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A Southern California Safari

By Valerie Summers
An out of the ordinary family adventure began with a pleasant drive through the rolling hills and villages of north San Diego County.  I

Flamingo pond

Flamingo pond

had visited this destination more than 25 years ago when it was called Lion Country Safari and was eager to check out the changes which had taken place under its new banner, San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park.  And what a pleasant surprise it was.   Several admission ticket options were offered from the most basic to the most indulgent up close and personal with several of the animals.

Many of the more than 2, 600 animals representing more than 300 species roam 213 acres of the 1,800 acre park, living in wide open fields which are enclosed so visitors may view them up close but not too close.  An array of tours takes visitors on a ride around the open acres with enlightening commentary by sometimes very funny escort/drivers. We chose the Africa Tram, a covered, open-sided, multi-car excursion stopping frequently to allow passengers to observe and photograph various inhabitants of the area.

Another option was the smaller and more personalized Caravan Safari providing guests with the opportunity to venture inside the enclosed area where my family and I saw a group of giraffes standing close enough to the open-air truck that passengers were able to

Up close and personal

Up close and personal

touch the animals and feed them.
Of course there were some animals and birds in enclosures, but just like the San Diego Zoo, they were spacious and comfortable unlike some of the animal living quarters I have viewed in other zoos.  At the time of our visit, a Butterfly Pavilion was featured with crowds of people admiring the colorful butterflies which freely flew among them, often alighting on a visitors clothing. Several aviaries housed a variety of birds, some of which visitors were able to feed.
Safari Park is not just about walking around and looking at things.  For an exciting adventure, which none in my party ventured, visitors tried their hands at the Jungle Ropes Safari, a daring experience offering three courses, each one featuring more than a dozen elements with rope bridges to cross, aerial tightropes to navigate, swinging log stops to negotiate, short zip lines to soar on and moving platforms to cross.  It looked quite challenging but everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun.
The Flightline Safari was more our speed…a zip-line like adventure gave us the opportunity to soar more than 2/3 of a mile over the animals of the Park literally providing a bird’s eye view.
For the ultimate Park experience visitors can sign on for the Roar & Snore Safari, an overnight tent-camping experience.  Campers go on guided walking tours, enjoy a campfire program and chow down on yummy meals.  Best of all, it’s like an expedition into an African reserve minus the long airplane flight.
Each day visitors crowd the fence line to watch the world’s fastest animal, the cheetah, strut his or her

Hundreds of acres of open spaces

Hundreds of acres of open spaces

stuff.  It is an amazing, almost blurry sight as this gorgeous animal sprints along a 330-foot-long track accelerating from zero to 70 miles per hour in just four seconds. Awesome!!
Children are happy to cool off in the water play areas, Jungle Gym, Conservation Carousel and “Petting Kraal” where they can feel and touch the animals.
And there are plenty of places to sit and relax or enjoy a meal.
It’s a full day of fun.
More than just a fun place to visit the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is dedicated to bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction.   The work of the Conservancy includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research and international field programs in more than 35 countries.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road
Escondido, California
760/747-8702.
www.sdzsafaripark.org
Photos:  G. Rockmael

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