady pace, but we never felt rushed, even when another group was coming soon.
We started at the large tortoise sanctuary – there were literally over a hundred tortoises of various sizes! They were taken in from all over the country. One even got curious and came over to the wall to say hello. We also admired the turtles, and small outside lizard collection. It was cool to see a Gila Monster and Bearded Dragon up close! Did you know you can adopt an animal found here? Or even virtual adopt, where you can visit and play with your pet, but then leave it at the sanctuary.
A indoor portion of the tour was next. Here we found floor to ceiling tanks with so many snakes! You name it, it is likely rescued and cared for at PHS. And these were the venomous snake collection, so no handling here. That came later! A classroom is also included in this building, along with displays of reptile skeletons and other awesome teaching materials. It made us want to come back for a class!
Back outside, we toured the rescued alligators and crocodiles. You’d be amazed at the stories we were told about where these animals came from! One alligator was given to the sanctuary after its owner could no longer care for it in their Chicago apartment. Another came from a canal – and literally scared the crap out of the land surveyor that accidentally found it! Definitely watch little ones around these areas. A few alligators and crocodiles were right next to the fence and, if they were in the mood, could easily reach any fingers sticking through!
The last part of our tour took us inside a building where the non venomous snakes, and other lizards were housed. This is where the kids got a hands on experience! Employees brought out a king snake, and a Durango Mountain snake to pass around and answered the hundreds of questions that abounded. (They also said that during their camps, they will bring out the boa constrictor – takes 5 kids to hold it too!) This part of the tour was one of our favorites by far. A huge thank you to the PHS employees for this opportunity!
The Phoenix Herpetological Society in Scottsdale is open Monday-Saturday, 8am-5pm, by appointment only. Adults are $20/person, seniors and children ages 4-17 are $15/person; ages 3 and under are free. Group discounts are available! (We paid $8/adult, and $10/child.) Call or reserve your spot online. Tours last about 1.5 hours. There are restrooms available, as well as a small and fun gift shop. Strollers are ok, but we recommend leaving them behind to make your visit more enjoyable.
Phoenix Herpetological Society
28011 N 78th St
Scottsdale, AZ 85266