Category Archives: Christmas

REVIEW – Safari Wilderness Ranch in Lakeland: Our unforgettable wild animal adventure

REVIEW – Safari Wilderness Ranch in Lakeland: Our unforgettable wild animal adventure

Nestled on over 260 acres of land in Lakeland, you’ll find one of the most unique and memorable experiences in Florida.

Look a zebra in the eye
Feed a llama from your hand
See the huge horns of the Watsui cattle
Get licked by a water buffalo
Hold hands with a ring-tailed lemur

We recently visited Safari Wilderness Ranch during their special Critter Christmas Safari happening from December 17-23, 2016. Read more about how to purchase tickets for the Critter Christmas Safari at the end of this post… but first, our ADVENTURE!

Safari Wilderness Ranch is located at 10850 Moore Road in North Lakeland. We surprised the kids since this was their first visit, but they both knew enough about Safari Wilderness that they started cheering when we pulled into the gates!

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polkPhotos of the entrance on Moore Road so you know what to look for.
safari wilderness ranch lakeland polk

From the moment we left the parking lot and started down the boardwalk through the cypress trees, I immediately sensed a peaceful quiet, broken only by an occasional animal noise from far off in the distance.

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polk

We checked in for our safari in the main “lodge” (shown below – would be a great space for private events and unique parties).

At 4pm we boarded the open-air safari vehicle, complete with padded seats and a shade canopy.

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polk

Our safari guide, Jack, started off with an introduction to the property and told us what we would be seeing. However, none of his introduction could have prepared us for just how up-close and personal we were about to get with the animals!

From the lodge we started our tour by driving into one of their four pastures, designed to separate the species based on how they might live in the wild and how they interact with one another. Before we even went through the gates we could already see zebras and varieties of deer and other wild game roaming freely up ahead.

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polk

We had no idea what to expect, with our only “safari” experiences having been at Busch Gardens and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but this was an even more authentic and up-close experience than we could have imagined. Shortly after entering the “pasture” {its really just wide open natural spaces} Jack stopped the vehicle so we could take photos. And this is what happened!!

Zebras so close we could touch them. Sticking their heads into the vehicle just to see what we were up to.

safari wilderness ranch animals lakeland polk county

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polkHeads? Or Tails?

From there we continued on with our next stop in a herd of African Watsui cattle. Oh my goodness, the HORNS! They were magnificent. At this stop we also learned something new – the differences between horns and antlers. Horns are made of keratin {finternail-like material}, never fall off and don’t reproduce if injured. Antlers are made of bone, are typically branched, and are shed annually.

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polkThe babies get me every time – SO cute!

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polk

We continued on into the next pasture and were quickly greeted by my personal favorite – the LLAMAS! They were excited to see us and came running to get a treat. The kids loved getting to feed them pellets and commented on how funny they look when they chew.

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polk animals

While we were stopped a fallow deer came to check us out with his magnificent antlers that were almost ready to fall off. Our Safari Wilderness guide told us about the life cycle of the antlers, that they have a velvet like cover most of the year, when it is time they start rubbing them on trees and the soft covering rubs off, and finally they rub them hard enough the entire antler falls off, leaving a small bump where new antlers will start growing again soon.

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polk

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polkOne antler down, one to go.

We continued on our tour and fed water buffaloes, watched axis deer from afar, learned about the animals that roam in the 16 foot perimeter fence area to keep predators off the property, and our last stop was a look at the warthog!

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polkMy new friend, Mr. Water Buffalo.

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polkCan you spot the axis deer in this photo?

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polkConclusion… Pumbaa from the Lion King was WAY cuter than this guy! 

When we returned to the lodge, we headed to feed the ring-tailed lemurs. This is a $20 add on {per person feeding} but worth every penny! The lemurs are adorable and get REALLY excited when guests come in because they know you’re bringing grapes. Photos and video below.

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polk
There were also gorgeous peacocks and peahens in the aviary with the lemurs, and just outside it we saw a large tortoise, camel, guinea pigs, horses, piglets, a porcupine, and the one and only wild cat on the property – a serval.

safari wilderness ranch lakeland polk

Our visit to Safari Wilderness in Lakeland was nothing like a zoo or theme park. It was natural, it was peaceful, and unlike any animal encounters we have ever experienced before. My kids are still talking about the slime on their hands from the water buffalo, how soft the lemurs paws were when they grabbed the boys hands, how the llamas ran next to our safari vehicle hoping for more food. And my husband and I are still talking about the awe we saw on our kids faces to be so close to these amazing wild animals.


If you’re interested in a visit to Safari Wilderness Ranch, you can get plenty more details on their website – http://safariwilderness.com/. Prices start at $75 per person, and all safari experiences require an advance reservation. In addition to the vehicle safari {what we did, but typically a 2-hour tour on a regular visit}, they also offer safari adventures where you can see the property by kayak, or riding a camel, horse, or llama. Once you book a safari, optional add-ons include feeding the ring-tailed lemurs, feeding budgies {parakeets}, feeding guinea pigs, and a 10 minute camel ride. Note that add-ons are not available without the purchase of a safari.

TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT: This is an entirely outdoor adventure, so dress accordingly, and wear closed toe shoes for walking around outside the lodge and aviary. BRING YOUR CAMERA! Every single photo in this post is mine, there are no professionally done stock photos here. If you’ve got a real camera that zooms more than a phone camera, I highly recommend taking it with you.

