Looking across the landscape of Wildlife Safari from the bears area.

Wildlife Safari is in Winston, Oregon and is the only drive-through animal park in the state. It covers over 400 acres, is home to over 500 animals, and hosts over 200,000 visitors a year. Margaret and I bought tickets for a close-up cheetah “enrichment encounter” at 11am before we drove through the park.

Cheetah celebrity of the day.

She sat patiently while people stood behind her and had their photos taken by park staff.

Margaret and me with the beautiful cat.

At the cheetah encounter, everyone stood in a semi-circle and gazed at a cheetah while she had her photo taken with other tourists. The park employees explained that they have one of the top cheetah breeding research centers on Earth. Here in Oregon is the number one cheetah breeding facility outside of Africa & number two in the world. I recalled coming here as a kid on school field trips and for birthday parties. Back then, when you drove through, for fun the cheetahs would run in packs beside the cars, close enough that I would be tempted to reach out and pet them. Today, the big cats are kept behind fences.

After the encounter, we hopped into the Jeep and went through the gate where we were handed a map, then drove into the park. The rules here are to go slowly, stay in your car, and don’t touch the animals. Brochures say, “Where you are captive and they roam free.”

We were absolutely delighted by everything, and surprised how frequently other vehicles passed us because we were going too slowly. We stopped and gawked at every creature we saw, talking to them and laughing.

Some of the enclosures are so huge that fences couldn’t even be seen, and that helped us to imagine these animals really are free. I used the photo of the bear at the top first, to help you understand what it really looks like here. As you gaze across the vast landscape, there are fences and roads and buildings and other cars. I tried to cut those out of most photos.

This was my actual view. Everything from inside the car. There’s me in the rear view.

Clever photography helps one erase the reality of being inside a car the whole time.

Giraffes are barely interested in us.

Long legs can pose a challenge for getting food off the ground.

Common Cape Eland grazing on a hill.

Common Cape Eland closer to the road.

Small group of zebras. My memory tells me that when I was a child, this was a larger herd. Maybe the others are behind the hill.

We also spotted Southern White Rhino, Whitecheek Gibbon primates, Yaks, Watuski cattle, and Gemsbok, but these were too far away for decent photos. Blog photos come from my Nikon, and both of our phones. We grabbed whatever was easiest to use when we spotted an animal. Consequently, you’ll see the poor resolution in some of the phone photos.

Margaret noticed some hippos on a nearby road and insisted we use a staff access road to get to them before they went back underwater. The photos were incredible!

About as close to a hippopotamus as I want to get.

I backed up and returned to our place on the other road before blocking another tourist’s passage, nervous the whole time about authorities telling me I wasn’t allowed to do that. My friend teased me that the Fun Police were going to get me.

East African Crown Crane showing us his balancing skills. That looks like a turkey behind him.

Predators like the African Lions were behind fences.

I think Margaret may have enjoyed the Brown Bears the most.

This shot shows their impressive claws.

This photo makes me laugh. Not sure if he was eating something, or what. Look at that hump on his back!

While we were there, two Brown Bears stayed close to the road, so she was able to get many great photos.

There was a small herd of American Bison that moved back and forth across the road in search of good eating.

This one keeps an eye on Margaret’s camera while it eats.

Roosevelt Elk are always gorgeous, but plentiful where we live, so not very exotic.

The stripes on the White Bearded Gnu look like paint dripping in the rain.

This African Elephant spotted trainers nearby and stood up on its back feet and did a pose, hoping for a treat. It got the treat. We were so astonished to see the voluntary trick we forgot about our cameras.

Margaret was excited to see their giant ears.

Around one curve was a little hut where a staff member answered questions and sold little cups full of animal food. She said for the next mile, we were allowed to feed animals from the car. The animals knew this, and surrounded us.

I couldn’t identify this buck, who took the food right out of my palm. So much for not touching the animals.

A Sitka deer waits for food.

This one didn’t appear to be interested in the food pellets.

This Rhea and all her cousins were very eager to make our aquaintance.

The Emus were the biggest crack up, with their curly mop of feathers on top, and those giant red eyes. I could swear that half of them were posing for photos. Conditioned by my own chickens, I was convinced they wanted to peck me, and stayed way back.

The Black Buck is a very pretty animal.

When the cup of treats was exhausted, we were at the exit, and we parked once more and explored the grounds at the entrance. This is more zoo-like, with smaller cages, a restaurant, gift shop, feed-the-giraffe tours, and the like.

Flamingos are free to go where they will.

A couple of cheetahs are in this area, for people who can’t make it to the drive-through park.

We spotted a lemur

Black Swan

An anteater! I had no idea they were so crazy-looking.

Margaret fed some Koi and Mallards

Fat happy fish

There was a walk-in aviary filled mostly with Budgies.

We saw many, many more animals than what I’ve been able to show here. It’s a great place to take the family, or as I’ve just demonstrated, a great place for girlfriends to find hours of fun. A point I’d also like to make is that it’s very inexpensive, compared to similar tourist attractions, and it was explained to me that this is because they are not for profit. All proceeds are merely invested back into the park. It was $19.95 to drive through, and $15 for the special cheetah encounter. Everything in the gift shop was reasonably priced and high quality.