Ever since I moved to Arizona, I’ve wanted to take the boys to Out of Africa Wildlife Park.
Set atop the rolling landscape of the Black Hills in Camp Verde, Arizona, this wildlife park offers visitors a chance to get up close and personal with giraffes, predator cats, zebras, and many more wild animals that you might normally see on a safari in Africa! And, it’s just a short drive north of Phoenix and only 45 minutes south of Sedona so it was the perfect day trip for us.
We arrived at the park close to 11am. Unfortunately for us, that meant we had to miss the first show of the day, the Creature Feature. According to the park website, the show would have let us get up close and pet various smaller animals living in the park. Oh, darn.
We purchased our tickets and the ticket agent told us the first thing we wanted to do was wait in the line for the safari tour. We took our limp carrot stick that the driver provided us for the giraffe feeding and sat in an open-windowed bus that toured us around the property. The first stop we made was for the giraffes.
You could tell this guy knew the drill. He followed the bus until we parked and slowly and methodically began eating carrot sticks from nearly every passenger’s hand….or mouth.
This was our awesome tour guide for the short bus trip around the park, setting herself up for a sloppy kiss.
Ew. No thank you.
I tried to get my oldest son to do this but he was not interested.
After the giraffes, our guide drove us to the habitats of the elands, the zebras, the ostriches and a few other animals who, to be honest, I don’t remember what they were. The tour didn’t take very long, maybe 20-30 minutes max but it was very informative and fun.
The zebras followed us around knowing if they stood in front of our bus, our guide was bound to throw some snacks out their way.
Zebras are badass.
Mostly herd animals, this zebra took off from his zebra herd and decided he wanted to join a new herd.
According to the guide, ever since momma zebra had her baby, which by the way is BROWN and white striped, the teenage zebra went rogue and joined up with other herds of animals. The “unruly teenager,” as our guide comically described him, ventured from the elands to the ostriches, searching for a group to fit into.
After the safari bus tour, we hopped off and started walking up the hill toward the predator cat area. Which meant we got to walk right next to the giraffes.
My tall friend.
The big cat portion was my favorite. I love kitties. And cats. Big cats. ALL cats really.
I mean, I thought zebras were badass. Then I walked beside the tiger with only a chain fence separating us (thank god).
The fun thing about the park, which I really appreciated as a photographer, was that they had raised platforms in front of the animal’s habitat that brought you up just slightly over the fence so that you didn’t catch the fence in your photos.
…makes you feel closer to your subject.
I was pretty fortunate to grab some great shots too…
check out those fangs!
After we walked around and saw most of the animals in their own habitats, we decided to stop and get something to eat. We still had time to kill so we made our way over to a couple of concession stands and lots of picnic tables situated near the animal’s habitats. I ordered a turkey hoagie and got some chips and a bottled water for around $8. The kids got a pizza and hot dog in a kids meal. My husband got a burger, nachos, and chips. He was NOT a fan of the nachos AT ALL and Mason thought the hot dog was “gross.” (sigh) I thought my sandwich was delicious, very fresh and soft bread. We came back later during the snake show for some ice cream and refreshments. Slooooooow service that time around but we were patient. There weren’t many choices and prices were comparable between the two venues we used. Not sure if you can bring your own picnic lunch in but that’d be a nice option.
Anyway, we ate our food underneath the shaded picnic table, next to the grizzly bear habitat, I think.
At 1:30, the best, most-anticipated part of the day was coming up: The Tiger Splash Show.
I saw a lot of people were finishing up their lunches and making their way over to the show area. So, after I forced my kids and husband to shove their food down as fast as possible so we could “get a good seat,” we went to find a seat. And we did, in fact, get a good seat in the concrete stands perched above the crystal clear pool.
(OF COURSE, surrounded by a very tall chain link fence that was sure to keep the tiger contained.)
We people watched. We watched the handlers prepare for the show by stretching and doing sprinting exercises. They brought the most beautiful white tiger out. The tiger, whom they named “Chalat,” paraded around the fence line marking his territory, spraying everything (one) in his path.
Then the show began. The owner of the wildlife park who was personally escorting some of the VIP guests to their seats soon took to the microphone and enlightened us all about the natural tendencies of the white tiger. We quickly learned that their “show” was not tigers performing tricks. The handlers were working with the animals natural prey instincts, which, yes, is as dangerous as is sounds.
The men and women who performed in the show were fit, fast, and absolutely full of personality! They used inflatable toys tied to poles to entice the white tiger to pounce, sometimes into the pool, to retrieve his prey. As you can see from the photos, the handlers were actually going in the pool with the tigers.
This must be the universal symbol for “don’t eat me, I’m swimming.”
Once the tiger had claws in his “prey,” he dragged it out of the pool where more handlers awaited with spears to pop the last of the air out of the toy. The owner explained how this tactic was used to keep the tiger’s interest in other toys. Once the handlers decreased the value of his current “prey”, by popping it, the tiger moved on to more inflatable toys.
It was pretty cool to see the power and beauty in these wild animals. There were a few times where I held my breath when the tiger jumped towards the men or got a little too close to pinning a guy to the fence. It was definitely a dangerous situation and like the owner kept telling us, if that tiger wanted to kill any of those men, he would. Simple as that. That tiger has the capability of shredding those men but it chooses not to because of the relationship they have built up with one another. This was clearly a place that cared about the animals in their care.
After the show, we got some ice cream and settled into a standing-room only spot at the Giant Snake Show. Admittedly, this was my least favorite part. Only because snakes absolutely, positively, creep-me-the-hell out! I don’t like them. I never will. It doesn’t matter what you tell me.
I tried really hard to not say much because the last thing I want to do is perpetuate my fears onto my kids.
Didn’t matter. They’re fearless.
Mason was volunteering to go in and help hold the 9+ ft. Burmese python and after the show wrapped up and they allowed anyone to come in to pet the snake, Jack wanted in!
We all had a great day. It was a lot of fun and if you’re nearby to Sedona, take the trip to Out of Africa to experience this unique wildlife park.
The best part is that ALL money spent within the park, goes to maintaining the grounds and feeding and caring for the animals. No federal funds accepted here so come out and support the wonderful world that is Out of Africa.