Wildlife Safari – Lions and Cheetahs and Bears, Oh My

Feeding deer at Wildlife Safari in Oregon. Photo credit Michael Okawa.

On one of my trips through Oregon, my son and I found ourselves on I-5 and passing oh so many billboards for the Wildlife Safari.  My son and I had been once before with his father over a decade ago.  When my son spoke up about how he’d like to go to Wildlife Safari one day, I realized he didn’t remember his previous trip there with his father and I.  So…I made the impulse decision and we took the next exit for the park.

Wildlife Safari is probably one of the coolest animal attractions I’ve been to.  The primary reason I say this is because one does not need to exit their vehicle in order to view the animals.  It’s a drive-through safari.  Yes, there are a few animals on display near the gift shop, theater, bathrooms and restaurant.  But the majority of the animals can be viewed from the comfort of a vehicle as it is driven along the prescribed road through the enclosures.

Only feet from my car this bear walks the perimeter of an electric fence enclosure. Photo credit Michael Okawa.

I have to be honest; the first half of the drive was a little boring.  Most of the animals were far up the hills which our drive wound between.  But then we reached the area where you can feed the animals.  Holy cow!  So, there’s a point in the safari where people can pull over and purchase cups of food pellets which you can feed to the deer and other herbivores.  It is amazing.

Now, I was told that we couldn’t feed the animals by hand or touch them.  This is probably to keep people from getting bit by hungry animals.  What I was told that we could do was toss food out the window for the animals to eat off of the ground or hold the cup for the animals to eat out of.  So.  Freaking.  Cool.  See that picture of the deer eating out of a cup.  I’m holding that cup and that deer is inches from my car window.

It’s kind of a little bit nerve wracking though.  The animals which are used to being fed blocked the road and milled about looking for more food when I ran out.  And I worried that I might accidentally run one over.  I didn’t.  Yeay!  When the windows of my vehicle were down the deer would aggressively try to shove their heads inside looking for more treats.  No Bueno.  We discovered that if we kept our windows up the animals decided that we didn’t have food for them and would not linger in our way for as long.

This cheetah and dog were raise together from pup and kitten and like to play together and nap together. Photo credit Michael Okawa.

Wildlife Safari also has several “Enrichment Encounters” where customers can get up close with animals and watch the trainers and keepers directly interacting with them.  Encounters can be experienced with elephants, giraffes, bears, lions, tigers, cheetahs, and hippos.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience that as we were short on time, but we decided that we would try it next time we went.

A few notes.  There are restrooms at the giftshop area.  It is a good idea to use them before driving through the safari.  There are large herbivores which block the road you drive through at times and you are on the animals’ schedule.  Making sure there is water and snacks in the car are a good idea too.

We ended out trip with lunch at the restaurant.  It’s not a particularly fancy restaurant.  They got my order wrong but fixed it.  The food was not terribly good, but it wasn’t bad.  The giftshop and restaurant area have super cute animal topiaries which I adored.  I had lots of fun with my son and overall the experience was delightful.

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