Walk on the Wild Side!
We love animals! Our youngest son, Elijah, is the biggest animal lover of all. He will go to any zoo, aquarium, animal shelter, or pet store any time just to visit them. He already knows that he wants to work in a zoo someday, and he will. He even knows at 12 years old what college he wants to go to so he can prepare for zoo work. So, when we get a chance to stop in to visit his scaly, fury, feathery friends, we try to. We joke around that we should write the definitive guide to zoos around the world. Check out our Top 10 family travel! Each one has a zoo!
So, when we stayed in southern Oregon we had to stop at the Wildlife Safari in Winston. For those of you that may have a reluctance to visit zoos for moral or ethical reasons, please understand the role of the 21st century zoo. Zoos today are modern arks. They help conserve wild animals and their habitats. Animals in zoos now fulfil a number of roles, from education to breeding to ambassadors for their species. Some of the species they keep are now extinct in the wild and would have disappeared completely without zoos. My wife, Mish, worked for about 4 years and I worked for one summer in the San Diego Zoological Society and can tell you first-hand what goes on behind the scenes. The care, dedication, and passion that zoo workers have for their roles are inspiring. They are leading the fight for species conservation. The Oregon Safari was not an exception.
The Wildlife Safari is one of the leading cheetah breeding programs in the United States. They boast 171 cheetah cub births and counting! For an animal on the verge of extinction, this is a miracle. We were very impressed with the park. It is not some road-side attraction for tourists, but a fully functioning top notch animal care and breeding facility.
The park is divided into two parts, a large drive through safari and a small walk around zoo. Inside the zoo there is a small train ride, restaurant, pick-nick area, gift shop, and viewing areas. It is open 9:00am to 5:00pm every day year round except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission: Adult (13 to 59 years) $17.99 per person, Child (3 to 12 years) $11.99 per person, Seniors (60+) $14.99 per person, and under 2 years free. You can drive through twice if you want! The entire drive takes about 1 ½ hours, but if you are like us, plan on longer.
Before the drive, we decided to take an excursion (at an additional cost). The first one was an Elephant encounter! We loaded onto a safari truck and drove out into the park to the elephant enclosure. Once there, we got to pet and feed a large female African elephant! The experience was amazing! Elijah’s eyes were as bright as spot lights. The look of awe on his face was priceless. Mish was looking pretty excited too. She took at least a hundred pictures.
After visiting with the elephants we decided to take the drive. The picturesque valley where the park lies is beautiful. Some of the vistas are fantastic. There are over 600 hundred animals roaming freely in the park too. We opened the sun roof so Elijah and my wife could pop up to get a full 360 degree view of the animals. We had a large giraffe stroll right by us and emus come up to our car. Safely kept behind fences were cheetahs, tigers, lions, and bears (Oh my!). Up on a hill were two sleeping rhinoceros basking in the sun while two hippopotamuses rolled in the mud down at the water hole. Grazing on the new grass were several zebras. Everywhere we looked we saw exotic animals leisurely going about their business.
There is also a section where you can feed some of the animals. You can by a small cup of pellet feed and hand it out as you drive. The animals are well aware of the procedure and come waddling over to get their free lunch. Elijah was giddily eager to feed his new furry friends. Our oldest son, Aaron, was more content to sit back and look on while his younger brother got pecked and slobbered by the hungry critters.
Next, we walked around the zoo. There was an adorable tree porcupine that maybe everyone go, “Aahhh.” He was very adorable curled up sleeping in his tree. I liked the bald eagles (even though we see them all the time here in Seattle, they are still cool). There was also a chance to see cheetahs up close. Aaron ran back and forth in front of the pair of fast cats. One of them sprang up and chased him along the fence, which lucky for him separated them. Being a runner, he was very impressed by their speed. I think, however, that the cheetahs would win a sprinting competition with him. They did not seem impressed by him.
Afterwards, Mish, Elijah, and Aaron decided to go on a second excursion. This time they went to feed tigers and cheetahs! I decided to sit and relax in the shade instead. They went off with a keeper and a bucket of raw meat. They got to throw large chunks of fresh meat over the fence to the anxiously waiting big cats. Elijah had no problem picking up the dead gutted and bloody rabbit carcass and feeding it to the hungry carnivores. Aaron, on the hand, I heard was less eager.
Elijah would have stayed all night, but the park was closing, so we had to leave. They are building a new elephant swimming pool, so we want to go back sometime and see it. So many zoos, so little time! Such is family traveling!