Would you believe there is a 10,000 acre safari in Ohio? We took the kids there on our vacation and they were absolutely THRILLED!! We went on the open-air safari, not the private one you see in the picture below, but we still got up close and personal with a number of animals!
The Wilds is located about an hour west of Columbus and is an affiliate of the Columbus Zoo.
Here’s how up-close and personal we got with a camel!
The Wilds is one of the largest conservation centers in North America. It is located on nearly 10,000 acres of reclaimed lands. (Years ago, the region was strip-mined. The land has been reclaimed and has about 6 inches of top-soil. They have planted grasses and bushes. In some areas, they haven’t been able to plant trees, so they’ve built shade structures for the animals.)
The Wilds is home to rare and endangered species from around the world. It has two types of rhino: the Greater one-horned Asian Rhino (from Bhutan, India and Nepal) which you see in the photo below and the Southern White Rhino (from South Africa).
The Wilds is home to three deer species and five different antelope species. What made the safari spectacular was our fabulous guide/driver who told is amazing stories about these animals. For example, the Père David was a French missionary working in China and sent some carcasses of these deer to Paris. The species was named after him. A few of the animals had been sent to wildlife parks in Europe. Meanwhile, in China the only herd was kept by the Emperor of China. In 1895 a flood destroyed the garden and many of the animals perished or were eaten. Then five years later in the Boxer Rebellion the remaining animals were shot and eaten by soldiers. The only remaining animals were in Europe. A hundred years later, the Père David’s Deer were finally reintroduced in parts of China.
Some animals we got to see up closer than others (is the case of any safari). The safari was 2 hours long. They did a good job of stopping so people (like me!!) could take photos. The guide will tell us stories and inform us about the animals we were looking at. The kids were completely engaged because they had a checklist of all the animals they would see along the way. We were also allowed to get out (like when we were able to feed the budgerigar)
The Wilds also has a homeschool program that they have just gotten off the ground. We were made arrangements to do the safari in the morning and then did their homeschool program in the afternoon. It was FABULOUS!! If we didn’t live quite so far away we would definitely return regularly. The day we were there, they did a program on the native habitats in Ohio. They took us to the forest, wetlands, stream and butterfly habitats where the kids were fully engaged. They had four or five educators there and divided us all into three small groups. I really can’t say enough about their homeschool program! I know they have another program coming up in November; the topic will be adaptations.
In the picture below, the kids were trying to find various creatures. Depending on what they found would determine how healthy or polluted the water was. In the end, we determined that the stream was pretty healthy. Good news!
They also took us on a hike through the forest where we came upon deer skulls, snake skins and learned about some of the local plants. I didn’t get any photos on the forest hike. The wetlands region was quite fascinating. Our guide told us that the cattails have a lot of uses from food to building materials, chair seats to filler for flotation devices!
The kids all loved when the ranger showed us the beaver skull. He explained that the beaver had to gnaw on things to keep their teeth from growing longer… and longer… and longer. As he did this he pulled out the front teeth on the skull to be quite long (see the picture below)!!
Our last stop was the Butterfly Habitat where they told us all about the Monarch Butterfly. They gave the kids butterfly nets and let us have a go at catching (and releasing) the butterflies. No one caught anything, but the kids enjoyed that!
Camping at Blue Rock State Park:
After our 4 1/2 hours homeschool program it was time to head out. We were camping in a nearby state park (Blue Rock State Park):
COSI, Hands-On Science Center in Columbus, Ohio:
One more thing before I go… We also drove to Columbus, Ohio to go to COSI, the science and industry museum. It was absolutely phenomenal. It is truly one of the best in the nation! We’d definitely recommend a visit. It was hands-on and loads of fun for the kids. They were able to play with water, drive an underwater vehicle, make goop, attend a chemistry show, explore the human body and learn about their own, lift a car with a lever, and on and on!! The kids really loved hunting down the clues in the special exhibit, Adventure in the Valley of the Unknown. It truly was a fabulous day. (My only recommendation is to arrive early to get tickets.).
Also in Ohio: Tecumseh! An extraordinary Outdoor Drama complete with horses, a stream and dozens of actors. Be sure to check out our post!
Are you interested in finding other fun things to do with your kids? Click here to see all the Trips We’ve Taken: From New York to California and places in between (Branson, Missouri; Colorado Rockies, Colorado Springs)! Or click here to see what it was like living in the Outback of Australia (where the kids were born. We lived there for 12 years).
See you soon here or at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page!