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San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Visiting the San Diego Zoo Safari Park could very well be the ultimate zoo experience.
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I love seeing animals in their natural habitat. (See posts here and here.) And since I don’t have a trip to Africa in my immediate future, the Safari Park is a fabulous alternative. We went to the Safari Park the third day after we moved to San Diego – we couldn’t wait!

The park itself is just beautiful. The walkways are scenic. The animals are behind enclosures, but they have a lot of space to roam. One of our favorites was the gorillas. The male gorilla was so big and in charge. He reminded us of Kerchak in Disney’s Tarzan movie. The best, though, was the mama gorilla with her adorable little guy. He was so fun to watch.

The lions were another favorite. They are usually a lazy bunch without any action. But being up that close to them is still impressive. And this big guy gave us a great big yawn. We saw them fairly late in the day and heard some growing and roaring going on.

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Feeding the lorikeets is a treat. The elephants are active and fun to watch. The bats, the petting area, the burrowing owls. Oh, don’t miss a thing! There are so many great animals to see!

We were running out of time late in the day and debated whether or not to go on the African Tram Safari. We hopped on the last tram of the day, and I’m so glad we didn’t miss the experience!! The tour takes you out around the large fields and give you a closer look at the many animals roaming across the hillside. The views are breathtaking. Being the last tram of the day, the sun was starting to go down. The tour guide said it’s one of the best times to go because the animals get a “second wind” after the heat of the day and are usually quite active. And they were! We saw teenage giraffes chasing each other. Horned antelope fighting each other. Rhinos were out munching. Gazelles running along the hillside. Such an adventure.

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The park has quite a few other experiences you can pay to participate in. A zip-line experience, a behind-the-scenes experience, a Segway experience and more. My 10-year-old wants to go on the “Roar & Snore” experience where you can actually spend the night in a “tent” surrounded by the sounds of wildlife.

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Here are some tips for enjoying the park:

1.We went the week after Thanksgiving. I highly recommend an off season time if you can make it. There was hardly anyone there. We never had to wait in line for anything. We made it to various animal encounters without having to show up early. We wandered parts of the park without seeing anyone else. We were able to see and do everything we wanted.

2.If you have young children, bring a stroller. There is a lot of walking. A lot. My two younger boys were 5 and almost 4. I was glad to have a double stroller for their tired legs. Wear good walking shoes too.

3.Plan to see the cheetah run. Get there early – even if there isn’t a large crowd that day. Everyone wants to see the cheetah run. And it is worth it. To be that close to such a beautiful creature running at full speed is awesome.

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4.If you are local and love seeing the wild animals, consider getting a Membership. The cost is really reasonable. You can get a year membership to both the Zoo and the Safari Park for just $99 for 2 adults. One adult at the Safari Park for one trip is $42.

5.We packed in our own water bottles, snacks and lunch. I’d rather spend money on the activities or souvenirs than the food. But there are plenty of places to eat if you want the ease and convenience of eating there.

6.Near the lions exhibit, there is a small kids water play area. So if it is a warm enough day, be sure to bring some extra clothes, a towel, or just clothes that dry easily if your little one wants to get wet.

The website has plenty of additional information to help you plan your trip. But just showing up and wandering around this beautiful park, you are sure to have a great time!


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