Friday, October 24, 2008

Wildlife Safari, Winston, Oregon

This week we learned that an ungulate is a hoofed animal, and, thanks to a click of the mouse on the Wildlife Safari website, my kids and I discovered that WS was offering a special on feeding the gentlest and gigantic-est of ungulates, the giraffe. Normally $45 per person, this week WS reduced their feeding fees to $10 per person. And I think everybody knows how I love a good deal...

We drove the hundred miles north on Wednesday night, because the kids don't have school Thursday or Friday due to conferences, and spent the night at the Safari Inn. Mike and Jan joined us, and the next morning we all headed off on safari in my station wagon to start our day with a drive out the 1-1/2 hour loop.

Most of the animals roamed free, like this rhino, above, who just eyeballed us from about twelve feet away -- no barrier.

I say they roamed free, but WS actually has them sectioned off by continent, and sometimes by species, where they can roam a general area. That's how we saw ostriches, rhinos, camels, giraffes, zebras, bison, yaks, some kind of monkey (can't remember what kind) -- lots of WS's 500 animals. It was so exciting to have them just outside our open windows.

The highlight of the day was definitely the Giraffe Feeding. Our truck-driver/giraffe-feeder guide, Patches, drove us out to the giraffes where we stood on benches in the back of her truck and fed Mate and JT carrots and bananas from a bucket.

The giraffes were 18 feet tall, both males (a third male roamed the area but didn't join us). They smelled like grass and dirt and something else -- something pungent -- and their heads were huge reaching down to us. One of them had gnarly scar tissue over his left eye from clashes with another giraffe. (Who knew?)

When they reached down they often brushed against our shoulders or breathed warm air down our necks, but no matter how tempting it was to pet them, we had to remember not to. Evidently, that's not safe.

The kids were a little cautious at first, but once they felt those whiskery lips pulling the carrot from their fingers or watched the long black tongue wrap itself around the banana in their hand they realized they wouldn't get hurt.

Before we headed to the feeding, I gave each of the kids a disposable camera so they could capture the experience on their own terms. Here's Dane thinking hard about what's to come:

He spent a bit of time looking pensive. After some encouragement, he started asking Patches his questions. He wanted to know things like "What's the closest relative to the giraffe?" and "How much do they weigh?" and "What's the most useful animal here?"

1. Patches couldn't quite remember, but we looked it up this morning: The closest relative to the giraffe is the okapi. If you want to see a spectacular creature, click on that.
2. Female giraffes weigh up to 1500 lbs; males weigh up to 3000.
3. Patches thought the most useful animal there was the elephant.

Here are the kids stretching and hanging from the truck railing, happy after their big giraffe encounter.

Next summer they have a program called something like Elephantastic Week. You'd better believe we're all over it.


SFNielsens said...

AWESOME! That would have been so much fun. My parents are in Africa, if you'll remember, and it would be so fun to see the animals they see on a regular basis. We'll have to look into that. You got some super photos.

anjie said...

You definitely should. It's at exit #119 off I-5. Not too far from you, I think...

Miss you guys,

Anonymous said...

Still tingle with joy as I was reminded, as each great pic came to view, of the wonderful experience we had feeding the giraffes. Being so close up to these magnificent animals was awesome. Thanks for putting this excursion together for us.
Grammy, JJJ

Cyrus and Annie said...

SO COOL!!!!!!!!!!!

Natalie N said...

Anjie, as always, I so enjoyed your writing. The descriptions made me feel like I had a giraffe breathing down my neck or rubbing its whiskers on my hands. You're brilliant! What a fun adventure!
Oh, and that Opaki (I can't remember his name) was the craziest animal I've ever seen. Thanks for introducing me to something new today. :)