My Walk on the WILD Side!
.The Wilds ~ are you familiar with it?
Whenever I hear anyone mention The Wilds, all I can think of is big, beautiful, friendly giraffes...eating leaves right from my hand, in an open jeep in the middle of a pasture on my 51st birthday.
Hey there, it's Gadabout Gal Kelly and I want to tell you all about one of the best birthdays I've EVER had...I spent it at the largest wildlife conservation center in North America, The Wilds.
Believe it or not, this truly special one-of-a-kind place just happens to be located in Cumberland, Ohio, only about 50 miles east from my home.
A bit of background:
The Wilds is a private, non-profit safari park and conservation center that combines cutting-edge conservation science and education programs with hands-on experiences and one-of-a-kind adventures that include ziplining, horseback riding, fishing and more. The Wilds is home to rare and endangered species from around the globe living in natural, open-range habitats.
The property encompasses over 9,000 acres of reclaimed coal mine land and includes 2,000 acres of pastures and a 27-acre Carnivore Conservation Center. The Wilds is also designated an Audubon Important Bird Area, so the property includes a birding station with a covered lookout, as well as a butterfly habitat with hiking trails, more than 15 miles of mountain bike and hiking trails and approximately 150 lakes.
Sounds pretty wonderful, right?
Oh my. It is.
My husband Jason (aka Honorary Gadabout Guy) and I ventured to The Wilds on a sunny September Saturday afternoon. Our trip included an afternoon Horseback Safari for me, an overnight stay in our own private yurt, and an open air jeep Wildside safari the next morning.
I did a LOT of research about it ALL before we arrived and I must tell you, our visit exceeded all of my expectations!
Here are some of my favorite highlights:
Shortly after we arrived and checked-in, I saddled up for a private Horseback Safari. My guide took me on a path up and around a large portion of the park perimeter. Beautiful rolling hills, grasslands and a butterfly habitat were just a few of the sights. This tour lasts approximately an hour, and the views of the gorgeous landscape and safari areas are amazing! Both novice and experienced riders will enjoy this unique ride. We even had the opportunity to view some of the animals roaming in their natural settings. The scenery was truly so beautiful and the experience was unforgettable.
MORE INFO about the Horseback Safari and other available Tours: Specialty Tours
I truly loved the private horseback ride around the Wilds
After my horseback ride, Jason and I checked into our private yurt on Nomad Ridge where we would be spending the night. It's kind of like 'glamping' on a safari. Tucked amid trees next to The Wilds animal pasture areas, these adults-only (21+over) accommodations are truly special. Our premium yurt had a king size bed, a mini-fridge, 2 lounge chairs, a full size bathroom/shower area, an outside deck and even air conditioning! We loved it!
If traveling to The Wilds and you have the time, I would definitely recommend an overnight stay in a yurt, such a fun and unique experience!
MORE INFO about staying in a yurt at The Wilds: Private Yurts at Nomad Ridge
We relaxed for a while on our private deck area, then went up to the lodge for some dinner. After dinner, as the evening drew to a close, we spent a beautiful, cool evening sitting around the large fire ring on the deck overlooking the wildlife preserve.
We enjoyed sweeping views from the spacious observation deck and used provided binoculars to view the animals roaming in the pastures and beyond ~ everything from rhinos to red-tailed hawks! SO cool!
We also had a fun time chatting with our fellow yurt neighbors. The gates of the park closed at 7:30 PM as darkness fell. The consensus was that we all felt a bit like we were spending the night INSIDE Jurassic Park, amongst a host of wild animals, just steps away! (for me, that was extra exciting...the Jurassic Park films are my FAVES!)
The gates are closed and we are all locked in for the night. Wait, do you hear that? It sounds like a wild animal!
The next morning, we got up early...had breakfast and then headed to our check-in point for our open air Wildside Tour.
Wildside tours are approximately 2+ hours in an open air jeep out in pasture to see multiple rare and endangered species in their open-range habitat. This exclusive tour gives you the opportunity to interact with Animal Management Specialists to see The Wilds at work. Each experience will vary day-to-day, depending on what program work is taking place at the time of the tour.
Jordan was our awesome guide that day. She got us up close and personal with SO many of the animals. What a truly FABulous experience!
Below is just a sampling of some of the animals we saw on our tour, all out in the open...just grazing and wandering the pasture and field areas. A few were curious and would come right up to our jeep (usually seeking a snack), others would keep their distance and watch with curiosity as we made our way around the open areas.
List of a few animals currently residing at The Wilds:
Southern White Rhino, Sichuan Takin, Horned Oryx, Sable Antelope, Persian Onager, Pere David's Deer, Grevy's Zebra, Bactrian Camel, Giraffes, African Painted Dogs, Ostriches and Cheetahs.
(SO many beautiful creatures...it all felt like: "Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!")
Feeding the large, lovely and very friendly giraffes was my most favorite part of the tour!
(Click the video below for some up close giraffe action!)
They were SO sweet and seemed to love getting close and personal with everyone!
Check out this video below of a few stopping by our jeep for a little snack ~ I think my hubby Jason was a little uncomfortable feeding Tuffy (or maybe it was because our guide Jordan was discussing all of the castrated male giraffes, LOL!)
Below is a glimpse of some of the rhinos that our guide saw peeking out of the bush ~ She turned our truck around and drove up close so that we could have a brief 'visit' with them as they emerged. Jordan explained that most of the animals at The Wilds make 'deposits' at their own communal mound areas, which also serve as a social gathering for them...aka the social media of the wild kingdom. Ha!
I have SO many fun memories of this truly remarkable place, I'm really looking forward to going back again...hopefully sometime soon!
Feeding and petting the sweet giraffes was such a highlight, unforgettable!
I hope you've enjoyed this brief peek into what a visit to The Wilds is really like. It is truly an up close and personal experience with some very special animals, in a very unique setting.
The Wilds is open to visitors between the months of May and October, and truly offers something for everyone. This is SO much more than just a zoo visit. ALL AGES will love this one-of-a-kind, immersive experience. Definitely check out their website for all the info:
The Wilds Website: Experience The Wilds
If you love seeing and visiting with unique and endangered animals in their natural habitat....and you've always dreamt of going on a safari ~ I totally recommend a visit to The Wilds sometime very soon!