Lion Country Safari – West Palm Beach, FL

October 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Posted in For the Family | 1 Comment
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Jambo!  Welcome to Lion Country Safari, America’s first cageless zoo!  LCS has been a long time personal favorite of mine.  I have so many amazing memories of going with my family when I was young, having birthday parties there when my incredibly brave mother would bring a van full of my and my friends, and I still remember how excited I was the first time I was old enough to drive through myself. (If you didn’t know I was an animal nerd before, there’s a statement that gives all the proof you need.)  This zoo offers two different types of experiences – the Safari World Amusement Park (which we’ll get to a little later) and the drive through safari.  When you first enter the safari, the gatekeeper will give you a CD to listen to as you explore the park.  Pop it in, there is a lot of great information in there about the animals you’ll be seeing in each section.

The first area you’ll be entering is Las Pampas, the South American name for “grasslands”.  Here you will find residents like the Aldabra Tortoise, one of the largest tortoises in the world who can live up to around 150 years; the Rhea, who stands about 4 feet tall, making it the 4th largest of all birds; the Llama, used in many South American farms to help with hauling as well as raised for their wool, meat and milk (and yes, they do spit, though it’s not something you have to worry about here); the South American Tapir who love to spend time in the water.  You’ll also find an island of Brown Pelican’s, many of which were once wild pelicans who have been injured and are unable to be returned to the wild due to injuries that would make life difficult or impossible for them survive, and now have a safe home here.

Next, you’ll enter the Ruaha National Park, an area of Africa known for its abundant variety of wildlife.  Here you’ll find the Greater Kudu, a beautiful antelope species with striped marking and curved horns on the males.  The Impala can also be seen here, a very agile breed of antelope that makes its predators work hard in the wilderness.  Also here is the Aoudad, a species of antelope that is famous for its ability to go for long periods of time without drinking water, able to get all the water it needs from the plants is grazes on.

The third area you’ll drive through will be the Kalahari Bushveldt, named after a large dry plateau in Southwest Africa.  This area is home to the Nile Lechwe, and antelope who is considered to be rather slow on dry land, but is incredibly fast when it comes to running through water or muddy areas, thanks to its wide hoof.  Also here is the Gemsbok, an antelope species in which both males and females sport those long horns, though injuries from fighting are not common in this rather peaceful breed.

The drive will bring you to the Gir Forest next, named after a national park in India.  The largest animal you’ll see here is the Asiatic Water Buffalo, an animals who has become very domesticated, with only hundreds truely living in the wild.  As its name suggests, it loves the water, and you’ll often see just its head sticking out when it’s cooling off.  There are also two kinds of antelope here – the Nilgai, which is the largest of the Asian antelope, and the Blackbuck, named for the dark color of the males.  Here you will also see a herd of Kulan, AKA the Asian Wild Ass, who is the fastest of the horse family and can reach speeds up to 45mph.

As you drive through the Gir Forest, you have the option to drive through the Gorgongosa Reserve, named after a wildlife reserve in Mozambique.  While you have the option to pass this section, why would you want to miss the namesake of the park – the Lions!  This area is much different than the rest of the drive, the Lions are kept behind a fenced area and unable to cross the road or approach your car.  This aspect has changed from when I was younger, the Lions used to roam their section just as freely as the rest of the animals on the safari.  It was much cooler back when they weren’t separated, but I’m sure at some point in time someone did something stupid like roll down their windows, try to feed the Lions, or push their luck and attempt to exit the car.  So while I don’t blame LCS at all for making it a safer environment for both humans and lions, I still miss the old version.  Regardless, it’s still awesome!  The Lions, who are the largest members of the cat family, have a huge area to roam and are under constant supervision so fear not.  This pride (family of Lions) has plenty to do to keep busy thanks to Lion Country Safari’s Lion Enrichment Program.  If you come early or late enough in the day you may be lucky enough to see them up playing.  Otherwise they’re usually pretty lazy during the heat of the day, but still beautiful when they’re napping.

