"And now," cried Max, "let the wild rumpus start!" - Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are)
West Coast Game Park Safari bills itself as the “World’s Largest Wild Animal Petting Zoo.” Located just south of Bandon (and not to be confused with Wildlife Safari located inland near Winston, Oregon) billboards heralding its presence dot Highway 101. The outside appearance of the place is a little lackluster. There's really nothing more than a large wooden fence bordering a gravel parking lot and what appears to be a double-wide mobile home which serves as the gift shop. There are so many “tourist traps” along the Oregon Coast, it sometimes hard to tell an actual quality attraction from someplace that isn’t worth the time or money. From first appearances, this looks to be the latter.
I am not a zoo person. Generally, I dislike the crowds that such places bring and prefer the thrill of seeing animals in their natural environment, when you are surprised to see one rather than having them served up to you on a silver platter. However, my husband loves being able to get close to the animals and photograph them, no matter their environment, so we took a chance and stopped here.
You enter through the gift shop (like so many other “tourist traps) and pay your admission. It cost about $50 for my family of four to gain entry. Once we exited to the outside and passed through two security gates (to keep the animals in) we entered an almost magical land of free-roaming goats, llamas, donkeys and deer.
|I don't think the donkey is quite sure what to think of O!|
My girls were especially thrilled with the deer. While we see them often in our travels, we have never gotten close enough for much more than a few quick pictures, let alone to touch and feed one. They are a bit skittish, much like their wild brethren, but if you are slow and gentle, they will let you near.
As we wandered the grounds, there were the requisite caged animals, ranging from big cats such as lions and tigers, to monkeys, buffalo and bears.
There seemed to be something from just about every corner of the world, including a few things we don’t have here at the Oregon Zoo.
|Not sure if I should be scared or laugh at him....|
While exploring, there were periodic announcements over a loudspeaker system about special hands-on opportunities with baby park animals. One such “encounter” was at the “nursery” and featured more common baby animals such as a raccoon and a skunk that had lost her smell.
|Fiesty baby raccoon. He wouldn't stay still to get his picture taken.|
The biggest highlight of our visit were the tiger and African spotted leopard cubs. Getting to pet them and watch them play so closely was a definite treat that everyone in my family enjoyed. Yes – they are just as soft as they look.
|Jon and Odessa getting up close to the leopard cub.|
|Another gratuitous baby animal drinking a bottle picture.|
My biggest tip for visiting here: Bring your own hand sanitizer. There is a hand washing station provided, but the animals wander through the park and the only place to clean up is near the entrance. Luckily, I always carry a small tube in my camera bag for just such occasions.
In the end, it ended up being well worth the price of admission and we will definitely stop again next time the next time we are on the Southern Oregon Coast!!
Plan your own visit: