Looking to get up close and personal with some incredible wildlife this summer? African Lion Safari might be the activity you’re looking for. Located in Cambridge, Ontario, African Lion Safari is Canada’s original animal safari. It started as a zoo type experience where the owner felt like people would be in cages (aka their cars) while animals roamed free in a reverse-tourist type experience. This seemed to appease some of those against the concept of zoos.
Visitors to the park can choose to drive their own vehicles through the safari course or hop onto a safari bus for a personalized tour experience.
While zoos take a lot of heat due to their treatment and confinement of animals (and we often keep away from posting about them) we got a lot of questions about this specific activity.
Here are our thoughts on the experience, what to expect and whether or not it’s worth the money:
OUR TIPS FOR VISITING AFRICAN LION SAFARI:
(1) If you plan to visit the Southern Ontario area more than twice in a season (May to September) we recommend opting for the season’s pass to save money. If you’re unsure of whether or not you want to do this, you can always buy a single day pass, go for the tour, check out the sites, and then upgrade your day pass to a season’s pass at customer service (which is located near the water park and food areas).
(2) Bring your swimsuits, towels and water shoes. The water park is a big attraction here (which might not be at the forefront of your mind). It’s exciting, fun and a big part of the experience. Towels are not provided and it’s quite extensive so you’ll want water-park friendly footwear.
(3) Take your own vehicle. If you can, taking your own car is a really fun experience for the family. You can control how long you spend alongside each animal and kids can enjoy a close up experience. Don’t get us wrong, the bus is fun too because you’re higher up and you get to hear all about what you’re seeing, from a professional, but it moves along at its own pace and you’ve got a lot of heads around you that you’ll need to see passed.
(4) Pack lunch and snacks. There are great food options on the premises, but the picnic areas are beautiful and it seems to be apart of the whole experience. We saw families everywhere unloading coolers, setting up in the shade and enjoying the outdoors. There’s sort of that communal, summertime vibe in the picnic areas.
(5) Explore the walking area too. We went a few times and only focused on the safari tour. Slowly, we starting making our way through the actual park portion (with the souvenir shop, boat tour, bird attraction, water park etc). There’s a lot for families to do in that area as well so make sure you check it out.
(6) Set aside one hour for the driving portion. In some sections of the safari, there really isn’t that much to see. People seemed to rush toward the lions, then the monkeys, and then the rhinos/giraffes/zebra, which all roam in the same area. In between those exhibits are what feel like filler (geese, deer, mountain goats, elk etc). Kids aren’t as captivated. We find that it takes about 40 minutes to one hour to drive through it and spend quality time at the fun attractions.
(7) Prepare your vehicle. Make sure you arrive at the park with a full tank of gas, beverages and snacks. Once you start the safari drive, in your vehicle, you cannot stop anywhere or get out. Bathrooms are located close to the park entrance so make sure you use them (and get the little ones to go to).
Unscrew any antennas, remove decals and detach your wipers if they mean a lot to you (meaning you’ve spent $$$ on them). Those seem to be the popular items for the baboons to grab on to. We’ve been through multiple times (likely a half a dozen) with NO damage to our vehicles whatsoever. But we’ve seen monkeys munch on radio antennas etc.
(8) Plan to spend a full day at the park (but not in the safari). If you arrive for gate opening (10:00am for the safari) you’ll likely emerge from it right around lunch time. Then, you can picnic and do the other activities (like the elephant show, bird show, water park, boat tour, train ride etc). You’re also welcome to drive back through the safari as often as you want in that same day. So you can always re-enter to check out your favourite animals before you leave.
(9) Manage your expectations. If you’re expecting to get that jungle feel from this place, you’re in the wrong park. Remember, it’s southern Ontario so that’s the type of foliage you’re going to see. On dry days, it can be dusty, animals roam through Canadian trees/plants, and ponds are a bit murky and muddy. If you’re expecting a very basic tour, where you get to drive close to animals, then you’re in the right spot. But don’t expect anything similar to a National Geographic or Planet Earth type vibe. It’s pretty bare bones with piles of rocks and rubble scattered here and there.
Overall though, it’s a fun place. It might be a bit too old for toddlers (ours didn’t seem to have the attention span to watch as long as the adults could). But, we live approximately 30 minutes away from the park so we opted to pick up a season’s pass this year.
If you’re interested in the facts about the park, click here to see WIKI.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on African Lion Safari so please let us know what you think.
Happy summer travels!