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San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Escondido California

san diego zoo safari park
The “African Plains” at The San Diego Zoo Safari Park

I have always wanted to take an African Safari, you know in actual Africa. I have yet to do it and it will probably be more years than I want to count before I can afford to go. It is not that it is overly expensive, but I would not consider it inexpensive either. Also in the light of just losing my job, feeding Boomer is more important than me traipsing off to Africa. Dog’s gotta eat!

So in lieu of a fancy African safari I settled for a safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Note that the Safari Park is not located at the zoo in San Diego, but north in Escondido. My friend Meg and I arrived at the park, where we were greeted by a parking attendant and paid a $10 parking fee. We sifted around the parking lot for a parking space, while there were lots of cars, there were also lots of parking spots. If a long walk to the entrance has you concerned there are tram services available to cart you over to the entrance 🙂

At the entrance we purchased our admission ticket, which included a ride on the African Tram, a viewing of the Cheetah Run and the freedom to walk around and view as many or as little of the animals as we wanted.

san diego zoo safari park
A view overlooking the park

There are many other add-on options to purchase including zip-lines, jungle ropes and several more involved safaris, including the Caravan Safari, which brings you out in to the “African Plains” for an up close view of the animals. Although I would have loved to hand feed the giraffes on the Caravan Safari, the African Tram suited our needs.

san diego zoo safari park
Bald Eagles

The park is broken up in to several sections. The first section we visited was the “Condor Ridge”. Neither Meg nor I are really fans of birds so we figured start with them first and work our way up to what we did like. There were parrots and bald eagles but I would say the most impressive was the condor.

san diego zoo safari park

They may not be the prettiest birds around but they are a site to see as they are currently endangered of extinction. The condor was at an all time low of 22 total birds in 1987. In an attempt to prevent extinction The San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the Los Angeles Zoo began breeding these birds in captivity. The numbers have reached to 435 birds, with 237 of those living in the wild.

san diego zoo safari park

We moved on to the Nairobi Village where we saw an array of smaller animals and more birds all soaking up the sun on this beautiful sunny day!

san diego zoo safari park

The gorilla forest was up next. I think they are cute but there is something that still creeps me out about them. Specifically when you look at their faces as they look so human like. It is a lot for me to handle!

san diego zoo safari park
Lemur walk

To help me get over the gorillas we took the Lemur Walk. Literally walking through their cage. They were not doing much but it was fun to be in the cage with them. It was later in the afternoon and according to the informative sign, Lemurs are knowing for taking a “long afternoon siesta”, which was just what they were doing!

One of the perks of this park is that they serve alcohol at their food concessions. A great way to get me to tolerate kids is to give me alcohol. Since this is a park more suited towards kids, Meg and I made a stop for booze. You can expect high prices for the booze, however not having to leave the park like you do at Disneyland is a real bonus.

san diego zoo safari park

After recharging with a light snack and a “Serengeti Sunset” (which seemed to be some sort of fruit/vodka drink) we charged ahead to the African Woods and Outposts, checking out the unique animals, such as this Okapi. She must have looked at the Zebras and thought to herself “I only need some stripes”

san diego zoo safari park
Yeti and Johari

The time had finally come for something I had been waiting for all day. The cheetah run. Meg and I lined up in a heavily populated area, near where the cheetah would be sprinting down the track. I recommend showing up early, more than 30 minutes, if you want a good view as this is a popular event. We were lucky as we had shorter people in front of us so we had a decent veiw.

