What do you do when you hear a baby giraffe has been born? You hop in your car, grab some coffee, and make the three-hour drive to Wildlife Safari to visit!

For those not familiar, Wildlife Safari, in Winston, Oregon (just south of Roseburg), is like a drive-through zoo. This means you stay in your car while most animals wander free. It takes about an hour and a half to drive through the park. Along the way, you see zebras, elephants, tigers, bears, turkeys, buffalos, giraffes, ostriches, and many other animals. It’s truly amazing and the animals often come quite close to the vehicles.

Meet a Baby Giraffe: Enrichment Encounter

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Wildlife Safari offers several enrichment encounters. Last week, we met the adorable 3-week-old giraffe (yet to be named) and her beautiful mama, Maya, at the barn, where baby is settling into life. We were driven to the barn in a truck, which is fun because it gives you a bit of extra time in the drive through portion of the park. Although the encounter can include up to 20 people, our group had only five. Once at the barn, we learned about giraffes, the park’s global conservation efforts, and even got to feed Maya!

Maya was very friendly and gentle and the kids loved having her take lettuce leaves right from their hands. The baby was quite shy, and remained near the back of the enclosure, keeping an eye on the group the entire time. The encounter lasted about 30 minutes and it was definitely a highlight of the day. Make sure to arrive on time — the group will leave without you, and you definitely do not want to miss out.

Safari Village

We spent quite a bit of time exploring the Safari Village area, which is free to visit and is home to a children’s zoo, reptiles, flamingos, miniature monkeys and others. There are daily animal talks in the Safari Dome, with a rotation of interesting animals. The kids loved the children’s zoo, and spent a lot of time petting and feeding the sheep and goats.

We were also grateful for the play structure, which was a much appreciated opportunity to stretch our legs and get out some wiggles after arriving and before the long drive home. The village is where you find meals, restrooms, playground, and the gift shop. You can also buy tickets for the train and camel rides in this area.

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Drive Through Park

After all that fun, it was time to do the drive through portion of the park. Signs direct you through the loop, making it very easy to navigate. You are provided with a basic map that shows where different animals are most frequently seen, and provides animal names and basic information. You have the option of purchasing a more elaborate and full-color book if you desire. It wasn’t very busy, so we took our time driving through, stopping to take plenty of pictures and just enjoying the wildlife.

The zebras, giraffes, ostriches and yaks often come very near the vehicles. Large carnivores (think lions and bears and tigers – oh my!) are kept further away with the use of fencing for safety reasons. If you purchase feed cups near the end of the drive, animals (mostly deer and ostriches) will literally put their heads in your car, ready for their snack.

As we left, my daughter hugged me and said “mom, this was so fun.  Thank you for planning all of this for us.” Definitely a win in my book!

We recommend arriving as early as you can. The animals seem to be out more in the morning. It’s also a great way to beat the heat as the afternoons can get hot in the spring and summer.

Be sure to check out Groupon before going. You can routinely find deals on admission as well as the elephant and cheetah encounters. You can also sometimes get additional discounts through Groupon Deals or Things to Do.

A Trip to Wildlife Safari . . .

What it’s not: Close to Portland, inexpensive

What it is: Fun, educational, a great break as part of a longer road trip, and a unique opportunity to see animals in a setting closer to their natural habitat than a traditional zoo

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