San Diego Zoo Safari Park Someday, I would love to go on a real African Safari and come face to face with a lion or a tiger – but until that day comes, I can visit the next best place right here in California.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located in San Diego County, close to the city of Escondido. Spanning 1,800 acres, it is home to 2,600 animals from 300 species, along with thousands of plant species, some in a protected preserve. The main attraction is a vast open area with free-ranging animals, from fierce lions to tame giraffes. The only way to enjoy this extensive flora and fauna is to join a Safari. More on Safari options later.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park The Safari Park and the Zoo in San Diego are run by the non-profit organization “San Diego Zoo Global,” which also operates a research institute dedicated to the reproduction, protection, and exhibition of animals, plants, and their habitats.

So, what is the best way to enjoy the Safari Park? It all depends on how much you are willing to spend on your experience.

Options range from a single-day ticket for approximately $70, which includes the Africa Tram Safari, to the $710 Ultimate Safari. The Ultimate Safari offers access to exclusive areas, close wildlife interactions, and top-notch personalized service.

Tip: The best way to enjoy San Diego attractions is by getting a Go City Card. You pay one price and get access to multiple attractions. Go San Diego Card

If this is your first visit and you are not sure what to do, I suggest starting with the included African Tram Safari tour. Once inside, you can decide whether you want to pay extra for additional Safaris.

Find your Wild Animal Safari here.

Before or After the Safari

San Diego Zoo Safari Park As you walk to and from your Safari experience, you can enjoy several shows and exhibits along the way.

Near the park entrance, stop at “WINGS OF THE WORLD” to view various wild and rare birds. In this exhibit, you actually enter the enclosure with the birds and can view them in their simulated natural habitat.

As you exit “WINGS OF THE WORLD,” you will pass “NAIROBI VILLAGE,” a large lagoon with a Congo River fishing village. In and around the lagoon, you will find a variety of bird species, including pelicans, storks, shoebills, ducks, herons, and egrets. The most impressive are the pelicans with their graceful one-footed stands and the huge storks. For a bird's-eye view, climb to the top of the wooden tower.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park As you walk to your Safari station, you will pass a large glass viewing area overlooking the Lions' habitat (Lions Camp). The area resembles a battered Safari camp overrun by lions. There are always a few lions milling about or napping. During our visit, one lion walked right up to the glass window, providing a great photo opportunity.

Remember to visit the Lorikeet feeding area. These tiny, colorful birds are very friendly. Hold a cup of nectar, and they will land on you and drink right from your hand. It’s an amazing experience—not to be missed.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park If you are lucky and arrive during the seasonal Butterfly Jungle exhibit, be sure to visit. When buying your tickets, you will receive an allotted time for your visit. Once inside, you will be surrounded by thousands of butterflies from various species. Some will land on your clothes or hats. One even landed on my cheek and tickled me with its wings and antennae – a unique experience caught on camera.

Safari Options

The park offers many ways to interact with the animals, some more up close and personal than others. The only drawback is that you have to pay extra for each additional Safari.

Some Safaris sell out early, so it is advisable to make a reservation. For example, if you want to join the Caravan Safari, you must book it in advance.

Find your Wild Animal Safari here.

Africa Tram Safari

San Diego Zoo Safari Park This Safari is included in most admission passes. It is a guided tram ride through the African Plains.

When you first board the tram, try to find a seat on the left side (the side facing the animal habitats). This site offers the best views and pictures. If you sit on the right side, you will still enjoy the Safari, but your photos may include other passengers or tram poles.

The guides/drivers are very knowledgeable and passionate about wildlife and conservation. They provide a steady stream of information about the various animals and habitats. If you have heard it all before, bring your electronic device with you.

Some of the most famous inhabitants of this area include herds of curious giraffes, massive rhinos, graceful gazelles, impressively horned antelope, ostriches, and African crowned cranes. We especially enjoyed watching a herd of giraffes feeding from the trees.

Tip: You can go on the tram tour as many times as you like.

Wildlife Safari

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The Wildlife Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park offers an immersive experience in a savanna habitat, allowing visitors to get up-close views of a variety of birds and mammals, including newborns.

Participants ride in a covered, open-air safari truck with an expert guide, making it an ideal adventure for ages 3 and up.

The safari is available daily and costs $92 and up per person, plus admission. It is a one-hour tour that promises exciting photo opportunities and educational insights.

For more details, visit Wildlife Safari.

Flight-line Safari (Zipline)

This is a great experience for adventure seekers. You will first receive lessons and gear, and before you go on your zipline adventure, you get to practice on a scaled-down run.

Once ready, you ride a truck to the upper launch area. Your harness is hooked to the line, you are comfortably seated, and then you start your long slide above the rhinos, deer, and other animals.

This Safari costs around $81 + entrance fee.

Cart Safari

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Riding a small cart with an experienced guide through the park offers a more personalized tour of the African or Asian animals. The guides provide a lot of information about the animals’ characteristics, feeding habits, and habitats. You will also get to watch as the guide offers treats to the animals.

This Safari costs around $60 + entrance.

Behind the Scenes Safari

Are you curious about what it takes to run such a huge wild animal park? How do they care for and train the animals? If so, the behind-the-scenes safari is for you.

Go to places off-limits to the general public: Visit a lion or tiger bedroom, feed some rare animals, visit the veterinary hospital or the research labs.

This Safari costs around $92 + entrance.

Roar and Snore Safari

When you are on an African Safari, you will likely spend several nights in a campground between expeditions. If you love camping close to the animals, you can enjoy this experience at the Safari Park. Several accommodation options and activities are available. Some programs are for adults only (21 and over), while others are for families with kids 6 and older. The campground overlooks the African Plains, offering great views of the animals in their natural habitat.

Depending on the option you choose, expect to pay from $160 and up.

The Ultimate Safari

San Diego Zoo Safari Park This Safari option allows you to design the Safari of your dreams. The professionals at the park will guide you through the various options that meet your needs and interests. Do you want to spend more time interacting with wild animals or visiting exhibits? Do you prefer an adventurous or a more relaxed visit?

You need to plan this experience ahead of time. Once you arrive, a private tour guide will be assigned to you, spending 5 or 8 hours with you, depending on your chosen option. The tour includes one meal.

Expect to pay $710 per person for a 5-hour experience. They also offer an 8-hour experience for more.

Other places to try: Thorntree Terrace for sandwiches, paninis, salads, and burgers; Mombasa Island Cooker for BBQ favorites, burgers, vegetable skewers, and entree salads.

If you prefer, you can bring your own food and eat at the shaded picnic area.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

15500 San Pasqual Valley Road

Escondido, CA 92027-7017