I cannot get enough of the Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon.
I’ll be honest, I usually struggle a bit in zoo-like environments. As an adult, with some of the places I’ve visited, I’ve felt that the animals were sad. Sometimes malnourished. Other times seemingly mistreated.
Not here, under any circumstance, in any case.
This was genuinely the first safari/zoo experience I’ve had as an adult that didn’t have me feeling like a bad human when we left.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Let’s talk about the awesome experience I had doing this with my family.
The Lion Encounter
Okay, so, I love lions. Like, a lot. I’ve always wanted a pet lion, I still have my stuffed-animal Simba from when The Lion King came out in my third year on this earth, and I still want to cuddle with them.
Yes, I know cuddling with a lion would be the last thing I’d do.
But there are people out there with life goals of getting bit by sharks, and if I had my choice, I’d rather die in a lion’s arms than a shark’s jaws.
I’m just saying.
Here, we had the opportunity to have a lion encounter. We learned about their training and got some fun facts on the pride of the African territories.
One thing I learned: Lions are bullies.
I don’t know why I think that’s so cute, but I’m actually here for that.
The lions have retractable claws that are bigger than their teeth. Fine, I’ll admit, I wanted to touch them. Look, lions are cute, and their golden eyes are captivating. There’s a cage between us to prevent me from getting actually eaten, so let a man dream, okay?
Out in the wild, the lioness takes care of the hunting, and usually ends up with just the scraps from the meal after everyone else has eaten. At this safari, however, the males are much more gentlemanly. The women eat first, and the men come in for the leftovers after.
The females are very food motivated. The males are very female motivated. Where the ladies go, the men follow, and the ladies run the show.
The Cheetah Encounter
I was too excited to meet the cheetahs.
Yes, I love lions, but I’ve never been so close to a cheetah. A freaking cheetah!
Okay, but let’s talk about the most shocking piece of education I learned from this encounter:
Cheetahs bred in captivity like this are brought up with dogs! And they’re the literal best of friends! So, basically, cheetahs are trying to steal away man’s best friend, but it’s totally cool — the dogs help the cheetahs stay calm around us pesky humans.
But they just, like, hang out all day and enjoy each other’s company.
It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
As opposed to the lions, cheetahs have semi-retractable claws. This helps them when they need to sprint. And just how fast can cheetahs go? They can sustain a maximum speed of 70 mph for a solid 30 seconds.
I don’t know about you, but that’s certainly long enough for me to get whopped by a cheetah.
Our cheetah encounter (and everyone else who does it, too) comes with a photo.
Just remember it’s still a wild animal and you have to move slowly. Too quick of movement makes this little fur baby look at you like a treat instead of a friend, so be careful.
Also, a portion of all the ticket sales goes into the safari’s cheetah breeding center — which is the most successful in America.
The Wildlife Safari “Zoomfari” Education
COVID-19 has changed so much for so many. Some businesses are able to adapt to the changes, and others, unfortunately, are not.
The Wildlife Safari not only survived the pandemic, but has also come up with a great way to continue the education of animals to children:
These educational classes conducted through Zoom allow the staff at the safari to continue educating kids about animals. We may have gotten to see the snake and the parrot up close, but with schools still not being in full session (as of this writing), this is the safari’s way of carrying on the educational portions of animal care that they’d normally conduct in a real-life class setting.
In addition to continuing their education through Zoom classes, there’s also a bi-monthly subscription box called “creature crates” for animal education. The one pictured/discussed is for the lemur, the March/April 2021 animal.
This addition to the safari came back in January, with the lemur being the second box. The boxes are $50 each, or the subscription is $270 for the year. The “year” also starts when you sign up, not at the beginning of the calendar year.
Meet Boo, the Red-Crowned Amazon Parrot
One of the animals we met during our education class was Boo, the Red-Crowned Amazon Parrot.
Boo is 27-years-old, which is actually a common age for birds like this to reach. Actually, with some proper love and care, these birds can live all the way up to 50-70 years old.
AKA, this is a great pet for your child when they’re young so they can have a lifelong pal! (Partial jokes.)
These birds are native to Northeastern Mexico, and they are highly social creatures.
Boo loves all of his time with the children and loves getting showed off to spectators. He, like the rest of us, is adjusting to everything moving into the online-o-sphere, but we had just as much fun with him as he did with us!
And Kingsley, the California Kingsnake
I’m not a huge fan of snakes. They scare me. And yes, I know two minutes ago I just talked about a desire to die in a lion’s arms. It’s fine.
Kingsley was cute. You know, for a snake.
California Kingsnakes are actually very beneficial, however.
They eat the poisonous snakes we don’t like.
So, really, they’re like the Daddy Long Legs of the snake world, and I am here for that.
They can also mimic a rattlesnake, and while they don’t actually have any rattlers, that’s a pretty sweet defense mechanism to make sure any predator leaves them alone.
Additionally, the Wildlife Safari offers a zookeeper program for children aged 10-17, so they can learn about what it takes to be a zookeeper and, after some years of practice, be able to handle the animals. The kingsnake is one of the starter animals used, so, really, I guess he’s not that scary.
And he’s got a cute little mustache, so he’s quite the gentleman.
The Wildlife Safari Drive-Through
We had a great time doing the encounters and the education, but most people just come for the drive-through. Here, you can see the animals of the Americas as well as the ones that roam the African plains.
Even on a rainy day like what ours ended up becoming, the drive through was amazing.
There’s a section where you’re able to buy feeding cups to feed the goats and the birds and whatever else comes up to your car.
Two things I’d like to say about this:
#1 CLEAN UP YOUR TRASH
I cannot believe how rude people can be. Excuse you! The safari’s drive through is not the place to dump the empty cups once you’re finished feeding the animals. There’s literally a designated place to put your cups at the end of that section.
This obviously has nothing to do with the safari itself or the staff that runs it. This is just about rude and ignorant people littering and I was upset to see some cups thrown out windows like that.
#2 The animals at the Wildlife Safari ain’t messin’ around
Look, if they think you have food, they’ll be up in your window.
In a general sense, that’s cool, but if you’ve ever looked a horned animal in the face while its head is coming through your window and informed it that you don’t actually have any food for it, it can be a little scary.
It’s all in the eyes.
So I recommend having food for them. Even though they’re not aggressive, they still get sad if you drive by empty-handed.
Just make sure to clean up after yourself and throw the food cup away!
All in all, the Wildlife Safari was the animal experience I never knew I needed.
My family and I had a great time spending the day out here with the wildlife.
I already knew this was one of my sister’s favorite locations, and I’m so happy we finally had a chance to experience it together.
And thank you, Wildlife Safari, for caring about your animals and taking good care of them.
If you ever need someone to help with the cheetahs, or a sacrifice for the lions, you know who to call.