Sunday, June 24, 2012

Miscellany: Lion Country Safari

Last month, I took my friends on a visit to Lion Country Safari, a drive-through zoo that has become an institution here in South Florida. LCS is a spirited attempt to recreate the traditional African safari experience; you drive your vehicle through a number of large open fields filled with a host of wild animals, with nothing between you and them except your car window.

I first visited the park on an elementary school field trip, and it really hasn't changed much since I was a kid. Same corny entrance sign, same undulating 5 mph road, same herds of animals:


I didn't notice it when I was young, but the park purposely puts the feed troughs right up against the road, so you can see critters up close. Sometimes it results in a quadruped traffic jam:


Without a little good-natured prodding, the animals usually prefer to remain far away from the road, especially when the weather is as God-awful hot as it can be in Palm Beach County. I mean, just look at how chill these rhinos are:


LCS gives you an audio CD tour at the gate; alternately, you can channel your inner David Attenborough and narrate the park's wildlife identification pamphlet as you drive along. After you finish driving through the safari, you stop at "Safari World," a walk-through mini-zoo. Kids will like the petting area and aviary:


"Safari World" is mostly a way to get you to spend money in the gift shop and restaurant, but there are nice little attractions that wouldn't have worked in the drive-through experience, like this alligator pit (complete with live feeding sessions):


Besides being a fun way to spend an afternoon, the park is one of the few things to do down here that doesn't involve the ocean. So, if you have thalassophobic friends, put 'em in a car, grab a pith helmet, and take a journey down to Lion Country Safari.

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