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Ernie Travels "Into Africa" - A Gateway To Sedona Special Report

Ernie visits Out of Africa Wildlife Park near Sedona, Arizona.Ernie visits Out of Africa Wildlife Park near Sedona, Arizona.

Recently, Ernie was given the opportunity to tour one of the Verde Valley’s premier attractions near Sedona: Out Of Africa Wildlife Park. Although pets are not allowed due to the fact they can upset and create stress for the wild animals, Ernie was given special permission to do a closely supervised tour because of his media credentials.

Please note:  visitors to Out Of Africa should keep in mind that they should leave their pets behind when they visit.

“As I crossed the Serengeti, in the distance, I could see the giraffes as they gracefully fed on the tree foliage. Nearby, the lions lounged in the brush, constantly alert, calmly watching my every move. The white rhino stood motionlessly, quietly observing the surrounding landscape, and the elegantly striped Zebras dotted the distant hills.”

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No, this isn’t Africa. This is actually Out Of Africa Wildlife Park, which gets you as close to an authentic African safari experience as possible, without actually traveling to Africa. Located about an hour north of Phoenix in Camp Verde, and minutes away from Sedona, Cottonwood, and other nearby communities, Out Of Africa Wildlife Park is one of the premier attractions in the region and a must-see for anyone traveling to the Verde Valley and surrounding communities.

One of the primary goals of the park is to provide an exciting and close-up opportunity for guests to interact with and become educated about these incredible creatures. It can be a life-changing event for guests, creating an environment for developing a respect for and connection with the animals. It certainly had an impact on me, as a dog.

Out Of Africa Wildlife Park was created in 1988 when its owners, Dean and Prayeri Harrison, decided to share their animal experiences with the world by creating an authentic African safari experience. The park’s large collection of wild and exotic animals has been acquired through many different ways: some are born at the Park; others come from other parks and zoos, and many are actually rescues.

During my visit, I was given a “special tour” of the Park that was closely supervised, since I am a dog, and pets are not allowed in the park. But since I have media credentials, and planned on writing a story about my experience, they gave me special permission to tour the facility under closely supervised conditions. The park has one of the largest collections of wild animals in a natural setting in Arizona.

Ashton and Dean Powell, the Out Of Africa marketing team, were kind enough to give me a supervised tour of the Park. One of the animals I was particularly impressed with was Jericho, the white rhino. Jericho, an 18-year-old 4,800-lb male southern white rhino, has been part of the Out Of Africa family since September 2013. Although Jericho looked to me like a very big dog with a huge horn on his head, obviously it isn’t. By the looks of things, Jericho is very popular with the public, and is really cool. It would be fun to play with him but that isn’t going to happen.

Another cool exhibit are the grey wolves. At first glance they looked like German shepherd dogs to me, and I was ready to jump in and play with them. But then, once they saw me, they started licking their chops, much as I do when I am getting ready to eat my dinner. It was time to move on to find a more docile and friendly friend.

The zebras and giraffes are incredibly beautiful animals and seemed friendlier and more playful. However, the giraffe would present unique challenges. How do you sniff around your friend and play chase with a giraffe?

The Barbary Sheep exhibit was another display that really impressed me. Approximately five sheep clung to the side of a steep hill, watching our every move. Other wild animals such as the hyenas, black bears, the grizzly bear and the many made this trip quite special.

Another very special experience at the park is the Predator Zipline. This is the only zip-line experience you will find that allows you to zip over the wild animals and have a completely different experience in appreciating their beauty. The 2½-hour world-class zip-line excursion includes seven towers in total with a variety of runs and a skyline bridge that all add up to an incredible experience! As part of the “zip-line experience, knowledgeable guides educate guests about the wild animals. For an even more exciting zip-line experience, an additional ultra-long, ultra-fast triple line ride is offered so you and your friends can challenge each other in a race to the bottom. Reservations are recommended and given the popularity of this ride, I strongly suggest it. Although I wasn’t able to experience the ride myself, because they didn’t have a harness that fit a Boston terrier, it was obvious that the visitors riding the zip-line were having a lot of fun! To learn more about the Predator Zip Line and to book your adventure, go to www.predatorzipline.com.

There are many different ways to take in all of the sights at the park. For example, every day, there is an African Bush Safari with expert park guides that will provide personal encounters with wild animals such as giraffes, zebras, ostriches, and more. Other shows and tours include the Creature feature, the Tiger Splash, Feed A Tiger, the Giant Snake show, Predator feed and others. Another alternative to consider is the three-hour Behind-the-Scenes VIP Tour that provides a look at a side of Out Of Africa that would otherwise not be seen. Reservations are required on this one, and space is limited, so make sure you call well in advance.

Unlike most zoos and animal parks in the United States, Out Of Africa Wildlife Park does not receive any financial support by municipal, state or federal government agencies. It entirely relies on park revenues and private donations. If you are interested in ways to support the park’s conservation efforts, you may want to purchase and annual membership, or possibly adopt an animal, or consider other ways of contributing, such as being a volunteer.

If you go: from Phoenix, take I-17 north to exit 287 (SR260) toward Cottonwood. Go west three miles to Cherry Road, and turn left one block, then take the first right to the park entrance.

For more information, call 928.567.2840 or visit www.OutOfAfricaPark.com.

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