The San Diego Zoo had an idea for a new park. They wanted to create a park that allows the animals to roam free with plenty of room to run. The Zoo wanted to mimic their natural habitat as much as possible. At the same time, they wanted to still give the guests ways to get up close to them. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is what they came up with.
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The Safari Park is a one of a kind exhibit. It does an amazing job of immersing you in the environment you are visiting. From the trails to the landscaping, you are transformed into another world. The only thing I’ve seen that came is Disney’s Animal Park. But there are some differences between this park and the San Diego Zoo.
Tips for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
A lot of the tips I gave regarding the San Diego Zoo apply to the Safari Park too. But there are a few other things that make this park stand out.
Planning Your Day
Get there early, wear good walking shoes and make a plan for the animals you want to see first. For me, it was the Tiger Trail. This trail has ADA walking paths. It was one of the nicest trails I’ve seen. Since we got there so early, we were able to see very active tigers enjoying their enclosures. They also had a secondary trail you can take that goes off the beaten path. If you are up for the adventure, I recommend taking this loop for a unique experience.
As of Spring 2018, they are working on a new exhibit in this part of the zoo, the Walk About Australia. Because of this, some birds on the Condor Ridge have been relocated during the construction. They should have it back open to the public this summer. Don’t let this detour you from visiting the Tigers. It was unforgettable.
How much walking is required?
This park didn’t feel as big as San Diego Zoo, but it was definitely comparable. We logged 4.7 miles of walking. If you have young kids, make sure to bring a stroller. The biggest difference was the space between each animal enclosure. Because they have given the animals more space to roam, they filled in with additional landscaping and added enrichment opportunities for the younger guests.
The food situation is the same. Pricing is at a premium, and the quality is mediocre. They have a wide variety of options including gluten-free and vegan options. They also allow you to bring in your own food and snacks, which will save you a lot of money. I also recommend bringing in a water bottle or hydration backpack too just to keep the costs down. My favorite backpack is the Rupumpack because of its extra storage space. I take it with me everywhere. The longest lines for food are right around 12-1 and right next to the tram tour. If you walk a few food joints away, you’ll be able to walk right up.
One of my favorite parts of the zoo was getting to see an animal encounter. These encounters are more than just a ZooKeeper talking about animals. They come right out into the park and talk with the guests. These encounters are at various times of the day and can be found all over the park.
The African Tram
The tram is included with admission. This ride is incredibly popular. It gives you a 30 min highlight tour of the African Planes. The busiest time is between 11-3. You’ll be looking to wait for about 1hr in line during peak times. The wait goes down significantly if you go during the Cheetah Run show. The first train starts at 10 am, so I recommend getting on this one if you can.
The Cart Tour
The cart tour is a great way to see the animals if you are traveling with younger kids. With a maximum capacity of 12 people, the tour was practically private. They take you the complete perimeter of the facility. The Asian Planes tour gives takes you to the far end of the park.
Getting the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of these animals was an experience I will never forget. Our guide gave us all kinds of information about the different species and their history with the park. Visiting in springtime gave us a rare opportunity to see some of the babies, including a 2-day old Dik-Dik. Witnessing the babies unstable steps and a mama protective of her new baby was just like wanting a Discovery Channel Special.
Other Tours to Take
The least expensive tour is the $15 balloon ride. Taking you up 400 feet above the prairie, to witness the animals from above.
There is a Caravan Tour for people six years and older. Everyone piles into the van, and you all get the opportunity to hand feed different animals. The trip is anywhere from 2-3.5 hrs long depending on the trip you choose.
Zipline Tour from above. The zip line is the longest single line in North America, sending you 130 above the enclosure. Defiantly something for thrill seekers to do. It is 1 hour long, and you will do two different zips.
My only criticism of this park is the add-ons. They offer an express passes to get in the front of the line at a few of the different features. And a few extra dollars to feed the birds. It also seemed like in order to really see the Safari Animals; you need to pay the extra money for the safaris tours. These experiences are great and well worth the money. We opted to spend the extra money on the Cart Tour, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
The problem I had was that everywhere you turned it seemed like another amazing experience you can do for a fee. If you have small kids, make sure to prepare them for this. Decide which add-ons you want to or get them involved in the planning. This way they aren’t begging to do all the cool attractions.
Getting the Best Deal on Tickets to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
I recommend skipping the line by purchasing your tickets online. There are a few different options for tickets. A standard one day ticket or a two-day ticket which is an incredible deal. You can choose to get into either the Safari Park one day and the San Diego Zoo the next. Or spend both days at the Safari Park! Groupon also has some incredible deals you can check out too.
The other option is to get a Go City Card. This pass is a great deal. You can purchase a pass for the exact number of days you want to do attractions. The pass includes admission to over 40 different attractions, museums and a lot of California favorites, including both Zoo’s, SeaWorld and the USS Midway. If you plan in outright, you can save yourself a lot of money using this pass. But you may need a few days poolside to recover.
We had a once in a lifetime trip to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It was something that I will never forget. The steps they have taken to improve the quality of life in the zoo and their conservation efforts are out of this world. If you are trying to decide on which zoo to visit between the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park, it would depend on what your interests are. If you’re looking for variety and value, the San Diego Zoo it where you want to go. If you are looking for something a little different and have the money for some extra safari add-ins, go to the Safari Park!
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