Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Amazed by Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde, AZ

For my recent birthday, my friend, Sarah, and I went up to Camp Verde to the Out of Africa wildlife park.

I was a little leery when I saw the road into the park was dirt.  But the park itself was amazing.  

The park people have things planned for you to see as much as possible.  First there was a Safari tour.  This drove through an open area where the animals are loose and the people confined to the tram.  The guide, Courtney, was entertaining and fun.  

I’m sure Courtney’s spiel was well-rehearsed, but the delivery made it seem spontaneous. My favorite part was the warning about not putting fingers out toward the zebras or ostrich. She said, You’ll only make that mistake once. Or 5 times if you’re a slow learner (as she counted down on her fingers.).

All day, it was obvious that the people working here love the animals. They have 2 male giraffes that they have to keep separated to prevent fighting over a non-existent female.  She said male giraffes cost $35,000 but females are $100,000.  If I ever win enough in the lottery, I will buy them a female giraffe. We saw a giraffe up close and Courtney even had it take a cookie from her mouth. 

Zebras were next, then an ostrich.  Courtney said her favorite animal was Chili Pepper the ostrich.  She brought the ostrich all the way around the tram so everyone could see it up close.  She had beautiful, thick eyelashes. 

 Lions, Ibexes, and some strange animal that looked like a long-horned cow, but wasn't.  One zebra hangs out with the antelope instead of the other zebras.  There were many more, but I've forgotten their species.  I tipped Courtney and thanked her for an entertaining tour when we debarked.

Then there was a “train” ride to farther points.  The driver was chatty but not as entertaining as Courtney.  But the animals were amazing.  The first was a huge Bengal tiger, a cross between an orange and a white.  The driver got out and encouraged her to come closer by throwing her little bits of meat.  Then he encouraged her to stand up at the fence by holding meat above her head.

She was huge! And beautiful.  I didn't get a picture because there were too many people and the posts in the train were in the way. Next time I will know to sit on the right side of the train. 

We saw more lions, panthers, black bears, tundra wolves, a brief glimpse of an Australian porcupine, emus.   One set of tigers were hiding, as was the grizzly bear.  But the driver coaxed the white tiger, Chalet, up onto the roof of the shelter by throwing food.  She was magnificent.  She shared the area with a lion.   Next, there were lemurs and prairie dogs.

 The habitats were large and well tended.  There were various kinds of shelters and most had pools of one size or another. The animals looked extremely well cared for.  Many are quite old, which is a testament to the care they get.

Got off the train in time to see a critter show.  If we had been closer, we could have pet the bearded dragon and the cavie being demonstrated.  Sarah and I were more interested in the bunny inside the fenced area nearby, and the two hyenas walking the fence a mere 10 feet from us.  The hyenas are bigger than I realized.

We wandered a bit, to get some better pictures and views of the animals.  There were overlooks providing great views of the lions, tigers, and panthers, and the emus close up. 

Grabbed something to drink then found a shady place to wait for the Tiger Splash show.  Tiger Splash show was awesome.  There was a larger grassy area with a 20-foot-high fence, and a big concrete, in-ground pool in the center.  They brought Chalet, the white tiger, out to the arena 15 minutes or more before the start of the show.  

She ran with some of the kids along the fence.  She wandered the perimeter of the arena.  She backed into the pool a couple times to cool off, and to get a drink.  

The show was very entertaining.  There were 7 people in the arena.  The announcer, two women who picked up pieces of the inflatable toys and popped them when necessary, and 4 guys who played with Chalet.  

They must have gone through a dozen large inflatable toys.  The toys were dangled from long poles.  One of the guys would tempt Chalet by dragging or hovering the toy.  Once he got her interest, he would take off and jump into the pool.  Sometimes she dived into the pool and grabbed the toy.  A couple times she stopped at the edge and waited for him to come back out.  They did various configurations of this for 30 minutes or more. 

They would pop the toys while Chalet was chewing on them.  That was to get her more interested in the new, bigger toy being offered.  The crew was very careful about picking up all the bits of torn plastic.  Oft times she reminded me of Bogie, pulling pieces off the toy, holding it protectively under her paw.

The guys were very aware of what they were doing, but one even grabbed her tail and wound it like a toy wind-up when she wouldn't be tempted by the new toy.  Another time they were playing tug of war and he grabbed her tail “to help”.  Still, they were careful to stay out of claw reach.

We wandered a bit more after the show, looking at the Barbary lion, his mother (age 21!), and other animals.  It started to rain.  We took shelter under the lip of a lean to.  But the water was dripping off. So we high-tailed it to a tram stop with a bigger dry area. 

When the rain slowed, we wandered towards the entrance.  We almost passed a lion without seeing it.  Sarah caught it in the corner of her eye.  The female was laying up against the fence no more than 6 feet away from us.  It bothered her not at all when we stopped to take pictures of her.

As we wended our way, the rain got harder.  That wasn't a problem.  It’s when the lightning cracked and sounded like it was right over head that we decided walking might not be the best idea.  A Safari tram was coming by and stopped to pick us up.  This was faster, but not drier.  The rain came in through the open sides.  And when the tram turned one way or another the collected water rain under us.  We debarked in the pouring rain, soaked almost through.

And laughing about it.  

We plan to return again this fall when the weather cools off.   Next time I am taking my DSLR camera with the telephoto lens.  

I am going to get some awesome pictures!

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