After finishing in the Gir Forest, you’ll find yourself entering the Serengeti Plains, named after the Serengeti in east Africa.  Here you’ll find several types of antelope like the Eland who is the tallest of the African antelope and can reach a whoppin’ 6 feet tall, the Waterbuck with its telltale target-like marking on its rear end, and the Wildebeest who doesn’t look much like an antelope at all and is also known as a Gnu (Who gnu?!)   You’ll also see the Watusi, AKA the Ankole Cattle, with their giant horn set that can span as large as 10 feet. One of the most entertaining animals you’ll find in this area is the Ostrich, the worlds largest bird.  It’s not uncommon to see them approach cars and peck at your windshield.

Also in the Sernegeti Plains is an island that houses the parks Camels and a Rhinoceros.  This island used to be home to LCS’s family of African Elephants up to just less than a decade ago, but Lion Country Safari’s participation in an elephant conservation program has sent them off to more “elephant friendly” zoos in the country where they have the opportunity to enter breeding programs to help save this endangered species.  One of them is as near as Animal Kingdom in Orlando.  So now the area has become home to other animals.

The final stretch you’ll drive through is Hwange National Park, named after the reserve in Zimbabwe.  This is my favorite section of the drive.  Here you are usually greeted by a herd of Grant’s Zebra upon entering the area.  Zebra’s are as unique as human beings – their stripes are like fingerprints, no two are the same.  Mingling amongst the Zebra’s, you’ll find the White Rhinoceros.  Unlike the name suggests, they’re gray and not white, and are usually quite docile animals, though you are still warned that they can do damage to your vehicle.  LCS is a participator in the Species Survival Plan for the White Rhino and has a very sucessful breeding program. (You can even see one of the babies pictured above.)  Along your drive you’ll see several primate islands, home to Chimpanzee’s (on the left) and White-Handed Gibbons (on the right).  Lion Country Safari is a participant of ChimpanZoo, a program headed by Dr. Jane Goodall, in which researchers are trained to observe Chimps.  At the very end, before exiting the drive, is the Giraffe’s.  Standing at up to 17 feet tall, they are the tallest land mammal.  Be sure to visit the Giraffe feeding inside the park to get a close look at their 18 inch long purple tongues!

Once you’ve completed your drive, remember to return your CD and enjoy the rest of the park.  There is a restaurant but you are also welcome to bring your own lunch and enjoy in the picnic area.  There are animals on display in the Safari Park like Alligators, Flamingos, Monkeys, Parrots, and tons of reptiles that will make little boys jump for joy and their mothers run off.  There are also a good handful of rides for the kids (and even adults) including a carousel, ferris wheel, safari boat ride, paddle boats, camel rides, and many others.  You can play a round of mini golf, visit with the animals at the petting zoo, or feed the Giraffes or the birds in the Lory aviary.  On hot days, there is a splash park to help cool you down.  Lion Country Safari really is an excelent way to spend the day with the family.

IF YOU GO:

Find more information on the park here… http://www.lioncountrysafari.com/index.html

I recommend going either first thing in the morning when they open, or later in the day.  The animals tend to rest during the heat of the day and you’ll see much more activity when they’re not taking their mid day naps.  You’re able to drive through as many times as you like, so if you arrive around noon and find the animals are rather lazy, drive through again before you leave and they may be waking up again.

If you think for any reason that you may return to LCS within 365 days of your visit, get the annual pass!  It will pay for itself within your second visit.  It also gets you free parking and discounts on other guests, at the gift shop, and on special programs like behind the scenes tours.  It also gets you other perks at participating parks during certain times of the year. (Right now, LCS annual passholders recieve free admission to Jungle Island through November 4th)

If you’re into camping, there is a KOA on sight for tents and RV’s and even have cabins to rent.  There would be nothing like waking up to the sound of a roaring lion!

Enjoy your day here!

Photos taken with my Nikon D3100

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