Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! OK, you knew that was coming, but we didn’t actually see any bears, although they do appear on the site map we were given upon entry to Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde, AZ, about 90 miles north of Phoenix. We saw plenty of big cats, though, and assorted other critters that more than made up for the invisible grizzly.
Earlier this month, my sister and I paid our first visit to Out of Africa, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect other than the famous Tiger Splash show, from which videos have been known to go viral. Upon arrival just before the park opened at 9:30am, we were given tickets to our first adventure (free with admission), the African Bush Safari tour departing at 10am, leaving us a half hour to visit the restroom and check out the lemurs and exotic birds housed in the nearby 20,000 cubic foot Community Aviary. While climbing aboard the bus, our highly knowledgeable and quite charming guide, Lauren, handed everyone a stick of celery… thanks, but I’d rather have a muffin. Oh, wait, the snacks are for the giraffes!
After hitting the road on our safari, where we were taken inside the gated preserve and reminded not to try to pet anything that might approach our vehicle, one of our first stops was to observe a wrinkly giraffe (Lauren told us a story about how this guy was born with extra skin folds, like a Shar-Pei puppy), who promptly lumbered over in search of the aforementioned snacks. Everyone took a turn feeding the big guy, and I’m sad to say I didn’t get very good photos of him because we were all too busy oooh-ing and aaah-ing and “eeek, he’s coming this waaaaay”-ing to do much more than wave our cameras in the air like we just don’t care!
After the excitement of the giraffe chomping down all the celery he could wrap his lips around, we continued on our way with brief stops to look at approaching zebras and assorted horned wildlife – it’s all just a blur now, as we apparently got to see every type of herding animal that it’s possible to see on this tour (no one was hiding out). Lauren even stopped to interact with an ostrich she had befriended at birth and demonstrated how “bitey” they are by nature, as it nipped her at will while she spoke. Tip: For a good look at the ostrich, it was best to sit on the right side of the vehicle, but for the giraffe, the left side. Other than that, each side had good views of the animals at various points along the route.