Friday, January 15, 2016

Caravan Safari + Cheetah Run | San Diego Zoo Safari Park


Last month we embarked on a local adventure that I've always wanted to experience: a Caravan Safari at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park, followed by a close-up view of the famed Cheetah Run.


We're huge fans of the Tram ride typically included with admission, which takes you on a 45-minute tour of Asian and African enclosures for animals that would naturally share a habitat in the wild.


The sweeping Escondido versions closely mimic the savannas of the Serengeti and India in both flora and fauna, and the driving sun with occasional wet-season downpours approximate the animals' native climate. Pretty much.


The Caravan Safari will get you closer to the animals than the Tram will, though. You'll get the opportunity to interact with - and feed - giraffes and rhinos. But don't think you'll be able to just get out and run around petting everything because you won't!


Do you ever have an idea about how an animal will behave from either watching specials on it, or from observing it from afar? We fed the giraffes once at the edge of their enclosure at the Zoo so I already knew that they were incredibly graceful and gentle, despite their size and power.


I'm also of the opinion, after visiting the Oasis Camel Dairy out in East County, that giraffes and camels seem similar in temperament. If you are some kind of animal expert who strongly disagrees with me, I will probably treat your disagreement with skepticism.


Here's some video of a feeding:


Adults are just as charmed by them as children are. Are the giraffes as charmed by us? Meh.


They look, and feel, like they are covered in velveteen.


They are truly magnificent! If only they gave giraffe rides. Kidding!


But there are so many other stunning animals to see.


The African Crowned Crane delivers its own splendor right alongside the giraffe. It might even pick a fight with a giraffe if you're lucky! I'd be lying if I told you that we witnessed such a fight, but you would probably love that lie for its entertainment value.


The Cranes are not the only hams. What are these guys below called again? I'm a terrible blogger because I don't remember... I was busy taking photos, oohing and ahhing over the animals and chit-chatting with my neighbors. But rest assured, these little guys will amuse you with their over-the-top courtship displays.

*Editor's Note: I guess these are called Indian Blackbuck Antelope. Someone in the Know corrected me. :)


There are nursing Indian Blackbuck Antelope mothers and their calves...


 And in graceful herds with cute, furry little white "follow-me" butts.


A single, noble wildebeest surveys its territory. If you have already gotten emotionally attached to the cute look in the eyes of this creature, don't click on this video of one getting taken down by a crocodile and a leopard.


Most of the animals feel free enough from any threat of predation that they recline on the ground, whether alone or in their herd. So don't tell me about how you feel sorry for these animals because they are not in the wild. This place is no Seaworld!



But the real high point of the Caravan Safari is the interaction you can have with these beauties:


Look at the baby! Who can stand it???


So I always assumed that rhinos were dangerous given their potential to charge, and given that they always physically reminded me of hippos - in size, body-type, vegetarianism, and being territorial in nature. Plus, I figured that they have those intimidating horns for a reason. And NO, not for holding onto while riding one!


But it turns out that they are gentle giants.


When our guide told us that we could touch "any part of them that we could reach," I couldn't believe it. Then she gave us apples to feed them. Don't they look like they eat pizzas by the pie? Wrong, they eat tiny slices of apple, and blades of grass.


The kids enjoyed feeding them so much.


This is a small clip of video we took during feeding. Being able to feed rhinos makes people crazy:


It's difficult to describe just how gentle they were when you're looking at those huge chompers in their mouth, but they were even more gentle than the giraffes were.


We finally ran out of apples and had to head back.


Our drive back took us past a number of enclosures that were off-limits to personal touring given that they housed predators... but we still had a better view of the animals than we usually would on the Tram ride. Look at this cute little boy! He was holding his tongue out like that for no reason... at least no reason I'd like to think about.


After arriving back, we hiked over to the Cheetah Run. We've struggled through the crowds to watch this event before and it's well worth it. This is a slow-motion video of one such Run:


I'm not ashamed to say that I took selfies with Amara like she was a celebrity, because to me she is.


This is a gorgeous non-camera-phone shot of the beautiful Amara. She frequently stars in the cheetah runs, and did on this day that we took advantage of the VIP seating for the event. To say that she could outrun you is an understatement, so don't even try to make a case or imagine scenarios where it could happen.


In addition to Amara, we also got a visit from Ruuxa.


Ruuxa, you may remember (if you are a stalker of all the cheetahs at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park like I am), had a condition in his forelimbs requiring surgery. He looks and moves very well today.


All in all, the Caravan Safari and Cheetah Run experiences at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are among the greatest family experiences in San Diego.


Thanks for looking! xo

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