One of my fondest memories of zoo visiting with my children is the time we got there, right at opening time (9 a.m.) on a cool, cloudy fall day.

(Disclaimer: I'm one of those people who will do anything to avoid a crowd, so my kids know that if they get a hankering for the zoo, they better be prepared to either get up early or bring an umbrella.)

So on that particular morning, we scooted over to the Australasia area where the koala bears used to be. And a small crowd of zoo docents (those staff members who always seem to be hanging around out the exhibits) had already assembled because - wonder of wonders - the koalas were awake and moving.

Hanging with the docents, we learned more about the koalas than we ever had before: why it was unusual that they were awake and moving (they're nocturnal), and what about that day's conditions made it ripe for a koala awakening (cloudy and cool). And from then on, I resolved to always talk to the zoo docents because these folks know their stuff and make a trip to the zoo so much more interesting.

To that end, one of my fondest desires in getting our Daily Bulletins going was to pick the brains of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium docents for helpful hints. And they have not failed me and I can't thank the team there enough for what they've come up with!

So here today is Amazing Zoo Docent Tip #1 which addresses two topics near and dear to my heart -- How to Avoid Crowds and How to See Active Animals:

For those who can only visit the Zoo once or twice a year and will make a day-long trip, come Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, if possible. These days are when the Zoo is generally less crowded.

Come to the Zoo early. This is when many of the animals, especially the large mammals, are being moved from their night quarters to their outdoor habitats and they are more active. Visit areas such as the Reptiles, Manatee Coast and Discovery Reef in the afternoon when the bears, gorillas and cats are likely to be resting.

Start at the far end of the Zoo in the African Forest and The Islands areas. You can make this walk while to those areas while still fresh. The return trip, when you are getting tired, will be toward your car.