On our one-hour Critter Christmas Safari we only covered half of the property, and I can only imagine the variety of species that roam the other half. We’ll definitely be going back for a full safari experience on another visit! safari wilderness ranch lakeland polk    safari wilderness ranch lakeland polk

For more information about Safari Wilderness Ranch: Visit their website at http://safariwilderness.com/. Be sure to check out the amazing video on their homepage produced by Visit Central Florida. You can also see visitor photos on their Facebook page and read over 200 five-star reviews on Trip Advisor.

Interested in giving the gift of Safari Wilderness but not ready to pick a date for your adventure? Simply email emily@safariwilderness.com and she can get you set up with a gift certificate.


Only available during the month of December, Safari Wilderness is currently offering a special 1-hour Critter Christmas Safari tour. This safari adventure is half price {with advance ticket purchase on Groupon} and you’ll see half the property and get to stop to feed animals from the safari vehicle. Everything shown above that we experienced is included {except lemur feedings – it was an extra}. This shorter visit is perfect for little ones who might not be up for a 2 hour ride AND would be a great activity if you have family visiting and want to treat them to something unique.

Along with the safari ride, mammal house, aviary, and other animal interactions, you’ll also receive a poinsettia to take home from your visit.

Critter Christmas Safari rides leave every hour on the hour from 1pm-5pm beginning Saturday, December 17 and running through Friday, December 23. Note that you do NOT need an advance reservation for a specific date/time, but you do need to purchase tickets in advance.

Tickets for the Christmas Safari can only be purchased on Groupon:
Safari Experience for 1 – $39
Safari Experience for 2 – $75
Safari Experience for 4 – $145

Note that the promotional value of any Groupon does not expire, so if you purchase tickets and are unable to attend for any reason, Safari Wilderness will honor the value paid for the Groupon towards a future safari experience.

All of the optional add-ons/animal feedings listed above will be available for purchase once you get to Safari Wilderness. There is a $7 charge for parking when you arrive that is not included in the Groupon.


What are you waiting for? Book your own wild animal adventure today right here in our own backyard!

  • safari wilderness ranch lakeland polk

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12 Days of Giveaways – Day 12: Safari Wilderness Ranch Critter Christmas Safari

12 Days of Giveaways – Day 12: Safari Wilderness Ranch Critter Christmas Safari

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. Check our 12 Days of Giveaways page to find out what else you can enter to win! Here in Lakeland you can easily find… 12 Drummers Drumming and 11 Pipers Piping at a Christmas Parade or Christmas Concert 10 Lords a Leaping and 9 Ladies Dancing at a local production of The Nutcracker 7 Swans… Continue Reading

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12 Days of Giveaways – Day 11: Win Tickets to 42nd Street at The Lakeland Center

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12 Days of Giveaways – Day 10: Win Tickets to Bok Tower Holiday Home Tour

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12 Days of Giveaways – Day 9: Win Tickets to Christmas Lane in Plant City

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. Check our 12 Days of Giveaways page to find out what else you can enter to win! Here in Lakeland you can easily find… 12 Drummers Drumming and 11 Pipers Piping at a Christmas Parade or Christmas Concert 10 Lords a Leaping and 9 Ladies Dancing at a local production of The Nutcracker 7 Swans… Continue Reading

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12 Days of Giveaways – Day 8: Win Tickets to The Magic of Christmas with Justino and Daniela Zoppe

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. Check our 12 Days of Giveaways page to find out what else you can enter to win! Here in Lakeland you can easily find… 12 Drummers Drumming and 11 Pipers Piping at a Christmas Parade or Christmas Concert 10 Lords a Leaping and 9 Ladies Dancing at a local production of The Nutcracker 7 Swans… Continue Reading

12 Days of Giveaways – Day 7: Win Tickets to DCTE’s Merry Magical Holiday Ball 2016

12 Days of Giveaways – Day 7: Win Tickets to DCTE’s Merry Magical Holiday Ball 2016

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. Check our 12 Days of Giveaways page to find out what else you can enter to win! Here in Lakeland you can easily find… 12 Drummers Drumming and 11 Pipers Piping at a Christmas Parade or Christmas Concert 10 Lords a Leaping and 9 Ladies Dancing at a local production of The Nutcracker 7 Swans… Continue Reading

12 Days of Giveaways – Day 6: Win Tickets to The Nutcracker presented by Florida Dance Theatre

12 Days of Giveaways – Day 6: Win Tickets to The Nutcracker presented by Florida Dance Theatre

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. Check our 12 Days of Giveaways page to find out what else you can enter to win! Here in Lakeland you can easily find… 12 Drummers Drumming and 11 Pipers Piping at a Christmas Parade or Christmas Concert 10 Lords a Leaping and 9 Ladies Dancing at a local production of The Nutcracker 7 Swans… Continue Reading

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12 Days of Giveaways – Day 5: Win Tickets to A Victorian Holiday with the Imperial Symphony Orchestra

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. Check our 12 Days of Giveaways page to find out what else you can enter to win! Here in Lakeland you can easily find… 12 Drummers Drumming and 11 Pipers Piping at a Christmas Parade or Christmas Concert 10 Lords a Leaping and 9 Ladies Dancing at a local production of The Nutcracker 7 Swans… Continue Reading

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