Safari in Ohio? Yes, this really exists! Because my grandparents are hip and happening people, I took them on a safari for their birthdays! My boyfriend (Marc), my mom, grandparents, and I all took a trip to the Wilds this past fall.
What is the Wilds? The Wilds is a private, non-profit safari park that is also a conservation center! It is located near Zanesville, Ohio (technically Cumberland, Ohio) out in the country near where I grew up! They have several incredible animals to view on a variety of tour options. For our tour, we did the open-air bus safari tour. This ended up being about 3 hours total and we loved every minute! After arriving at the parking lot (at the bottom of the hill–first thing you see), we paid for our car and got on a shuttle to take us up to the ticket booth, restrooms, and tour pickup.
I bought our tickets online and at certain times they offer a discount, so watch for deals! After confirming our tour time and getting everything in order, we went to wait for a tour bus. They seem to come in intervals pretty close to 15 minutes so if one is full, you just grab the next one. We ended up toward the back of the bus (the bus is open air, but covered, so that was nice). And we were off!
So, the number one thing to mention would be that this tour is bumpy. And when I say bumpy, I mean you will bounce around like you’re on a trampoline. My grandma was not anticipating this and most of the pictures show her death grip on the hand bar. My grandpa and mom, however, seemed to diabolically enjoy this aspect of the ride. Be prepared to be jostled!
I want to preface my review my saying that this was my first safari. So my experiences are not pitted against an Indian or African safari, though I am interested to hear how you think this compares to other safari experiences!
That being said, the tour felt like we were in the wild. The animals were free to range the 2,000 acres of pasture (although a couple of pasture were separated with fencing). We immediately spotted some rhinos in a watering hole and some Pere David’s Deer. I personally loved getting to see these Chinese deer that were at one point labeled as extinct in the wild. The deer are semi-aquatic and enjoy the water. They were frolicking in a lake at the end of our tour.
The bus route takes a long, winding, and, at some points, very up or downhill paths! With the rolling hills and forested landscape in the distance it was a beautiful drive. The camels were seen up close and personal, when they walked right up to the bus!
We stopped at a bird house and had the option to get off the bus and feed the parakeets. Marc, my grandpa, and I hopped off to do just that, and my grandpa especially was fascinated with the little guys. The birds, themselves, were fascinated by Marc’s sneakers. 😊
After getting back on the bus we got to see some of the Przewalski’s wild horses walking down the road and Grey’s zebras (with a baby zebra!) up on the hill. As a big fan of horses, these encounters were awesome!
The tour leads to a 27-acre carnivore conservation center, which also has an area to get some snacks, go to the restroom, etc. It is a bit of an uphill paved walk to the building (carnivore animal enclosures are outside) and there is a staircase or ramp option once you arrive at the building. One tip I picked up from our tour was to grab a snack if you wanted, but ordering meal food like a cheeseburger might take up some valuable touring time of the carnivores. We had lunch at a McDonalds in Caldwell, Ohio before arriving and a snack was all we needed. This seemed to work out well.
The carnivore center includes cheetahs (Marc’s favorite, we saw them WAY up close), African Dogs (these guys scare me and I would never want to be on the other side of that fence), and dholes which look like an dingo crossed with a fox.
A tour guide told us that geese sometimes fly into the dhole and cheetah enclosures and aren’t really bothered, but that once a goose flew into the African dog enclosure and the pack got him! They said geese stay FAR away from that enclosure now. Yikes!
Loading back up onto the bus, we next encountered some giraffes … so graceful! And then we entered another rhino paddock. The southern white rhinos were very close and my mom’s favorite part of the day! They have a wonderful breeding program for all of these animals—conservation efforts are part of the great purpose of this park.
It was the common ostrich, though, that would steal the show. As it turns out, ostriches can be pretty curious and one such ostrich became fascinated by my grandma. She loves animals only from a distance and became terrified as he walked closer. Occasionally the bus would inch forward as we viewed the rhinos and the ostrich would follow with his stalking, loping stride! Much to my grandma’s relief, we left the paddock before the ostrich could do anything more than terrorize with his stare.
When the tour ended, I felt as though it was worth every penny and plan to go back again! All in all, I give it a 4 out 5 stars for accessibility.
So, have you ever heard of or visited The Wilds? Are there any fears, concerns, or questions of the unknown I didn’t cover? Comment below and let me know!
See my helpful trip tips below for more information! 😊
Per Person Cost: $ (>25) $$(25-50) $$$(50-100) $$$$(100-200) $$$$$(200+)
This is definitely a destination that will require driving a vehicle. Uber doesn’t even exist out here! The Wilds website offers directions and we printed these. In addition, we used Google maps and downloaded the trip. Service is DEFINITELY spotty, so make sure you don’t go too fast and miss your turn—you might not have the bars for your phone to correct your trip! With the printed directions and the GPS we arrived just fine. You park in a lot prior to entering the conservation area and a shuttle brings you up to the ticket office, restrooms, etc. The shuttles were running very frequently on the Saturday we visited.
Parking is $6 per vehicle.
Open-Air Safari Tour: $30 (This was our tour!)
Wildside Tour: $125
Winter at the Wilds Tour: $125.00
Mostly snack options and drink stops: $
Mostly obvious safety advice similar to zoos. Stay sitting on the bus, because otherwise you will go flying on a bump!
US Dollar: I recommend booking your tickets in advance, as they do sell out tours on the weekends. Online purchase requires a credit card. Tickets at the location can be purchased in cash. Food and drinks could be purchased for cash or credit. Remember to bring some cash for a tip for your tour guide—ours was fantastic!
For more information: https://thewilds.columbuszoo.org/