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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Orlando Vacation: Day 5 - Safari Wilderness Ranch

In a change of direction and as a special treat we decided to get out of Orlando to enjoy a different kind of activity. Safari Wilderness Ranch allows its visitors and opportunity to see some of the more unusual animals found around the world to be viewed and in some situations feed.

It had been reviewed in the Fort Myer’s newspaper in February and while I was visiting my parents my Mom indicated a desire to check this place out. As she said it’s unlikely that they will go on a real safari in Africa as I had done several years ago and this place seems to offer that type of experience. 

We reviewed Yelp and Trip Advisor and just about every past visitor raved about the experience and so I suggested that if they were still in Florida when I visited Orlando in May that they should come up and join me for the day at Safari Wilderness Ranch.

As we got closer to my vacation it was clear that my parents would indeed still be in Florida and would be able to join us. I made a reservation based on the 10-day forecast and a plan was made. They would need to wake up pretty early to make the roughly 3 hour ride up to meet us. Our ride would only be about 30 minutes from our resort to the Ranch.

In an example of perfect timing when we got off the highway so did my parents and we arrived simultaneously. After a quick check in at their new barn we waited for the first group to finish feeding the Ring Tailed Lemur’s so that we too could enjoy the experience. Feeding the ring tailed lemur’s was an add on experience that I didn’t want to miss.

After a quick orientation from our guide and instructions not to get too close to the animals but rather let them come to you. Also never touch them. They can touch you but you can’t touch them and second don’t hold the grapes so close to you that they climb on you.

With all of that covered we entered the multi-gate enclosure. Once inside our guide gave each of us a few grapes and instructed us to pull them apart and feed them small pieces. With each piece the lemurs seemed to grow even more happy to see us and feed eagerly from our hands. They climbed their polls and the shrubbery all in an attempt to get more.  It was a fun experience and we managed to get a few great photos of us feeding these friendly animals.

Next we boarded a modified Short Bus. It had its roof and windows removed as well as the door and instead had a canopy to keep us out of the sun. Again we were instructed on a few rules designed for our safety and that of the animals and once done we were ready to go.

We proceeded to the first gate where we meet a heard of llama’s and a few very aggressive Ostriches who were eager to be feed by the guide. She went on to explain the other animals in this section of the park. Sadly there were so many I am afraid I couldn’t repeat them if I tried.

Next we moved on to another section of the park where we got to see Zebra, a Wild Warthog, a big rodent looking creature, a brown tailed lemur and some. Then we moved on again to visit the Asian Water Buffalo where we got to feed them by hand. It was a unique experience which we all enjoyed. I would recommend to anyone picking up some of the food at the barn to take part in this portion of the tour.



After that we moved on to see the camels both dromedary (1 hump) and Bactrian (2 humps). We learned that they are in a narrow but very long pen and that they work uniquely as border patrol between the sections of the park.

We visited a few more sections with more animals I can’t remember their names but the website lists the following types that you can see as eland, red lechwe, sitatunga, springbok, waterbuck, Grant’s zebra, greater kudu, Watusi cattle, barasingha, axis deer, fallow deer, water buffalo, scimitar-horned oryx, nilgai, and blackbuck antelope.

After a great time on safari we asked for suggestions for local good eats. I felt a little like Anthony Bourdain in Parts Unknown when we pulled up to the Red Top. It was a backwater bayou style place with the smoker out front in full use. We entered and it was like the music stopped. Clearly we didn’t fit in but they smiled and welcomed us to their establishment. We found a table in the corner and our friendly waitress made a few suggestions and we all settled on the Pulled Pork Sandwich with French fries and homemade Mac and Cheese. While the facility was a bit unnerving the food more than made up for the lack of hygiene.

After saying good bye to my parents we headed back to the resort for an afternoon lounging by the pool and floating down the lazy river. After a few hours of relaxing sun and aimlessly wandering around the weather turned a little and we ditched the pool thanks to the thunderstorms. Instead of sitting around we opted to head out and visit the Outlet Mall.

When we arrived the parking lot was grid lock. We managed to find a spot and made our way into the maze of a mall. We found a bunch of great outlet shots for some of my favorite retailers like Lululemon, Johnston and Murphy, Nike, North Face, Ralph Lauren Polo, etc. I managed to pick up 5 new shirts, 2 jackets, & a pair of new Air Nike’s and all for $250. The find of the day was the $295 North Face Jacket for only $34.00. The second find was the $168 Lululemon for $40.

After working up an appetite walking the mall we decided it was time for dinner. We grabbed dinner at the Bone Fish Grill where we had an exceptional meal. It fast became our favorite spot in Orlando to grab a bite to eat. By the time we finished eating and made it back to the resort we were all spent and turned in early.

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