If you enjoy wildlife and can't afford a safari to Africa, then you definitely want to consider a trip to The Wilds. The Wilds offers plenty of opportunities, especially photographic opportunities to view and photograph wild animals.
Located in southeastern Ohio in Muskingum County, The Wilds (formerly known as the International Center for the Preservation of Wild Animals) is a place where threatened and endangered animals from all over the world live and visitors can can take an up close view of these animals. The Wilds is a living scientific laboratory devoted to improving the survival of animals in the wild.
Visitors to the 14 square mile get to witness the most unique feature of The Wilds: how the animals seem to be right at home in the acres and acres of rolling hills and meadows of southeastern Ohio.
The Wilds offers visitors several ways of coming face-to-face with the wild animals. Probably the biggest attraction are the guided tours that crisscross the rolling hills and lakes. While the land is completely fenced to keep the animals contained, when you're on one of the many tour vehicles, you're inside the fence with nothing between you and the animals. There are several notable exceptions to this however. The mid-sized carnivore conservation area, completely encloses these dangerous animals from coming too close to visitors. There are numerous walks, ramps and observation platforms to see the animals in their habitat however.
Most of the guided tours are spent driving through the grounds and some very rough roads that is part of the experience. The tours do stop for better views of the animals that are nearby giving you plenty of opportunities to take some memorable photographs. You cannot leave the vehicle during these stops except at several designated areas.
What animals you might see on a particular tour is totally dependent on the whims of the animals. Sometimes they might be very close to the road, even on the road, and other times they might be further away and more difficult to find. The one exception is the Sunset Safari. This special tour is conducted at feeding time for many of the animals and they are more likely to be closer to the road.
The Wilds opened to the public in 1994, allowing visitors to learn and see conservation projects relating to rare and endangered species from around the world. Over the last 2 decades the Wilds has grown to become an organization on the leading edge of conservation. In fact it is the largest conservation facility in North America.
The Wilds is involved in many different conservation methods in an attempt to help reduce the decline of wildlife habitats. These methods range from professional training to animal husbandry to conservation medicine. To help with these efforts, The Wilds works closely with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and has been since 2002.
The Wilds includes a restaurant, gift shop, and educational displays. Many special activities, bird watching, hiking, educational seminars, overnight camps, day camps and group retreats. But the main feature is seeing the animals roaming the hills of southeast Ohio. Each visit gives you a different viewing. Sometimes animals are close to the gravel road, and other times they're further away.
The Wilds offers a variety of options that involve transportation selection. A visitor purchases
a pass for a particular type of experience: Safari Transport Pass or the Open-Air
Safari Transports include knowledgeable guides that will take you through the Wilds' open-range animal areas, where you'll see rhinos, giraffes and many other animals roaming in large, natural settings. Several destination stops along the way, including the new Mid-Sized Carnivore Conservation Center, offer opportunities to explore, learn, and relax while you observe the wildlife around you. Transports run every few minutes and you choose how long to enjoy each destination before moving on to the next.
Board an Open-Air Safari vehicle for a premium day-tour experience, providing outstanding opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography. Knowledgeable guides will take you through the Wilds' open-range animal areas, where you'll see rhinos, giraffes and many other animals roaming in large, natural settings. This tour includes stops at selected destinations, including the new Mid-Sized Carnivore Conservation Center.
Reservations are not required for either the Open-Air Safari or the Safari Transport.
Twilight is a magical time of day to experience the Wilds. The tour begins with a delicious buffet-style dinner at the Overlook Cafe which has a deck that gives a broad view of the landscape.
After dinner the tour group boards an Open-Air Safari transport for a guided tour through the Wilds’ open-range animal areas at a time when the animals are most active at feeding time.
View rhinos, giraffes, antelope and other animals roaming in large, natural habitats as you enjoy the evening sunset.
This tour includes stops at the new Mid-Sized Carnivore Conservation Center and the Rhino Management Complex for an up-close learning experience of the important conservation work taking place at the Wilds. Be sure to bring your camera for incredible photographic opportunities. Sunset tours must be arranged in advanced and will go on as planned regardless of the weather. If it is raining, the tours will use the closed tour buses.
Sunset Safari Tour is available every Saturday, June through September. (Note: September Tours may finish up after sunset even though they start 1 hour earlier than the June-August tours.) Should also note that the expansive gift shop will be closed upon returning to the visitor center.
Reservations required for Sunset Safari Tours
No pets are allowed on the premises and there is no smoking on the grounds.
Visits to the Butterfly Habitat and the Birding Station at Jeffrey Point are free.
Most of the animals run free within a closed system of security fences. The exceptions are the Carnivore Conservation areas. These areas have much more security fencing between you and the animals for both yours and the animals protection.
Memberships are available.
The Wilds also offers special events including a photo safari in the fall, off-roading ATV challenges, fish camps, mountain biking as well as a few winter activities.