I have driven past signs off of Northern Avenue saying Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium but figured this place might be a little on the boring side. I mean, how many good exhibits could they have in the middle of a desert?
The answer – a whole bunch! I walked through the East Entrance of the park and right in front of me was the water flume log ride that entered one of the aquariums, encircled three primate islands and had a three story splash drop. “All right,” I thought to myself. “What else does this place have to offer?”
I started walking west along the dirt path. I wish I had worn tennis shoes instead of flip flops, but I did not let that distract me from enjoying the park and my day. I worked my way past a wandering albino peacock while being led by the songs of more than 1,000 birds featured at the park.
Opposite the birds is the third largest of the big cats in the Americas, the spotted and black jaguars. The spotted jaguar was a bit on the shy side, but the black jaguar paced back and forth eagerly awaiting the zoo keeper to bring in food.
The cutest place of all, and I think the worst smelling, was the baby animal nursery. Adorable baby meerkats, monkeys, spotted and black jaguars, baby warthogs, a porcupine and timid fawn slept, climbed trees or sniffed around their food dishes not paying much attention to visitors.
Next were the tigers. I really expected to see like always, the tigers lying down sleeping in the shade not doing much of anything. I approached the enclosure and saw a female white tiger splashing around in her rock pool.
She kept attacking the water, running circles, diving at the water, then jumping out and running along the fence line splattering mud on patrons. She loved every minute of it. Out of the two white and one orange tiger habitats, the female white was the most entertaining.
Past the tigers, around the primate islands and around the curve featuring ocelots and vultures, sits Dragon World. Some of the oldest species on earth reside in this exhibit. Pythons, alligators (including a white alligator) and crocodiles call this place home and still bring a sense of fear, but increased my respect for these powerful animals.
As I walked past more exotic bird exhibits, I saw a beautiful 2.5 ton white rhinoceros. He was a bit far back in his enclosure but was enjoying his mud pit. After a few moments he slowly moved forward until his whole body was sideways about 10 feet from me grazing on a small patch of grass.
A long row containing plains zebras grazing, dromedary camels chewing, majestic articulated giraffes plucking leaves from the tops of trees and warthogs mud bathing, all paved the way to the parks newest attraction, the Safari Park.
The new 15-acre environment features a lion habitat, which is home to a rare female white lion and a couple of African lions. I was able to see her lying in the grass in the shade looking very peaceful and comfortable. The large open spaces in each exhibit provide space for ostriches and sable antelope to roam.
What makes the Safari Park unique is the tram ride. Park visitors can ride this tram around the Safari park and through the exhibits, which gave a whole new experience to visiting a zoo.
During the summer, the sun can be a bit brutal but the park offers three separate aquariums to beat the heat of the day. Diversity of Life in building A, features different species from seahorses, turtles and many types of fish from around the world. Building B is home to The Wild and the Wonderful, a new sea lion habitat, and some freaky eels that reminded me of the eels from The Little Mermaid. The sea lions were fun to watch playing and swimming enjoying the cold of the water.
The last aquatic exhibit in building C is Predators, and the name speaks for itself. This building features a touch tank and feeding for stingrays. While playing with the stingrays, lurking behind you are black tipped reef sharks. It was amazing to be that close knowing there were only a couple inches of glass between me and this ancient predator.
On the east side of the zoo sits Dillon’s restaurant, a partner of Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium. Dillion’s offers amazing food with a spectacular one-of-a-kind aquarium as décor. Sharks swim past your table and an albino alligator peers at you through the glass as you take a bite of your food. On the walls are military items like a chief’s shadow box and tributes to fallen military members.
I have always loved animals, so being close to so many different, wonderful and majestic animals was a day well-spent. Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium has the largest collection of animals with more than 600 species and more than 5,000 individual animals in Arizona and is also Arizona’s first and only public aquarium with more than 80 exhibits in the aquariums alone.
If you have an affection for animals, or even if you don’t, and want to do something amazing with your children or even go on a date with that special someone, go to the zoo and escape the world of humans for a few hours. I look forward to going again when the pirate-themed sea lion show opens in the fall.