(Click on photos to see them full size.)
Today, we decided to go on a safari to Africa, thanks to a billboard that Jeremy and Anya fortuitously spotted on their way into Sedona.
After a relaxing breakfast of eggs made by yours truly, we made the 30-ish minute drive to Out of Africa, a fantastic wildlife park in Camp Verde, Arizona.
We arrived just in time to catch the first African Bus Safari of the day, and were lucky enough to have Courtney,the Serengeti Department Manager, as our bus driver/tour guide. She provided a great balance of information, history, and humor to make the tour interesting, educational, and fun, and she also knew the animals well enough to be able to show them off to their full natural splendor.
During the tour, we weren’t allow off of the bus (after all, we were inside a wildlife habitat that was inhabited by wildlife); however, we were still able to get very close to giraffes, zebras, antelope, water buffalo, and several other animal species as we made our way through the park’s “Serengeti preserve.” We even got to feed a giraffe, and I’m pretty sure Dad held the leaves between his teeth so that the giraffe had to give him a kiss to get its snack!
After we finished the Safari, we decided to walk around the park for a while. We ended up staying almost 5 hours total, and it was a wonderful experience. The park features a great many cool animals (including the albino tiger I photographed and have as the header photo for this post), and it’s set up to allow for close—and safe—encounters between humans and animals. One of the highlights was definitely the park’s “Tiger Splash™” show, where we got to watch two of the tigers interact in a predator-and-play relationship with their handlers and some toys. It was very cool! Ari LOVED everything about Out of Africa, and even became “friends” with one of the lizards that kept crawling up to its habitat’s window to “say hi.”
At one point during the day, while Victoria went off in search of a bathroom for her 7-month-pregnant self, Ari used the time to play tag with an unexpected new friend: a huge tiger. It was pacing back and forth along the edge of its habitat, and so Ari ran back and forth with the tiger for a few minutes. Of course, I shot some video of the encounter, which you can see here:
A few other encounters we had included:
By the time we left Out of Africa, it was already time to start thinking about dinner, and so we decided that we wanted to go to a highly-rated restaurant called Javelina Cantina Sedona. Debbie offered to make the reservation, so I read her the phone number from the website I was looking at and she called and made a reservation. About 30 seconds after she got off the phone, she said, “Wait a minute, that was the area code for New York City, not Sedona … I think I just made us a reservation at the totally wrong restaurant!” After we finished laughing, she called that Javelina restaurant to cancel the reservation, and then called the correct Javelina restaurant to make a new reservation. Except, somehow, she also found the wrong Javelina restaurant and again made a reservation at the wrong Javelina restaurant. I don’t remember exactly how we realized it, but all of a sudden we were all laughing again, and Debbie was back on the phone cancelling our second wrong reservation. After that, we finally managed to get a reservation at the correct version of the Javelina restaurant, and it was good that we did! The place was hoppin’, and the food was great. I had the delicious Salmon Tostada, Victoria enjoyed her Rocky Point Fish Tacos, and Ari enjoyed eating Mexican rice off of both our plates in addition to the PB&J sandwich we had brought along for him.
Now, we’re all happily back at the house with our feet up for a bit of R&R before tomorrow’s adventures.