Among the experiences you might expect to have in Ohio: attending a college football game, navigating a cornfield maze, exploring revitalized big cities, visiting an amusement park, and discovering off-beat roadside attractions. But… going on a safari? Like a real one, with cheetahs and giraffes? Yeah, that’s something that doesn’t immediately come to mind when thinking “Ohio”. But just eighty minutes east of the capital, Columbus, you’ll find The Wilds: a branch of the Columbus Zoo which offers a unique safari experience for the whole family.
To say that Mike and I were skeptical about our visit to the Wilds would be a massive understatement. I mean, we had just spent 91 days in Ghana. But as difficult as it was, we kept a lid on our “World Traveler” snobbishness, because we were visiting the park with our nieces and nephew — and they were very excited. So, with a healthy dose of faked enthusiasm, we piled onto the tour bus.
The first twenty minutes of our tour didn’t do much to dispel our skepticism; we only spotted a handful of deer from far off, and then pulled over for a weirdly extended stop at a cage full of budgies. Wild!! Sigh… at home in Valencia, we have parakeets flying around that are way more beautiful and interesting than budgies. (Whoops, there we go again… what we mean to say is, “Wow kids, look at the budgies! That’s amazing, huh?”)
Luckily, after the budgie cage, the tour improved immensely. The next stop was at the African Painted Dogs. The largest canines in Africa, they hail from Sub-Saharan countries, and their fluffy round ears make them look very cuddly … though I doubt it’d be a good idea to try. We hadn’t yet encountered Painted Dogs on our travels or even in the numerous zoos we’ve visited, so we didn’t have to exaggerate our enthusiasm here. And then our truck drove just a little further along the path and we discovered another animal which was new to us: the Sichuan Takin, a type of goat-antelope which dwells in the thick bamboo forests of Tibet and China.
The tour continued impressing us as it went along. We saw a herd of rhinos in the mud, warily restful cheetahs, and the always unnerving ostrich. Another highlight was the giraffes, which we were able to get quite close to — some people on our bus even had the chance to feed them. Bumping around the preserve, with wide open vistas, and incredible wildlife, you could almost convince yourself that you had somehow been transported to the African Savannah, right after the rainy season.
In fact, by the end of the tour, Mike and I were having so much fun, that we were talking about returning for a stay in one of the on-site cabins. As we giddily discussed these unlikely plans, one of the kids rolled her eyes at us. “Geez guys, it wasn’t that amazing.” Well, alright… but would it kill you to fake a little enthusiasm for the sake of your excited uncles?
Official Website: The Wilds