This story is being shared as my entry to the #kbcKaadooMonkeyTales Contest!
Going on a drive through an animal safari with a toddler who has motion sickness? Not the best idea in the world, I agree. But, the fact is that living in India, we do not have access to too many drive through animal parks or zoos where the kids can interact with the animals, touch them or feed them at close quarters. Being an animal lover, I wanted my child to experience the joy of seeing animals roam freely, which is something that he cannot experience at a zoo.
Fortunately, on a recent trip to USA (we made it back a week before the Covid mayhem started!), he got to experience exactly this. His first experience of an animal safari was at Bearizona Safari Park, where it had freshly snowed, and we saw bisons, wolves and bears.
After this experience, the toddler kept insisting on meeting more animals and even explained that, “Don’t worry, when I see animals, I don’t feel sick”. So, another drive-through safari was arranged – this time at the Tennessee Safari Park. The exciting thing about this safari park is that you can feed the animals through the car window. And this is where this wild tale starts.
As soon as we entered the park, we were asked how many bowls of dry food we wanted to buy for the animals. After some deliberation, we decided that 5 bowls should be more than enough. Clearly, I did not know how much of an animal lover my child was. The safari park had zebras, llamas, ostriches, camels and deer, all of whom roamed around freely and came up to the cars to eat the food from the bowls, at times poking their heads inside to take a look and say Hi!
We first stopped to feed a zebra. I had never seen a zebra from so close, leave alone fed it. It was an amazing feeling to feel their tongue graze against your skin and pet their snouts.
After feeding one zebra for a bit, we decided to move on, but my toddler would have none of it.
How could you take the bowl of food away from an animal that was still eating? Mumma, don’t be naughty and please let the Zebra eat till his tummy is full, said my 2.8-year old, now on the verge of tears.
So, we let the first zebra eat the entire bowl of food. It’s okay, we thought, we still had 4 bowls of food left. The very next zebra snatched the entire bowl away from our hands – of course, leaving the toddler in peals of laughter.
We then headed to the area with the llamas and the ostriches. Llamas are incredibly gentle animals, however the same cannot be said about the ostriches. Whenever we stopped to feed the cute deer and llamas, ostriches would come running from far away and believe me they can scare the living daylights out of you – huge bulging eyes, long flexible neck that they can stick into the car and peck wildly at the bowl (and sometimes at you!). I thought I was the only one scared of them, till I saw this being sold at their gift shop later!
Still don’t believe me? At one point, two ostriches started fighting over food right outside our car. Watch the video below to see them. Notice how the llama still continues eating calmly, as though he knows.. ehh, ostriches will be ostriches!
I don’t know what the widest part of the safari was – the zebra snatching the food bowl, the toddler advocating for the zebras, the scary ostriches fighting for food or the very many animals who poked their heads into our car to check if there was any food. One thing is for sure, it helped me and my child connect with animals at a whole different level, and is an experience that we are unlikely to forget.