Home to lions and tigers and bears—oh my!—along with elephants, giraffes, hippos, zebras, wildebeests . . . and that’s just in the “Africa” section . . .
Now it’s time to park and stretch your legs as we move on to . . .
Part Two: Safari Village Walking Tour
Your first stop upon entering the village is The Cheetah Spot. Here, the Wildlife Safari’s current ambassador, Sannura, might be found relaxing or pacing the fence if she’s not at the Cheetah enclosure with her pal Ellie the Anatolian Shepherd or off in the community with her handlers. Be sure to stop back at 1:3o p.m. for the Free Cheetah Keepers Talk. You’ll learn a lot about the fastest animal on earth.
Next to the Cheetah spot are the restrooms—a good place to stop after the first drive-through—and beyond that, the flamingos are on the left and the Animal Rotunda is on the right. In the Animal Rotunda, you’ll see several smaller animals, including a screech owl, cotton-top tamarins, and the screaming hairy armadillo, who’s surprisingly quiet most of the time.
Beyond the Animal Rotunda, you’ll see the Kirk’s Dik-dik. These tiny deer are not babies; they’re full-grown animals. Then you’ll pass the nene geese on your left and see some more tamarins and a prehensile-tailed porcupine on the right. The larger Indian crested porcupine lives in the large enclosure on the left.
As you walk around the porcupine’s enclosure, look for the giant tortoise. He may be inside resting or—if your timing is right—you might see him wandering out in his fenced enclosure.
Next up is the reptile house, home of the boa and python, on the left and the Children’s Zoo on the right. In the Children’s Zoo, you and your kids can pet goats, donkeys, and miniature horses. Be sure to say hello to Snowball while you’re there: she’s a black-tail deer with a rare medical condition that affects both the color of her coat and her ability to fend for herself in the wild. She was rescued by a family in Molalla ten years ago and moved to the Safari in 2008. After seeing Snowball, the kids can milk a cow (not a real one), or get a picture of themselves as a lamb or a goat in one of the fun wooden cutouts before moving on to the next part of the Village.
From the Children’s Zoo it’s a short walk past the Safari Village Café to the brand new Australian Walkabout (open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Kookaburras greet you at the gate and once inside you might see the park’s new Walaroos hopping about. Follow the path to the walk-in aviary and step inside. At once, you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of chirping budgies and cockatiels flitting to-and fro, along with one large hornbill named Zazu (after the character in The Lion King). For a dollar you can feed them, or just stand still and be a bird-enrichment exercise (as in this 41.1 MB QuickTime video)
Once you leave the aviary—checking the folds of you jacket for birds on the way out—walk past Camp Tiki toward the Train Station. We’ll cover the train Thursday when we talk about paid activities in the Village and park; for now let’s cross the tracks and stop to see the lemurs. Wildlife Safari is home to two species of lemurs: the black and white ring-tailed lemurs and the brown and white red-ruffed lemurs. Watch for them in their houses or out on their respective islands.
Just past the lemurs is the new Lion Deck. Since the lions moved into their new pens in the drive-through this is probably the best place to get an unobstructed photo of one of the park’s lions. Photographers, bring your zoom lens and a tripod; if the lions are out you’ll get a great photo from here.
As you walk back from the Lion Deck, you’re sure to get a whiff of what smells like a skunk. No worries, what you’re smelling is one of the park’s maned wolves. You’ll see them in the large, open enclosure on your right along with a group of what look like giant guinea pigs, but are actually capybaras: the largest members of the rodent family. Past the capybaras you’ll see the Wild America enclosure, home of a South American coti, a bobcat, and the park’s two cougars.
Walking back up the hill past the train tracks, you’ll probably hear the whooping of the Safari’s two gibbons. Their island is located in the middle of the large pond on your left. Stop for a bit and watch them swing and play and while you’re there you can buy some feed for the geese in the pond.
As you leave the gibbons and continue walking, you’ll pass the Event Center on your left and the camel rides on your right. The ticket booth at the camel ride also sells tickets for the train.
Finally you’ll pass the alligators on your right and the playground on your left as you circle back to the flamingos. Straight ahead of you is the Gift Shop, where you can purchase souvenirs—watch out for the stuffed animals, they have a way of talking you into taking them home—and tickets for one of the many animal encounters.
Thursday, we’ll talk about those, along with the camel rides and the train and highlight special events coming up this summer in Part Three.
(Photos by Julia M. Ozab)