“AAAAAND if you’re feeling really courageous you can put your snack right between your teeth and let Pilgrim the giraffe give you a wet sloppy kiss!” My eyes grew wide in excitement with this news from our tour guide from Out of Africa Wildlife Park. Rach took one look at my face and immediately knew that I had made up my mind about which strategy I felt was most acceptable to feed Pilgrim the giraffe. It was my 28th birthday and I was feeling pretty tired of the usual birthday hoopla. Who needs a party with gifts and the happy birthday song? Not me. This year I wanted to do something a little different, something adventurous, which is how Rach and I found ourselves at Out of Africa Wildlife Park on the morning of February 24th, 2017.
We woke up early and I quickly made some PB&Js, gathered our supplies, and rolled my eyes at Rach while she sang happy birthday to me. Out of Africa Wildlife Park is in Camp Verde, Arizona which is about 1.5 hours north of Phoenix (and 1 hour south of Flagstaff). Admission is a little steep compared to the free St. Louis Zoo back home, (about $27 per person, but tickets are cheaper if you buy them online–as low as $16) but you get in free the month of your birthday which made it completely worth it for us. There are also a few extra activities you can add on to your admission fee such as a sloth feeding, zipline tour, and a unamog (large open air jeep) tour that takes you farther into the animal enclosures. We decided against adding any extras because general admission allows you to walk by all of the animals and also includes an open air guided bus ride that takes you to all the herbivore enclosures to see countless zebras, antelope, water buffalo, ostrich, and even giraffes. As we stood in line for the bus tour to begin a staff member handed us a small green branch and informed us that the best time to go on the tour is early in the morning when the giraffes are hungry. Lucky for us we arrived only 30 minutes after the gates opened. We waited for a few minutes for the bus to drive up and quickly snatched a spot in the second row. The tour was fabulous! Our guide was extremely knowledgable and I’m sure you all are dying to know if I fed a giraffe right from my mouth….well, of course I did! I told you I wanted to do something adventurous for my birthday. Luckily my branch was large and the giraffes lengthy tongue didn’t get too close to my face.
After nearly smooching a giraffe, Rach and I got off the tour bus and walked around the remainder of the grounds to see some of the predators. We could not believe how many lions, tigers, and bears were in the park. We were able to get within 8 feet of many of the animals and really see them interact with each other. They even have scheduled feeding times in the afternoon where you can see the animals in full action. We spent the next few hours walking around the expansive grounds snapping photos of all of the animals.
Finally, after having a lion growl at me, and a zebra nearly eat my gopro it was time to head back to Phoenix because of course Rach had baked me a homemade chocolate birthday cake. Even though I was sick of MOST of the normal birthday hoopla, I wasn’t sick of all of it and that cake was calling my name!