Photos by Kelsey & Scott Walters
You may recall earlier this year, our family visited Wild Florida, just south of Orlando. We had an amazing time there and were thrilled when we were invited back to try out the wildlife park’s newest experience, the VIP Safari Tour.
Wild Florida offers the chance to not only see native Florida wildlife, but exotic creatures as well, in a natural environment as well as up close and personal with a variety of activities and experiences. The relatively new drive-through safari park, which opened in summer of 2019, takes you through a natural landscape with over 150 exotic and native creatures. Since there are no aggressive animals in the safari, you are free to take stops along the way and really admire the animals. Wild Florida seamlessly blends the African savanna with a more familiar American forest landscape for a beautiful adventure.
Touring the safari in the comfort of your own car is a great adventure for the entire family, especially little ones who love to meet new creatures. If you’re looking to really step up your experience, the VIP Tour is the way to spend your day. With the new tour, you are taken on an exclusive off-road adventure in a side-by-side all-terrain vehicle (ATV). The tour, lasting about an hour and a half altogether, can accommodate up to four passengers and is truly a wild ride through the habitat. Because you are in a smaller vehicle with park staff, you can venture off the beaten path and get closer than ever to these amazing animals.
Bonus feature: since these are the same vehicles used to feed most of the animals, they are very friendly and curious to see what you may have on-hand. We spent most of our drive being stalked by Sid the camel and a hilarious duo of ostriches. One of which, Ozzy, was desperately trying to show us his mating dance for the season, while his counterpart snuck in to snatch snacks, and my hair on occasion.
While the DIY drive-through safari features an audio guided tour with facts about the species on-site and a fun scavenger hunt, the VIP experience really takes you behind the scenes. Our excellent guide, Andrew, has been responsible for many of the creatures’ upbringings – bottle feeding quite a few of them – as well as their daily feedings and care. Because of this, the animals not only flock to their best buddy on arrival, but he can also offer insight into their unique and often hilarious personalities.
The new offering coincides with the park’s latest expansion, doubling the safari length to four miles and adding tons more animals. What started as an airboat tour company, Wild Florida continues to expand its horizons and experiences, with plans of adding even more animals along the safari in the future including rhinos.
The VIP experience doesn’t stop there, though; plan for a full day of fun and adventure! Your pass includes giraffe feeding (a family favorite) at the platform just outside the safari. Here you’ll find the likes of park ambassador, Walter, and his counterparts, eager to snag lettuce leaves, and occasionally a hand or arm with their long tongues as they remind you to feed them more snacks.
Admission to the Gator Park is included with the safari and is the perfect way to stretch your legs after your exciting ride. The Gator Park is home to countless alligators and crocodiles from around the world, including the resident star, Crusher – a 13-foot beast with his own daily show highlighting the American alligator’s brute strength and intelligence, as well as their importance to our ecosystem. Also included is a photo with the local “ambassagator,” Fluffy, and gator feeding in the alligator lagoon teeming with hungry jaws.
While the crocodilians are really the main attraction of the park, there are a ton of other animals here to round out the experience. From a cuddly petting zoo to sleepy sloths and a stunning Florida panther, there’s no shortage of wild encounters here. One of the best parts of visiting this time of year is seeing all of the new babies born in the spring out for the first time and exploring their surroundings.
Our favorites included the sloth, where we got to peek in on Mama and baby during an afternoon snuggle session complete with tiny kisses, as well as Avery’s all-time favorite animal, a tiny fuzzy bison. We affectionately refer to the local bison herd as “Cuppy’s Family,” named after her imaginary pet bison that lives in our garage.
Our day was rounded out with lunch at the on-site restaurant, the Chomp House Grill, and enormous slushies in souvenir cups that kept us cool in the Florida heat (all included in the VIP package!) This summer, you could spend time planning your outings, or skip the lines and let Wild Florida do it for you and treat you like the true VIP you are!
Hours and Pricing:
Mon – Sat: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Closed Sundays
VIP Safari Tour: $169/person. Advanced registration required
Drive-Thru Safari Park: $22/adult, $17/child (Florida resident pricing) – Gator Park admission included
Airboat Rides: starting at $31/adult, $28/child (price varies by length of ride)
Photos property of East Coast Current
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