“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France
It was a lovely San Diego Friday and my family desperately needed to get out of the house. A suggestion to check out the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (AKA the San Diego Safari Park) was made by a friend of mine, and strengthened when we google searched it and came across some pretty awesome promo videos. (You can even see the live Tiger Cam 24/7 on this website!) Who knew they had so much to offer from zip lining, Africa safari tram rides, Hot air balloon tours, animal encounters, splash pads, loads of dining, face painting and even a carousel (the clincher for my 3 1/2 year old – with unlimited daily rides for only $12). The decision was quickly made, we packed a small bag of snacks and water and off we went.
The San Diego Safari Park is located at 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, California 92027. The drive is about 30 minutes from central San Diego and you pay for parking once you arrive there. You’re also able to purchase tickets at the gate which are $48 per day for adults and $38 a day for kiddos. If you’re a local it’s totally worth the annual membership which is only $102 for adults and $49 for kids! One of the things we loved about standing in line for the tickets (really what can you love about standing in line haha) was that they had mist machines in the trees that made you already feel like you were entering a jungle.
As soon as we entered the park we were handed a map of the place – the biggest question for everyone I believe is WHERE to start!? African Woods? Elephant Valley? Tiger Trail? Before we could make a decision our attention was grabbed by what looked like a little chetah in the “animal encounter” area right there near the front. We had to stop to watch it jump at amazing heights and run and play with the guide inside. (And, of course we had to snap some pics!) After watching for a bit, we decided to head to “Africa” to catch the Tram ride. It was quite a walk to get there but of course we were passing awesome animals along the way – we even got to feed some goats! Once we made it to “Africa” and got into the line for the tram it moved quite quickly and we were loaded up to see the Safari within about 10-15 minutes.
The tram was driven by a very well spoken and knowledgable tour guide who drove us through the African Plains of the park. In total the ride was about 20 minutes and was really cool. She knew just how to spot out different types of animals as they grazed or played or slept in the shade. Periodically she would stop the tram so we could watch some animals interacting in their own little “wild” within the park. As we watched, she gave us the run down of what kind of animal we were seeing, their characteristics and history etc., which was very informative and enriched the experience by far. By the end, we were all a bit sweaty as it was hot and there’s no AC with the wide open windows in the tram. We were happy to get off and head to another part of the park.
My daughter (and loads of other kids) were excited to find a splash pad (like a mini water park) along the trail back towards the center of the park, so we sat on a bench in the shade while she screamed and played in water sprinklers to cool off. We grabbed a fresh bag of popcorn and some bottled water at a near by stand and ventured off to the Gorillas. Now I have seen monkeys in other Zoo’s but these Gorillas were something else! There were 2 full adults, 3 adolescents and 1 baby all in a big open area. The baby was so cute and playful doing somersaults and monkey-ing around with the others. The 2 adults were very relaxed and unbothered by the crowd and the 3 adolescents had their own little drama and wrestle match off to one side of the area. Even my daughter was captivated by their personalities – it was truly like watching them in the wild. They were all so un-bothered by on-lookers and seemed content to be enjoying the sunny day. A couple rides on the carrousel and a face paint to appease the little one and we were off to check out the elephants!
The elephants were all together in a big pack and despite us getting super close to their water hole in the heat of late afternoon they didn’t come to play in the water as we were hoping. We had to admire them from a distance but I was happy to see how massive their living area was. A perk of a safari style zoo vs. traditional ones is clearly the amount of space for the animals. Following the elephants we walked through some awesome bird sanctuaries and were planning on ending with the Tigers, but with all the walking we were a bit burned out from the day! This is for sure a park that should be done in a couple days to really appreciate all it has to offer.. I honestly felt like we just scratched the tip of possibilities there – especially when you consider all the zip lining, hot air ballooning etc.!
My favorite part of this park is the cleanliness and ambiance of the park. There is greenery and mist everywhere as well as so many options for snacks and drinks to keep you full and satisfied as you venture about. The San Diego Safari Park is for sure a great place for families with kids of all ages. Heck it’s even a great San Diego date night option! As long as you don’t wear heels ladies 🙂
If you’re looking for a great way to get out and experience some of what San Diego has to offer with wild life – the San Diego Safari Park is definitely a MUST go to!
Happy Exploring, Chels