An Oregon Safari, Part One

Sleepy Cheetah Cub (Photo: Julia M. Ozab)

Oregon is known for many things: rainy weather and micro-brew, Portlandia and drive-through coffee, beautiful coastlines and spectacular mountains, Ducks and Beavers and cheetahs.

Cheetahs?

Yes. One of the Western Hemisphere’s most successful cheetah-breeding programs is based at the Wildlife Safari wild animal park in Winston, Oregon.

It’s also home to lions and tigers and bears—oh my!—along with elephants, giraffes, hippos, zebras, wildebeests . . . and that’s just in the “Africa” section of the drive-through.

The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $17.99 per person ($14.99 for seniors, $11.99 for children ages 4 – 12, free 3 and under) and there are group rates (15 or more) and membership options. Admission includes two trips through the drive-through section of the park where most of the animals live. Admission to the Safari Village is free.

Part One: The Drive-Through

This is the highlight of the park, especially on a cool, clear morning when the animals are out and about. I recommend heading straight to your first drive-through as soon as you arrive.

Look for the dromedaries (camels with one hump) to the left as soon as you drive past the entry booth. If they’re not in the village giving rides, they be here. Also watch out for peacocks: they like to hang out around the parking lot. Then, as you enter the gate, you might be greeted by the “welcome ostrich.” One of the males: he’s very curious about cars and will peck at you, so be ready to roll up the windows as he approaches.

Young Zebra

As you drive through the Africa section, you are guaranteed to see plenty of zebra and Watusi cattle. Neither are shy about cars, so watch for them crossing the road and remember that animals always have the right-of-way. You’ll also see at least two of the giraffes wandering around—sometimes strolling right past on the road. If you’ve never seen a giraffe up-close it’s an amazing sight.

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