San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park – What You Need to KnowPin

San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park – What You Need to Know

Most people who visit San Diego know about the world renowned San Diego Zoo, but did you know that they have a second park just 30 miles outside of town called the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (or Wild Animal Park by the locals)?

Opening its doors over 40 years ago, the Safari Park sits on 1,800 acres of land. Just to give you some reference, that’s equivalent to 180 San Diego Zoos or over 21 Disneylands!

This post may contain affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked at no additional cost to you. All opinions are always our own. Read our full disclosure for more info. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Local Adventurer possible.

Last Updated: June 17, 2021

San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park - What You Need to Know

Let’s start off by comparing the difference between the two parks. We’ll then share our experience at the Safari Park and what we loved about it.

What's the Difference Between the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park

Besides the sheer size difference between the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, there are a few other aspects you can compare to help you decide which location you want to go to. If you love animals, they are both worth visiting.

Location

The San Diego Zoo is in Balboa Park right in Downtown San Diego close to other attractions. Because of its central location, it’s easy to get to by car, walking, or public transportation. Parking is also free.

The Safari Park is located north of San Diego in Escondido. Depending on where in the city you’re coming from, it’s anywhere from 40-60 minutes away by car and 2+ hours on public tranportation. There is also a parking fee.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park (Top Things to Do in San Diego CA).

Animals

Although it covers a smaller footprint, the San Diego Zoo has more animals than the Safari Park. This covers both, the number of animals and the number of species.

The San Diego Zoo features animals from Australia, Asia, Africa, Central and South America with over 3,700 animals and over 650 species. The Safari Park focuses on animals from arid environments like African and Asian Savannas. They have over 2,600 animals and over 300 species.

San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park.

Exhibits

The San Diego Zoo is what you would imagine a zoo to look like. You can explore everything on your own since most of the enclosures are generally smaller and made for visitors to see them from walking around the zoo.

The Safari Park has larger spaces for the animals giving them more free-range. When you see the animals here, it almost feels like they are in their natural environment. The highlight of this park are the safaris.

San Diego Wildlife Park.

The Safari Park Safaris

Unlike the traditional zoos, the Safari Park offers a wide range of really unique ways to encounter the animals. Although there are exhibits that you can walk around to, if that’s all you see, you’re really missing out. The highlights are definitely the safaris! 

  • Wildlife Safari – covered, open-air safari truck in the expansive habitats.
  • Behind-the-Scenes Safari – learn more about wildlife care and conservation.
  • Cart Safaris – 60-minute guided tour on a deluxe Safari cart.
  • Sun Up Cheetah Safari – early morning guided stroll ending with watching a cheetah run at top speed.
  • Ultimate Safari – a customized tour tailored to your interest.
  • Roar and Snore Safari – sleepover adventure.
  • Flightline Safari – zipline 130 feet above the ground while seeing the savanna and animals below you.
  • Safari Cabanas – enjoy your private cabana with amazing views of the animals.
Wild Animal Park San Diego Safari.
San Diego Safari Park (Southern California Attractions).
San Diego Wild Animal Park Reviews.

Our Experience on The Caravan Safari Twilight

We decided to do the Caravan Safari Twilight (now the Twilight Wildlife Safari), which is a 2-hour adventure in a covered, open-air safari truck. Because there isn’t a particular track, they drive through the field enclosures and get you up close and personal with the animals. We even got a chance to feed giraffes AND rhinos!

San Diego Zoo Safari Park (Best Southern California Attractions).
San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Wild Animal Park San Diego CA.
Fun Things to Do in San Diego.
Rhino Feeding at the San Diego Safari Park.

The feedings are based on the mood of the animals. They told us it is very rare that the rhinos will come up to you for a feeding, but we were very lucky that they were in the right mood! :)

Caravan Safari San Diego.
San Diego Safari Park.
San Diego Wild Animal Park.
Feeding Rhinos at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Caravan Safari San Diego.
Caravan Safari San Diego.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Feeding Giraffes at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Feeding Giraffes at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Feed Giraffes at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Feeding Giraffes at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
San Diego Wild Animal Park.

In addition to creating such a unique experience, the San Diego Zoo is one of the leading organizations in the world when it comes to breeding programs and conservation efforts. The revolutionary idea to even build a space this large was driven by the desire to create habitats that are as realistic to their natural habitats. That includes the amount of space that each animal has!

Did you know that animals kept in captivity lose a lot of their natural instincts? The San Diego Zoo Safari Park allows them to ensure that those survival skills stay from generation to generation.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Feeding Giraffes at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Address and Hours

15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd
Escondido CA 92027, map
760.747.8702

HOURS
June 18, 2021 – August 15, 2021 || 9 AM – 7PM
August 16, 2021 – September 6, 2021 || 9 AM – 6 PM
September 7, 2021 – October 15, 2021 || 9 AM – 5 PM (6 PM on Weekends)
Future Dates TBA

Safari Park Ticket Prices

1 Day Pass || $62 Adults $52 Children
2-Visit Pass (Includes Both Zoos) || $104 Adult $94 Children

SAFARIS
Wildlife Safari $89+
Behind-the-Scenes Safari $89+
Cart Safaris $55+
Sun Up Cheetah Safari $99+
Ultimate Safari $675+
Roar & Snore Safaris $149+
Flightline Safari $77+

Essential Tips

  • There is plenty of food and drink options at the park, but bring a small backpack with a water bottle that you can refill.
  • The caravan also has a cooler, cups, and cold water.
  • Regardless of which safari you go with, give yourself plenty of time to explore the rest of the zoo. We only had about 2 hours and could have used another hour to see everything.
  • If you’re going with a group, carpool! Parking costs $12.
  • For the photographers out there, bring a telephoto lens to get some great shots. We use a 70-200 for the photos of the animals, and iPhones for the ones of us in it.
  • Bring binoculars if you have them in case the animals are further away.
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen so you can reapply every 2 hours.

Best Places to Stay

Have you been part of any animal encounter programs? What’s your favorite animal to see at the zoo?

Did you enjoy this post? Pin it for later

Pin

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

Local Adventurer on Pinterest Local Adventurer on Youtube
You might also love

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close Menu
295