Monday, November 28, 2016

Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon

I didn't take this photo, but the one I took of the entrance
was blurry, so I'm borrowing this one from the internet. 
One of the places I'd heard great things about and that we wanted to see for ourselves was right on our way down I5 in Winston, Oregon - Wildlife Safari. There are probably a million photos of it online that are better than ours, and more professional, but these are ours - proving we were actually there. So bear with me - haha - bear! The only animal we didn't see, because it was hibernation season.

When you drive into the Wildlife Safari, first you drive down a narrow and winding road - there is enough room for cars to go both ways, but we got there early enough that we didn't drive by anyone leaving as we drove in. You drive through a lovely forested area for about a mile maybe, down down down into the area where there is parking, a gift shop, smaller snimals in smaller enclosures, and a walk-through area. You drive up to the window where a super friendly employee of the park tells you all the rules: 

1) Drive slow, not more than 10 mph (we did more like 5, as did everyone else there)
2) It's fine to have your windows down as you drive through, but if an animal approaches the car, roll your window up
4) Stay at least 4 car lengths away from the Rhino
5) You can drive through twice as long as you reach this window again by 4 PM (it was like 11 AM at the time). 

That's what I remember. They also give you a sheet that tells you what animals are in what areas, so you understand who you're looking at. When you drive in, there are arrows that point the direction, but they're not always perfectly clear, and at slightly unclear points there are also rangers in towers who kindly point the way for you (and are probably also making sure that people do NOT get out of the car, because sadly, not everyone listens to the rules ("But the Lions are behind fences! How else am I going to get the best photo?)

The variety of wildlife throughout the park - it really was consistent with animals one might see on a safari in Africa - all of the animals except the one Asian elephant I think - were really from Africa. And they seemed to do a good job taking care of them and keeping them safe - everyone looked fed and happy, and with the exception of the overly curious ostrich, none of them seemed more than bemusedly disinterested in the cars driving through.

The Rhino, to our relief, was WAY at the top of the hill when we came through, so we were much more than 4 car lengths away from him. Apparently Rhinos like to climb. Who knew?

Wildlife Safari also has what I think I remember to be one of the most successful cheetah breeding programs in the country. Apparently it is SUPER difficult to get cheetahs to breed in captivity, but when we were there, we saw a proud (and slightly irritated/protective) cheetah Mama and she had FIVE adorable fluff ball cubs. I'd call that successful! I do NOT think she was enjoying her babies being on display so openly though, considering how far back into the woods they go to breed. Mama was pacing like she really wanted to take the cubs back to the protected area, not be so vulnerable here where the humans drive by.

Make no mistake, the cars get nowhere near where the cheetahs are - but it's still through a chain link fence rather than being hidden in the forest as it should be. But you know, I get it, considering it's a huge place to support, and I'm pretty sure baby cheetahs are a pretty big draw for the public - I mean there was so much cooing in our car that you'd have thought a cute bomb exploded in it. It did, in the form of our eyes taking in the sight of 5 baby cheetahs rolling all over each other playing and hunting each other. 


And all of the animals are ones one doesn't just see any old where in North America, that's for sure. Zoos, some of them. Others we'd never seen before in real life. The whole experience was amazing for us. When we first drove in, after the lions, we came upon the giraffes. I've never been that close to a giraffe - you can really see the evolution from the dinosaurs when you're that close. At one point I thought this guy was going to sit on our car, but he just walked  by the front - so close!

I was so blown away. 

At all of the animal areas they had little huts like ths one, full of hay and whatever else they ate. 

Sorry for all the spots - it was raining off and on and there were water droplets on the windows, which as you remember, we were instructed to leave up if the animals walked up - which the male giraffe had.

Some of the other animals we got to see:

The zebras - my people. They hold a special place in my heart. 

These. I think they're elk?

The smiling llama. He was just chillin' by the side of the road. 

The lovely emu.

The hippos. Again, you can see the dinosaur origins. So amazing. 

Two African elephants and an Asian elephant. I'm not sure about their space, like is it back behind this building? All of the other animals had ample space to roam, so it's difficult to imagine that the elephants remain in such a small area, but it was so far back and you cannot leave the car, so there was no way to tell from where we were. 

White deer that I am forgetting the name of. 

My favorites of the big cats.

There is also a smaller walking area after the drive-through one, and a gift shop and snack bar. We of course bought a plush from the gift shop, because the kiddo loves his plush. And my husband fell in mad love with these little floofers: 

Obviously it's an experience we highly recommend for anyone who likes animals at all. It's so cool to get that experience up close. If you're going through Oregon, definitely stop in Winston for this experience. 

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