Out of Africa is a different experience from most of the zoos I’ve been to. General admission is $30 and includes all of the different shows. For an extra charge they also offer small-group safari tours on unimog trucks ($20) and a zipline tour ($90) over the animal pens.
The first thing I did was the 10 o’clock safari tour through the Serengeti section of the park. Getting on the bus our guide handed us each a stick of celery. We didn’t keep our celery for very long because Kivo the giraffe was waiting at the gate to take them from us. If you’ve never gotten a sloppy kiss from a giraffe, this is your chance. Stick that celery in your mouth and let Kivo slobber all over your face when he reaches for it with his 18-inch tongue (I declined this particular opportunity and held my celery in my hand like a normal person). The guide also had a bucket of treats for the other animals so there were zebras, an ostrich, highly endangered addax antelope, and others coming right up to the bus. We even got to see a tiny, week-old baby zebra.
After the safari bus I took a tram up to the main part of the zoo. The tram circles the whole thing, stopping at a few different places before heading back to the gate every twenty minutes, so you don’t really have to walk farther than you want to. This section is where you’ll find the large predators and smaller animals that can’t be in the safari pen. There’s a reptile house & yard, a prairie dog habitat, a marmoset garden (which was empty the day I visited – boo, I love marmosets 😦 ) and several species of big cats. The shows are held near tram stop #2, mostly at the Critter Court. Go here for giant snakes and the Creature Feature, where you can pet whichever animals they bring out that day. The day I was there the show featured a black & white tegu, an green & yellow hybrid anaconda, and a Patagonian cavy, which was about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays they have the predator feed, where you basically walk along with the keepers while they throw big chunks of raw meat over the fences. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays they do the Wonders of Wildlife Show in the splash arena.
My favorite thing about Out of Africa was the Tiger Splash show. Supposedly they are one of only two zoos in the world to do this (the other being Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Queensland). There’s no training or schedule involved; basically, they let one of their full-grown tigers into a large pen with several zoo employees and they just play for half an hour. The toys were mostly trash bags & shredded inflatable pool toys stuffed full of balloons. That day’s tiger, a 340-pound white one named Chalet, had all of her claws so every time she tackled one of her toys all the balloons would pop. The splash part of the show came into play when they held the toys out over the small pool in the middle of the pen, sending Chalet flying through the air and into the water. I was surprised how similar the games were to ones you’d play with a house cat. At one point an employee pulled out a long rope with a large ring on the end of it and started running around the pool trailing it. His goal was to make it around two or three times, he almost made it before Chalet caught the ring, and that was it for him. She didn’t budge during the tug-of-war that followed, even with two guys pulling on the rope and a woman trying to push her forward. Chalet was very good-natured and the employees weren’t afraid of her at all, playfully pulling her tail and messing with her. After the show everyone had the opportunity to go up and feed her ($5) through the fence with tongs.
Given the zoo’s emphasis on tigers & lions, it was funny that the very first animal I saw was a housecat. 🙂