SAN PASQUAL VALLEY —- With spring break under way, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has launched its spring season of safari tours, that range from open-air photo caravans in the main enclosures to Segway tours and zipline adventures.
Two years ago, the former Wild Animal Park changed its name to reflect its new focus on interactive “safari” adventures. It now offers nine different ways that park visitors can see, feed, photograph, fly over and even sleep near the park’s animal inhabitants, according to park spokeswoman Dani Dodge.
The Caravan Safari (starting at $127 for ages 3-11 and $137 for ages 12 and up) is a one- to three-hour ride into the park’s open savannahs where African animals roam free. On these rides, parkgoers can learn about the species from veteran tour guides like Lee Kirchhevel, who has been leading tours at the park for decades. Caravaners can feed eucalyptus leaves to giraffes, carrots to rhinos and learn interesting factoids, like just how much poop the park’s animals create each day (answer: a lot).
A Rolling Safari takes adult visitors on a two-hour guided tour via Segway two-wheeled vehicle (ages 13 and up only), price $122. A similar guided Cart Safari (in an eight-passenger golf cart-type vehicle) is one hour and costs $72-$82. And the Flightline Safari ($102-$112) allows visitors to soar over the savannah in a suspended zipline harness up to 160 feet high. The 2/3-mile trip, which takes a couple of minutes, is one of the longest uninterrupted ziplines in North America.
There’s also a Behind the Scenes Safari ($102-$112), with a two-hour backstage tour visiting off-exhibit locations like the veterinary medical center, training area for the animal shows and conservation research lab. And the Roar Snore Safari offers overnight tent camping in the park from $152-$182.
And for the especially well-heeled, there’s the Ultimate Safari, a tailor-made VIP tour that ranges from $550-$950 per person. Park spokeswoman Dani Dodge said this safari — which requires 72-hour advance reservations —- is popular with celebrities and guests who are looking for a “once in a lifetime” experience. Ultimate Safari-goers can choose their own adventure for five to eight hours with a a private guide.
Reservations are recommended (and in some cases required) for each of the safari excursions at: sdzsafaripark.org/safaritickets/view_all_safaris.html .