An African Safari in ArizonaBy Jessica MacLean
In the ticket line, I catch a glimpse of what our day has in store: a giraffe sticking its entire head into a safari bus! General admission is free for me since it’s my birthday month and my husband takes advantage of our AAA membership for 20% off.
On the African Bush Safari in the Serengeti Preserve, mountains extend in every direction beyond the expansive desert and roller coaster of a dirt road. I look left, and zebras freely roam within feet. I look right, and an endangered Addax is staring directly into my eyes! I feel instantly transported to another place—and even time.
Africa, 1942, the last confirmed Barbary Lion encounter in the wild. But I got see them in 2018 at Out of Africa Wildlife Park, right here in Camp Verde, Arizona! Breeding and conservation programs like those at Out of Africa give a glimmer of hope to extinct and endangered animals.
Several rescued animals live at the wildlife park as well. When release into the wild is no longer an option, they provide happy homes to many wild and exotic animals.
Lions and Tigers and BearsThe tram that goes around the park skipped stop 1 and I nearly jumped out of my chair when I saw the Southern White Rhinoceros walking right along a fence. With hundreds of species on over one hundred acres, I couldn’t miss a closer view of the White Bengal Tiger, so we exited at stop 2.
The White Tiger and her best friend and roommate, a lioness born on the same day, were both getting ready for a little nap. The tiger roamed in the perfect areas to take advantage of the unobstructed photo platform for a fence-free view, before laying down, yawning—showing off her impressive teeth and large red tongue—and surrendering to a nice slumber.
The lioness rolled around on her back, being just about as cute as a full-grown lion can get, and then wandered over to the perfect spot to soak in an expansive view of her kingdom.
Exotic animals are everywhere you look at Out of Africa. A bear startled me by cracking a huge frozen treat with his incredibly powerful jaws only a few feet away.
Then we stumbled upon lion cubs eating their lunch together, playing with handlers, and jumping up to greet a group of children (resulting in oohs and awes all around).
Lunch and a ShowJust when I started to get warm in the Arizona sun, we stopped for lunch and a show in the shade. After enjoying a quick slice of pizza, it was almost 1:15 p.m., time for Sunrise the six-month-old Bengal Tiger’s big debut in the Tiger Splash show! She played with two other young tigers, both about one year old. They sure seem to have fun and love the toys, jumping in the water, and tackling their handlers. I couldn’t stop grinning and giggling at the cuteness to the point that my cheeks hurt!
The FoundersSeeing the founders at the park—helping in any way they can, laughing and smiling through the tiger show from the back row—their love for animals is obvious. In 1988, Dean and Prayeri Harrison founded Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Fountain Hills. They moved the sanctuary to Camp Verde 16 years later.
Next TimeNext time I visit, I’ll just be sure to wear sunscreen, a hat, and even more comfortable shoes that I don’t mind getting a little dusty. Because of the day, we missed the Predator Feed tour that meets at tram stop 2 on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday at 3pm. I’d also like to catch the Wonders of Wildlife show in the afternoon, with bears and wolves. I’ve heard that the White Tiger performs in Tiger Splash as well, so it would be nice to catch adults in that show eventually. An annual membership is in our near future. We may even check out the seven-tower zip line that soars over predators!
For more information on all this fun or to help, visit https://outofafricapark.com/
This article originally appeared in Heart of Camp Verde. It is reprinted here with permission of the author. Offers and attractions subject to change.