Last week I visited the San Diego Zoo Safari Park with my family. In case you are unfamiliar, there is the world-famous San Diego zoo and a second location with a whole other set of exhibits and fun animal exploration in Escondido call the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. We've been to a ton of zoos and animal exhibit type locations around the country and I have to say this is on my top 5. The animals nearly “roam free” in a huge exhibit space, it's incredible to see! We took a tram tour as well as toured various areas on foot. We visited for about 4 hours but I wish we had planned for a full day visit so we had more time to explore and watch the animals in this amazing park.
We saw Rhinos running in the same area the giraffes were hanging out, along with all kinds of other wild life, many names I can't pronounce. We saw a cheetah run at near top speed twice in the “Cheetah Run” show. There were two bald eagles, a baby gorilla, tigers a big pack of elephants (with a super cute 3 week old toodling around).
It's hard to say what our favorite area of the park was, there were so many neat exhibits to check out. however, one of the neatest experiences was the lorikeets. No one else was in the exhibit when we arrived, so when the 5 of us walked in with a single cup of nectar, we were ambushed by birds. There were so many birds on my husband's body that the nectar lady came in with another cup just to help spread them out. It was incredible! As we were getting ready to leave the exhibit, there was one bird still sitting on my oldest son's head. We started walking toward the exit and it just sat there along for the ride. We finally had to shoo it off.. apparently fuzzy teenage hair is a perfect resting spot!
Here is a glimpse of the cool things we saw during our visit to the San Diego Safari Park:
The lorikeets area is one of the last exhibits we visited, but it was my all time favorite. I didn't a chance to hold the nectar because I was taking pictures. If you visit, plan ahead to take turns taking pictures so you get to hold a few birds too, it's a lot of fun!
We started our park adventures by heading to Condor Ridge. This is the bridge you cross on your trek in that direction.
The green grass that looks like a golf course is actually more of the safari park. If you look really carefully, you can see a dirt road beyond the grass, that's part of the tram tour.
I don't know what these animals are but our tram guide shared all kinds of great animal tid bits along the entire ride. Sorry, I didn't take notes, I was too busy taking pictures!
One of the cutest things I've ever seen. I've seen baby elephants before, but not this new. It was a riot to watch, it would run and roll around and play while mom hung out and ate and then mom would take off and baby would trot behind as if it was skipping and singing the whole way.
When's the last time you saw these two animals on the same ground and in person? This is like Wild Kingdom learning and adventure in person!
Make a note of how clear the rest of the photo is, I was standing as still as possible and excited to see I actually got this fast cat on film. It's an amazing site to see a cheetah run in real life and we were able to see it twice!
We didn't have time to walk the entire Lagoon loop, but I managed to sneak in and get a few photos of this pretty area on our way toward the park entrance.
Yeah, I am married to the little one.. cute eah? This exhibit wasn't open when we visited, it's due to open next month I think. If you haven't seen bats at a zoo before, I'm pretty confident this will be a good place to start (educated guess here).
This was a lucky shot. I took this photo of the baby gorilla eating a snack with it's mama, turned around to say something to one of my kids, turned back around and they had both disappeared. I think they went inside for whatever reason..it happened so fast!
Just revisiting my own photos I'm still in awe of the amount of animals all mingling together in harmony as I can imagine it would be like if we were really sitting on a rock in the African plains. It's amazing to see them in such a natural looking habitat!
Some tips when visiting the San Diego Zoo Safari Park:
- Wear good walking shoes – although there is a tram tour, that is only for the African Plains area. you'll be walking a great deal if you want to see the entire park, so make sure your feet are comfy.
- Bring water – San Diego, even in October can be toasty warm so make to stay hydrated.
- Bring your own lunch – we brought a little backpack cooler and sat a shaded picnic area for a lunch break. There was a snack shack near this same area that sells slushy drinks (I think they were Icee brand, yum)… definitely another bonus point for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park from the Good clan!
- Make time to stop, explore and play – here are a few areas around the park with play areas. Make sure to plan time to stop and let the kids play without losing time to see the exhibits.
- Bring a camera – there are amazing sights in every direction, you'll want to capture them to remember your trip later.
- Watch for animal discussions – there are various talks with staff sharing different animals throughout the park. You can learn a ton of interesting things if you stop to listen. When we went to the Cheetah run, the cheetah ran once and then rested while the trainer gave us facts about cheetahs. A lot of people left at this point thinking the show was over, but no, the cheetah wanted to do a second run so we saw it twice. Don't be in a hurry to leave and you might get to see some extras you didn't expect.
- Plan for pictures – there are a couple of locations that take photos you can purchase on your way out of the park. usually we don't buy many tourist photos, but the photographers here were really good and it's nice to get a full group photo even mom, the photographer is in.
- Upgrade your tickets – for the month of October, kids were free to get into the park with a paid adult admission. This however is only for entrance into the park. If you are planning a trip, make sure to look at any extra costs and be prepared to upgrade for things like the carousel and tram, it's worth the small additional fee.
If you'd like more information about the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, check out their website. If you make it to San Diego, I highly recommend you plan a trip of your own and tell me about it!
Disclaimer: I received two media passes to enter the San Diego Zoo Safari park. I planned on visiting regardless of passes Opinions are 100% my own.