By Cheryl Rodewig, The BayonetSeptember 10, 2009
FORT BENNING, GA - Eye to eye with a 15-foot giraffe Aca,!" it doesnAca,!a,,ct happen most every day, unless youAca,!a,,cre at Wild Animal Safari, that is, where itAca,!a,,cs nothing out of the ordinary.
At the park, there are animals from six continents, everything from the American bison and blackbuck antelope to the Bactrian camel and kangaroo. But donAca,!a,,ct expect your typical zoo experience. On the 200-acre preserve in Pine Mountain, Ga., youAca,!a,,cll get up close and personal with the animals. If you choose, you can pet them, feed them and, if youAca,!a,,cre not quick, be slobbered on by them.
The Aca,!A"Serengeti AdventureAca,!A? begins aboard a tour bus. A guide drives along a paved trail and points out zebras, sheep, buffalos and giraffes as they approach the bus or Aca,!" as I saw Saturday Aca,!" try to board the bus. The animals crowd around the vehicles. Many stick their heads through the window, perhaps in the spirit of camaraderie, perhaps following the scent of food, which you can buy for $2.25 a bag.
Visitors can rent a van or even drive their own car along the trail, though IAca,!a,,cve heard the hooves, antlers and horns can be rough on a carAca,!a,,cs exterior.
For an enjoyable safari, remember to bring a bag of feed, a camera and a towel. The camera will help you capture those priceless moments of a family member or friend feeding an elk. The towel is there for the slimy aftermath. Or you can buy a souvenir Aca,!A"I Got SlobberedAca,!A? towel.
YouAca,!a,,cll want to save a little bit of your feed for Aca,!A"The Walk-AboutAca,!A? portion of your safari. Many of the species in this section are among the more carnivorous: an alligator, hyenas, wolves, black bears and ligers Aca,!" half lion, half tiger. They wonAca,!a,,ct be interested in the feed. However, a small barnyard animal area provides a place for you to snap some more pictures and use up the rest of your animal snacks.
Each exhibit has signs providing extra information about the animal on display. The parkAca,!a,,cs mission is to offer not only an entertaining experience but also an educational one. Some of its animals, such as the water buffalo, Siberian tiger and banteng, are endangered. Others, including the lion, ring-tailed lemur and gaur, are at high risk of extinction in the near future.
With nearly twice as many animals as Zoo Atlanta, Wild Animal Safari is suited to any age and any size group.
Park officials suggest allotting at least two hours for your stay, but you can spend longer, especially if you venture into the gift shop or cafAfE+.
Admission is $17.95 for adults and $14.95 for seniors and children. Military and emergency personnel receive a 10 percent discount and children younger than 3 get in free. Season passes, discounted next-day tickets and group rates are available.
The park opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 6:30 p.m. on the weekend and 5:30 p.m. weekdays. For more information, visit www.animalsafari.com/safari or call 706-663-8744.