Disclosure: I participated in a recent press trip of several Ohio State Parks, Ohio State Park Lodges and Ohio attractions. I was provided with free accommodations, meals and other perks during our trip. All opinions expressed are my own.
Our day at the Wilds began with a delicious box lunch courtesy of Salt Fork Lodge. Our luncheon vantage point: overlooking the Wilds 9,000+ acre safari below. The Wilds, located in Cumberland, Ohio, is North America’s largest wildlife conservation centre for endangered and rare species with over 350 mammals from around the world. Animals here at the Wilds live on natural, open-range habitats where they are free to roam in the pastures.
After lunch, we boarded an open-air safari bus to tour the safari grounds, which gave us a fabulous opportunity to view the animals up close in their natural surroundings. The first animal we met was a 4,500-pound rhino alone in a pasture, who eventually worked his way over to our bus.
We then met up with some camels, who thought it would be fun to block our bus path. Guess they were feeling mischievous, as they soon surrounded our bus (remember we are in an open-air bus). One of them even found the bus mirror appetizing. Along the route, we also saw a wide variety of mammals, including wild donkeys, horses, bisons, giraffes, zebras, ostrich, and deer.
The highlight was a detour from our route to meet up with two rhinos at the rhino center. We were able to reach in and touch them (feels like very dry clay) and the baby rhino was clearly enjoying our company. The Wilds continues to play an important role in the species survival plan for rhinos, with currently 6 Indian rhinos and 13 Southern White rhinos at the center. In fact, just days prior to our arrival, a baby Indian Rhino was born out in the open pasture surrounded by the herd.
Our next stop was the Carnivore Center, home to the cheetahs and dholes (Asian wild dogs). I must admit I was rather relived to know I wouldn’t see any meat-eating animals running beside our open-air bus. As it was an extremely hot day, the animals were resting in the shade of the trees but the trainer soon gave them a reason to come out with a mid-day meal. Seeing them rip apart their meaty snack, made me thankful to be watching from high above and reminded me that though these animals look rather cute and docile lying in the shade, they are wild and dangerous predators.
If you’ve always wanted to spend a night at a safari, there are 2 types of on-site lodging available at the Wilds. Twelve Asian inspired yurts with private bathroom and deck overlooking the safari can accommodate a maximum of 2 guests. Yurts are available from May through October for guests 21 years of age or older.
Families can stay at the Lodge, a private cabin that sleeps 12 (max) with private access to Lodge Lake complete with a water trampoline, fishing, canoes and paddle boats. The lake is very deep but the Lodge has an assortment of lifejackets available. Available year round, there are 6 bedrooms, each with 2 twin beds and private bath. The kitchen is fully equipped and there’s also an outdoor charcoal grill at your disposal. A screened in porch is perfect for rainy days and a large outdoor fire pit provides a great gathering spot for roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories. The Lodge has everything you need for a getaway (including linens, board games even beach towels). Just bring your guests and enough food and you’re set to go.
Though we didn’t’ have a chance to visit, the Wilds also houses a butterfly habitat from June to September and bird watchers will enjoy following the raptors and ospreys at the birding station, which is open year-round. The grounds at the Wilds also contains more than 15 miles of biking and hiking trails. I was surprised to learn that there are multiple ways to experience the Wilds, other than by bus. There are zipline safari tours (ages 10+), where you’ll truly get a birds eye-view of the safari below, horseback safari tours that will take you along the beautiful landscape of the Wilds (ages 9+) and even catch and release fishing (Ohio Fishing License required) either by boat or from the bank of one its 150 lakes and ponds.
The Wilds is an incredible, unique hands-on outing for all ages, that in my opinion is a must see attraction for visitors. It’s open year round (reservations recommended) and not only was our visit super fun, it’s also a fabulous educational experience for the kids (and adults too) with an incredible scenic backdrop for photographers.
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About Wendy Morelli
Wendy loves her 2 kids and her iPhone, not necessarily always in that order. She is an app obsessed mom who loves everything tech and is (unfortunately) old enough to remember the brick Motorola cell phone and the Commodore computer. Her love for technology stems back to the 10+ years of working for technology based companies. Wendy's alter ego, "AppHipMom" has been featured in Canadian Family, iVillage, Women in Biz, EverythingMom, BlogHer and Savvy Mom.