The run starts off with “Yeti” a dog, who is supposedly “Johari” the cheetah’s best friend. I did not see any chemistry between Yeti and Johari, but maybe they were having an off day. Yeti showed off his speed as he sprinted down the track as fast as he could. Yeti is adorable, however he sprint was meant as a comparison to the cheetah’s, not to blow us away with his running ability. Johari was up next. She did not mess around and in a flash, she zipped by chasing the lead. Johari’s almost awkwardly too long of legs carry her at full speed around 70 mph (112 km). It was impressive to see an animal run that fast. I also feel somewhat bad for any animal that a cheetah finds tasty… good luck out running them.

san diego zoo safari park
a white rhino
san diego zoo safari park
san diego zoo safari park

Meg and I then hopped on the African Tram and headed out into the “African Plains”.  In the “plains” you see giraffes, white rhinos, gazelles, kudus, cape buffalo and gemsbok among a few other animals. I was quite pleased by the amount of space the animals had as space is one of the reasons I do not like visiting zoos. It makes me sad to see animals caged up in small spaces.

san diego zoo safari park
The lone elephant
san diego zoo safari park
Elephants playing in the water

After completing our tram tour, Meg and I began wrapping up our visit. We had one last stop in Elephant Valley. We arrived to a single elephant, minding his own business and seeking some refuge in the shade. I was perplexed as we were in the valley of elephants, yet there was only one. Then we heard the sounds of playful trumpet like noises. We climbed up a staircase to a viewing platform where there was a herd of elephants playing in the water. ADORABLE!

After Meg pried me away from the elephants (I would have stood there all day watching them) we left the park. I was pleasantly surprised by the visit as it felt less like a zoo and more like a playground for the animals.

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30 replies on “San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Escondido California”

Haha, the best (only) way for me to tolerate kids is with booze, also. This park seems like a very cool alternative to actual Africa considering budgetary restrictions. 🙂

It was a really cool park. I liked that the animals were free to roam (with in their food-chain of course). It is one of the reasons I do not like traditional zoos where animals are caged up.

I’m from SoCal and not too far from this safari park, and I’ve always wanted to go, but never did for some reason. I think this park is definitely on the list now when I get back to SoCal. I’m not going on an African safari anytime soon, so this will have to do!! And those elephants are soooo adorable and happy!

When I told my dad that I was going to this park he mentioned that he lived in Southern California for 21 years and never went to this park. He knew about it but never went. It’s funny how people tend to not visit what is in their backyard! I know I’m guilty of that!

I was just up in Omaha, Nebraska and went to the zoo with my cousins and their young children. We were actually talking about how great the San Diego Zoo is supposed to be! Sadly, there was no booze involved, but the kids were very well-behaved. The highlight was riding a camel in a small circle with the 2 1/2-year old lol.

What fun to ride a camel! I went to the Omaha zoo a few years ago. It is a pretty nice zoo but I liked their wildlife safari located about 30 minutes from Omaha a little better. It was similar to the San Diego Safari – lots of wide open spaces for the animals – however filled with traditional North American animals like Buffalo, Elk and Wolves.

Two things, Brittany. I had no idea about the condors. Great to hear about the improved numbers, and booze to tolerate kids – sounds like my daughters!

It’s nice to know the condors are making a comeback … even if they aren’t the prettiest bird to look at!

As for the booze – it makes a lot of things in life more tolerable in my opinion 😉

I much prefer the Safari Park over the Zoo for precisely the same reason as you — so much space for the animals to roam around in. After that Serengeti Sunset, did you think that you were just seeing things wrong when you saw that Okapi?

We love the Safari Park! We live about 30 min from here and my kids couldn’t get enough of the tram when they were growing up. I much prefer this to the zoo also. They have dramatically improved through the years. They were also known as the Wild Animal Park before. This cures our wanderlust for an African safari too because it’ll be awhile before we go on one. Glad you enjoyed your visit here.

12 years ago I took my then 10 year old granddaughter to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park….for 10 days! No, she wasn’t a child that required tolerating 🙂 We spent two nights in the Safari Park in deluxe commendations with extra tours and one night in the zoo in a pup tent! It was fun watching the rhinos bed down for the night. The elephants and lions discussed something very loudly for hours after dark. Knowing we could “Safari” but the animals did NOT have access to us was very comforting! I highly recommend the Roar and Snores They even have “Adult Only” sleepovers. And much lower cost than going to Africa; no shots needed!

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