Visit the heart of Africa: in California

Those who have always wanted to visit Africa but haven’t had the money or the time (or both) might consider the next best thing: a visit to San Diego, California. The city that claims the world’s best zoo also offers a great attraction for those who like things on the wilder side.

Guests visiting the San Diego Wild Animal Park can set out on foot with field guide in hand and experience a great safari adventure outside Africa. Covering 32 acres, and built at a cost of more than $7 million, the Heart of Africa features the diverse habitats and wildlife of the exotic continent, while letting visitors get very close to to the flora and fauna with no apparent barriers.

Guests encounter more than 260 animals (representing 20 species of birds and 11 species of mammals) on their journey and have the extraordinary opportunity to hand feed Baringo giraffes. Okapi, bontebok, warthogs, giant eland, cheetahs and duikers are some of the exotic mammals that now call San Diego home, along with giraffes, rhinos, wildebeests and several species of gazelle and antelope. They can all be seen roaming the nearby plains and migrating to the water’s edge throughout the day. The park also feates a wide variety of bird species.

A winding trail that runs alongside and across shallow waterways takes adventurers through changing habitats, including dense forest, wetlands, savannas and open plains. A research island lies at the center of the lagoon, with a “camp” that features simulated living quarters (tent, kitchen, shower), a cargo container converted for use by the researcher, a fire ring with seating for special lectures, and African wildlife brought to the station for closer observation.

The San Diego Wild Animal Park is operated by the not-for-profit Zoological Society of San Diego, which also operates the San Diego Zoo and the Centre for Reproduction of Endangered Species.