If you’ve always dreamed of visiting Africa, but just never had the time or money, then Out of Africa Wildlife Park (928-567-2840, www.outofafricapark.com, may be just what the doctor ordered. Located in Camp Verde, just 30 miles south of Sedona, this remote refuge is home to hundreds of exotic mammals, birds and reptiles from around the world. But it’s more than just a zoo or preserve, as the founder’s mission is to raise awareness of these exotic creatures and help visitors understand their behavior by in-person contact.
The refuge is located on over 100 acres of rolling hills, and although parts of it are a bit rugged, quite a lot of thought was put into access for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. The access begins in the parking lot, with accessible parking located near the entrance, and a barrier-free pathway to the ticket kiosk.
From there, you’ll find level access over to the boarding area for the African Bush Safari, one of the keynote attractions in the park. It’s best to take the safari tour first, as the line gets longer as the day progresses. The 40-minute tours are conducted in open-air buses, from 10 A.M. to noon, and from 2 P.M. to 4 P.M.
There is ramp access up to the bus in a separate boarding line, and a wheelchair space with tie-downs on board. The tours travel through the 25-acre Masai Mara enclosure, as the guides point out animals along the way. You’ll see zebras, Watusi cattle, antelope, giraffes and the rare addax on the safari.
There are plenty of photo stops along the way, and the guides throw out food to entice the animals to get closer to the busses. It’s not hard to get good photographs, and sometimes the animals even stick their heads inside the vehicles. As the vehicles approach the giraffes, the guides distribute acacia leaves to the passengers, so everyone gets the opportunity to hand-feed a giraffe. It’s a fun tour, as it allows visitors some up-close-and-personal face time with the animals.
Explore the Park
The safari tour is only part of the Out of Africa experience, and you’ll want to save some time to explore the rest of the park on tram or by foot. Although the road around the enclosures is paved and wide, it gets a bit steep at the top, so it’s not a good choice for slow walkers or manual wheelchair-users. That said, the tram travels along the same road, and features level boarding with an accessible space behind the driver.
The tram departs from the main station, near the entrance, next door to the aviary. The first stop is near the lion, tiger and wolf enclosures, where you can get an unobstructed look at these beautiful animals. The second stop is near the arena, the food court, and the tiger, hyena and bear enclosures. Up at stop three you can have a look at the reptile house, leopards, lions, tigers and the servals. And to round it out, stop four features the prairie dog village and the macaw house.
Access is good to the viewing areas for most of the enclosures, and the reptile house also features ramp access. The hop-on hop-off tram runs until 4 P.M. daily, so you’ll have plenty of time to see everything.
Catch a Show
Make sure and check the show schedules when you get to the park, so you can plan your day around the many animal shows. At the top of the list is the trademark Tiger Splash show, presented in Tiger Splash Arena. There is paved access from tram stop two, down to the accessible seating area of the arena; and the good news is, the accessible seats are in the first row.
This show features Bengal and Siberian Tigers that interact in the water in a predator-and-play relationship with their caretakers. It’s fun to see them splash down in the pool as they play with their toys, although there are a few-seat-of-the-pants moments when the caretakers actually become the prey. It’s interesting, in that the shows aren’t scripted; the animals just use their natural instincts.
There is also at least one Creature Feature show during the day. This interactive animal encounter is held in Critter Court, near tram stop two, and it features some of the more popular residents of the park. One day it’s Tucker the armadillo and the next it might be Diego the lizard. You never know what to expect, but it will be fun and informative.
Last but not least, if you visit on Sunday, Wednesday or Friday, you’ll have the opportunity to watch the staff feed the animals in the wild. Although this tour is a walking tour, tram transportation is available for those that are unable to walk. It’s a great thrill to see the employees haul in huge slabs of meat, and then watch the predatory instincts of the animals kick in as they devour the food. You’ll get to see a variety of different behaviors as nearly 800 pounds of raw meat is delivered to bears, hyenas and lions. And of course it goes without saying that the photo opportunities are fantastic. It’s rare to get to see this kind of feeding behavior outside of Africa, and definitely a highlight of any Out of Africa visit.