LAKELAND, Fla. - Once you are on property at Safari Wilderness, you don't feel like you are anywhere in Florida, especially not a few miles from Interstate 4.
Instead, the 265-acre property with more than 500 animals from 40 species makes you feel like you are in the middle of Africa.
"This is where they breed, this is where they live, this is where they sleep, this is where they have their whole life cycles," manager and tour guide Philip Allison said. "The only barrier between between us and the animals is just air and a little bit of bus other than that, the animals can free roam."
The idea for Safari Wilderness came to fruition when the owner bought the land on Florida's Green Swamp in 2006. It then took another six years to bring the animals over and grow the plants and trees that the animals will graze on.
"All of our animals are herbivores," Allison said. "They all have this lovely grass so it's an all-you-can-eat buffet."
On the tour, you can get up close to curious ostriches, crooked-smiling llamas, hopping lemurs and dozens of exotic antelope species, as well. The animals also breed in their natural habitat so you will for sure see plenty of babies.
"You never know what's going to happen out here," Allison added. "You might see dominance, you might see two males fighting, you might see a baby zebra being born on this tour."
Most tours are about two hours long and must be reserved ahead of time. Also, during the summer, Safari Wilderness offers Summer Sunset Safaris. You can also do the entire tour on camel-back if you want, and for an extra $30 to hand feed grapes to lemurs.
"It's not like you have to get in line or have to get a fast pass for this. It's more naturalistic. The animals like it better and you will like it better," Allison said.
Daily tour times are at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. For prices, to book a reservation or for more information on Safari Wilderness, click here.
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