The Wild Side: Georgia's Wild Animal Adventures
by Julie Edwards
Looking to take a walk on the wild side? Then look no further than Georgia’s wild animal parks and preserves. You and your family can get up close and personal with all kinds of animals, from wolves to wallabees. Whether you are looking for a day trip or a weekend excursion, here are some great options to consider.
Play in the Park
One of Georgia’s best kept secrets, Chehaw in Albany, boasts more than 700 acres available for recreation, education and conservation. Located deep in Chehaw, the Wild Animal Park features native and exotic animals, many of which are considered endangered species, including the red wolf, black rhinoceros and giant antelopes known as bongos. Guests can stroll along the scenic boardwalks, through the cypress swamps and see many of the animals in their natural habits, and kids will love the Children’s Farm, which features miniature horses, alpacas and pigs. Other exhibits include the reptile house, home to an impressively large Burmese python, and the alligator outpost where more than two dozen American alligators reside.
What you need to know: A park and zoo pass is $8.25 for adults, $7.25 for seniors and $5.25
for children; 229-430-5275, www.chehaw.org.
A Walk on the Wild Side
Just a short drive away from Atlanta is a place where you can see, touch and feed hundreds of
exotic animals—Pine Mountain’s Wild Animal Safari. Spread over 200 acres, the Wild Animal
Safari boasts nearly twice as many animals as the Atlanta Zoo, including ligers (half tiger/half
lion). Visitors can drive in their own car, or ride in one of the Safari’s Zebra Vans, on a 3.5-mile
paved road that brings you face-to-face with 500-600 free-roaming animals. Unlike other animal parks, visitors can feed many of the animals—animals will walk right up to cars in search of a snack. In addition, the park’s Walk-About zoo environment is home to primates, alligators
and other animals.
What you need to know: Tickets for adults are $17.95. Children and seniors are $14.95; see Web site for seasonal hours; 800-367-2751, www.animalsafari.com.
A Most Excellent Adventure
Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta is really two parks in one—a theme park and a
water park. See Bengal tigers, giraffes and elephants up close via the Safari Train, the best way to view the park’s animal population, which winds through the park as the conductor informs guests about the animals they are viewing. The 7,000 sq. ft. Lorikeet Landing aviary houses colorful lorikeets and parakeets as well as tortoises, large ground birds and Koi fish. Tigers of India highlight the agility of the big cats and the Creature Feature exotic animal show features live
animals, comedy and crowd participation.
What you need to know: A two-day pass is $45.99 for adults and $40.99 for children and seniors and covers admission to both parks; www.wildadventures.net.
The Oatland Island Wildlife Center in Savannah is a wildlife experience occupying over 100
acres of maritime forest and exhibiting more than 50 species of animals. Beyond a zoo, Oatland is an educationalcenter that showcases Georgia’s local animals in their own habitats along approximately two miles of trails. Wolf Wilderness, allows visitors to have a “nose-to-nose” experience with a pack of wild gray wolves, separated by glass, of course! Guests also can have a “hands-on” experience at the Georgia Farm, where they can interact with animals such as goats, pigs and donkeys.
What you need to know: Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children and seniors; 912-395-1212, www.oatlandisland.org.
A Wild Wonder
Home of Wildlife Wonders and Paradise Valley Farm, North Georgia Zoo in Cleveland hosts over 80 different species of exotic animals, some of whom have even been featured on TV shows like Rachael Ray, Vampire Diaries and Dirty Jobs. What once was strictly a “visit you” zoo, now has opened its doors to visitors on 30 acres in the Appalachian foothills. A Wildlife Walk provides a tour of exotic animals, from alligators to zebras. The Camel Encounter trailer ride visits camels, water buffalo and yaks. Paradise Valley Farm houses over 30 breeds of livestock, including the rare miniature zebu cow.
What you need to know: Wildlife Package(Petting Zoo, Camel Encounter and Wildlife Walk) is $25 for adults and $23 for children; 706-348-7279, www.northgeorgiazoo.com