San Diego Safari Park Travel Guide

in , , by The Classic Brunette, 12:14:00 AM

A week ago I was fortunate enough to drive down to the San Diego Safari Park! My weekend was super packed (this little excursion, a 5K and then a spontaneous trip to Disneyland) but I have to say that this was my favorite activity! I had been wanting to visit the Safari Park for a while, especially after finding out that I could feed giraffes, and so it went on the Orange County bucket list. My roommate and I are trying to fit everything in while we're hear this last month, so when she got the day off we decided we were going to go! Here's my mini travel guide for the park, although it's more of a tips and tricks guide to making the most of your visit here.
The first tip in this guide is to purchase your tickets ahead of time! No one likes waiting in lines, and it's much easier to print them out and have them ready when you get to the park. You can also choose to add other tickets to your order that will allow you to have some different and unique experiences. These tickets typically fill up ahead of time, so you will want to make any additional package purchases a few days early! I went on the caravan tour, but more on that later...

As you can see from the photo above, the park is HUGE, and that's only a small piece of it! If you're not afraid of heights, you can take an air balloon ride over the park to have a beautiful view of the whole preserve. I hear if you buy tickets before noon they are half priced! I was too much of a scaredy cat to go up, but I did get a nice view from this observation deck.

As I said the park is huge, which means it's home to a number of animals. My personal favorites were the gorillas and this tiger right here. Since the park was originally created to be a reserve and breeding ground for the San Diego Zoo, it has an enormous chunk of land that gives the animals a much homier feeling than most other zoos. This means the animals are happier, and definitely express themselves more than any other 'captive' animal! At most of my other zoo visits, the animals would just be laying about, sometimes looking sad or just completely bored. Here though, the animals looked like they were thriving. The gorillas were wrestling each other, the giraffes were practicing their neck fighting, and this male tiger was ROARING. If you saw my Instagram stories from when I was there you probably saw this boy strutting around and roaring as much as he could. It was amazing to say the least. I could have watched him all day long, but maybe it's because I'm just a big cat person 😉 

My tip though? Get to the park as soon as it opens so you're able to see everything! With the park opening at 9am and closing at 5pm, there isn't really a lot of time to waste. Get there early to make sure you have time to see all your favorites as well as a few of the special attractions like the Africa Tram, the Cheetah Run, and the nursery.

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If you do decide to watch the Cheetah Run (highly recommended!!), I also suggest that you buy a ticket for the premium viewing. I believe ticket prices vary by the day, but when I went it was only $8. For that price, you get to watch the cheetah from a much closer spot and see all the action up close and personal. I was literally only a few feet away from the cheetah, it was incredible! If you don't want to spend that extra money though, no worries, the regular cheetah run is completely free, and still worth the watch.

My number 1 tip for visiting the Safari Park though is taking the Caravan tour. It IS expensive, about $125 per person, but if you have the money to do it I highly highly HIGHLY recommend it. The twilight (4:30pm) tour in particular. The Caravan tour at the Safari Park is a 2 hour behind the scenes tour that literally takes you on an interactive and informative safari. You are promised a feeding with the giraffes (a personal dream of mine) and up close encounters with the animals in the African and Asian safari lands. My friend and I signed up for the tour mostly so we could feed giraffes, but it ended up being a life changing experience. I felt so much more connected to the animals and got a sense of how much love the caretakers and volunteers have for these beautiful creatures. On the tour they tell you more details about each of the animals, why they are here, what the park is doing to preserve their species, and you get to interact with some animals if you're lucky! 

As I said a giraffe feeding is promised, but if you're lucky you might be able to feed some rhinos too! Our guide said the rhinos are much more finicky, and only about 30% of the caravan tours get this experience, so I felt extremely lucky (and now even more so, because supposedly rubbing the horn of this particular rhino brings a year of good luck) to have this experience. For those of you who might think it's a little scary to get close to these animals, I want to say that I had absolutely no fear in the moment. The animals know that you're there to give them treats and aren't about to get mad at you if you keep feeding them. Although the male giraffe I fed did huff at me when I was going a little too slowly, haha! Now, my tip for this tour is that the twilight tour is the best time to go. Why? The animals are just starting to get active. Most animals are more active towards to evening, and the park has already ended the tram rides by the time your group makes it out to the safari. This means the animals are both active and undistracted by other tour groups, it's just you and the animals! Less animals are going to be laying around, running away from you, or just plain ignoring you. The twilight tour is when things pick up and the animals are more interested in their surroundings. Take the tour and see what I'm talking about! 

That's all my best tips for the park! Although I saw everything I really needed to see, it was such a great experience that I would love to go visit again some day. 

Have you been here? Do you have a similar place in your area?
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  1. awe great recap on the park! I live about 20 minutes north of the park and we always go! October is kids get in free so it's perfect time for families to go.

  2. I want to go here. It looks better than our zoo lol

  3. Ahh, this places look amazing! What a giant hot air balloon, and there are so many flamingos too 😍

  4. We went to the safari park and zoo often when we live in Irvine. We always had a great time at both.

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