Going to Africa for a Safari adventure is one of the top things on my travel bucket list. But before I embark on that once in a lifetime trip, I decided to get a taste of the safari in… drumroll, please … San Diego!
San Diego Safari Park, just a 2.5-hour drive from LA, offers a variety of tours for close encounters with animals. We picked the Caravan Safari tour where we rode in a covered van that drove through “Africa” and “Asia”. There were giraffe feeding opportunities in Africa and rhinos feeding ones in Asia! I’ve never fed a giraffe before and was super excited to go.We got there early and decided to walk through Tiger Trail first. At the trail we overheard a Classic-Dad-joke-of-the-day:
Dad: Hey son, you know what tigers like to eat?
6 year old son: No, what?
Dad: Frosted Flakes!
(All adults around him cracked up while the 6 year old stared at his father, confused)Afterwards we visited the Gorilla Forest which was very popular. Tensions seemed high with the gorillas that day, we saw this young one walking around…And carefully walked by the leader, never turning his back and walked sideways to face the leader at all times…There is also a short lemur walk in the park – you go through a door, wash your hands with disinfectant, then go through a second door to the lemurs. Unfortunately they were all napping when we visited, but this would’ve been a fun activity if the lemurs were awake.
We checked in 10 minutes before our tour was scheduled to depart, but get to the park with enough time before your reservation to get park, get your tickets and get through the crowd, Here is the van we rode in for the tour:We started in Africa with some rhino sightings:
And some rhinos doing the dirty…Some red-crowned cranes…We even spotted an unicorn! Just kidding, not a real unicorn. This poor guy knocked off one of his horns, and now is no longer popular with the ladies.Interesting fact – see the darker colored antelope? It’s the male leading his pack of females. Males jostle with each other and if they win, their testosterone levels increase and make their fur darker in color. If this guy below loses in the future and gets kicked out, his testosterone level will go back down and his fur will become lighter similar to the females.
We learned that in Africa, the most dangerous mammals are hippos, and buffaloes are a close second. Our van carefully navigated around this guy who didn’t want to budge from the middle of the road.We kept driving and got into the zone I dubbed “GIRRAFIC WORLD”. There were multiple giraffes (including baby ones) milling about and they started approaching the truck, knowing goodies are available. The oldest giraffe in the park is 22 years old, and healthy giraffes live to about 25 years old in the wild.
We drove into Asia and met Mr. Bopu, a greater one-horned rhino. Bopu actually filed off his own horn to mark his territory. Only about 30% of the caravan tours that depart everyday get to feed rhinos as they are less likely to approach the vans compared to giraffes. We were lucky that hungry Mr. Bopu decided to come over and we got to feed him some apples!Action shot!This was such an amazing experience and I LOVED feeding the giraffes. They were so gentle and so beautiful. I highly recommend adding this to your trip at the Safari Park.
– Don’t confuse the Safari Park with San Diego Zoo (which is actually in San Diego). The Safari Park is in Escondido, about 40 minutes north of San Diego.
– The tickets for the Caravan Safari are not cheap, at $110/person. This does not include the entrance to the park which is another $50, but usually you can find discounts on LivingSocial for half the price. Remember that the park is non-profit and do a very good job taking care of their animals.
– Buy tickets ahead of time online for both entrance and the caravan tour if you decide you want this add on – prices may sometimes be cheaper online and you can skip the line at the entrance.
– I actually did the Safari Park twice, and both times the tour guides + drivers are incredibly enthusiastic, knowledgeable and friendly. So don’t worry about getting a bad tour!
– The tour is 2 hours, so it is easy to spend a full day at the park (get there early) as it closes at 7pm.
– We didn’t eat in the Park as options were limited and pricey. There are many fast food options on the way to the park (about 10 minutes out).
– Tours depart every 30 minutes. The capacity is 15 person per tour if you have a big group. Remember that there is a minimum age requirement of 8 years old. They do offer safari tours for children under 8 in the morning.