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Go on a Safari Wilderness Experience in Central Florida with Kids

Have you ever made friends with a water buffalo? We did! And you can too when you go on a Safari Wilderness experience in Central Florida.

We were so happy to be invited to visit the Safari Wilderness Ranch in Lakeland, during our recent family trip to Florida. They offer a rare and unique experience that my family will not soon forget. We enjoyed spectacular up-close encounters with free roaming ostriches, llamas, zebras, African watusi and many other species, including endangered ones! Many animals came right up to our safari vehicle and we got to hand feed them, which was incredible! 

* My family was provided with a complimentary safari experience in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All Opinion are my own. 

Our favorite new friends were probably the water buffalo! I could not believe how friendly these gentle giants (and the worlds largest bovine) were, eating right out of our hands and allowing us to even pet their noses. Next time you visit Central Florida take the kids! Safari Wilderness is a rare and unique experience, a world away from the hustle and bustle of civilization, yet so close to it all in Central Florida. 

What to Expect When Going on a Safari Wilderness Experience in Central Florida with Kids

Have you ever encountered a herd of Red Lechwe? Well you can here a the Safari Wilderness Ranch — 260 acres of pristine wilderness. This family owned ranch specializes in wetland exotic species like the African Watusi and Irish Dexter cattle that freely roam the 260 acres of pristine wilderness. Safari Wilderness is not a zoo or theme park. You won’t find crowds here or even long lines, just open vistas of grazing animals surrounded by majestic cypress and bay trees. It was about a 40 minute drive from our Orlando hotel (and halfway between Orlando and Tampa). We felt like we were a world away from the moment we pulled into their parking lot. 

After walking down a long wooden platform, along a nature path, we arrived at a large barn — the welcome center. From there we boarded one of their large customized safari vehicles, fitted with a shade canopy. And we were off on our wilderness adventure! 

Know Before You Go When Taking the Kids

My kids were mesmerized from the moment we took off but the ride was long — a bit over 2 hours. A bit more for us since we visited after a rainy morning and the vehicle we were riding in got stuck in mud (it happens) and had to be pulled out by a tractor. It made our experience a bit more fun, for sure, but it also meant that the kids had to ride for a bit longer. It was the perfect experience for my 10 year old!

My four year old was a bit antsy an hour into our adventure and although she enjoyed it I would say that this experience is better suited for the older kids. Probably 8 and over if they’re really into animals. In my opinion best suited for kids 10 and up. I think the older the better they’ll appreciate the natural beauty and uniqueness of this place. 

The Safari Wilderness Ranch also offers;
  • Different Safari options: Camel Expedition or Kayak Safari
  • Optional extras: Lemur Feeding, Budgie Feeding, Guinea Pig Feeding
  • Clean and spacious restrooms
  • On-site gift shop (with some snack options and a wide variety of adorable animal plushies)
  • Picnic tables where you can enjoy a little down time, a snack, or paper bag lunch (you bring)

Why Safari Wilderness Is the Perfect Way to Experience Central Florida

When we think of taking the Family on a Florida vacation the first thing that comes to mind are busy amusement parks and days spent in the sun waiting on long lines. But that doesn't have to be the case! Central Florida is filled with natural beauty and experiences you can't get from the typical amusement park. Read on!

Safari Wilderness has received 5-Star TripAdvisor “Certificate of Excellence” since 2012 and Fodor’s Travel has called it one of the “Top Ten” Safaris in the U.S. and I could immediately see why! They offer a rare and unique family-friendly experience that we won't soon forget. Probably not the experience that immediately came to mind when planning our Florida family vacation, but one that I'm glad we didn't overlook. A visit to Safari Wilderness Ranch is a nice way to get away from the typical theme park chaos. Plus, sometimes the best adventures are those found off the beaten path. View our YouTube video here to see all the fun we had!

Final thoughts on our Safari Wilderness Experience in Central Florida

Our knowledgeable tour guide talked us through each area as we explored these expansive wetlands. We enjoyed learning about all the different animals, as well as the wetlands themselves. My entire family enjoyed the experience. However, on the day we visited we found that the crowd was made up of a more mature group of visitors. Only one other family with kids was part of our group (their kids were a bit older too). 

Although the tour was great, I wish that it would have been a bit more interactive or engaging towards a younger audience. I found that my kids where most engaged when they were hand feeding the animals that made their way over to the Safari vehicle. The rest of the time the talk and explanations were a bit over their heads. Some quick trivia or other details geared towards the younger crowd would have been a bigger buy in for my kids. Also this tour lends itself nicely to a fun scavenger hunt. I would have loved to have been provided with some sort of little scavenger hunt checklist to keep the kids engaged. Or at least I wish I would have thought to bring some notepads and pencils or crayons for the kids to draw what they saw along the way. That could have made the experience a bit more kid-friendly in my opinion.

Our Experience with Young Kids

Unfortunately, I noticed that many of the older visitiors on this tour were not as welcoming to the enthusiasm and behaviors of my younger kids. Of course, the establishment itself is not at fault for this and I can only speak to our personal experience on the day we visited. I was a bit disappointed and sad by this but one really nice lady did praise my daughter (saying she had done a great job on a long ride) as the tour ended. This reminded me that there are still other parents out there who do remember what it was like to travel with small kids. Kids will be kids and a Safari Wilderness experience will bring about a lot of excitement, for sure!

My tip would be that if you are visiting with young kids you try to grab seats at the back of the safari vehicle. That way the kids can enjoy unobstructed 360 views from the back of the vehicle. Also, have a bit more wiggle space to move around without disturbing others around them. The other family traveling in our vehicle were smart enough to snatch up those seats. #momwin

Since we were the last ones to board the Safari vehicle we had no choice but to take whatever seats were left. Meaning that we ended up sitting right near the front of the vehicle, amongst a more mature crowd of couples visiting without kids. I found myself wrestling my youngest on a few occasions trying to keep her still as to not disturb the others around (who did seem a bit bothered by my kid's constant movement). My husband eventually moved to the back of the vehicle with my youngest and that improved her experience (and ours) during this tour.

The Best for Last But We Missed It, Till Next Time

Once our ride was over the tour ended with a walkthrough to visit and view camels, lemmers, a tortoise and several other animals that are located near the welcome barn where the tour originally began. We had been looking forward to this part of the experience. However, we didn’t stay for this walking part of the tour. After sitting in the Safari vehicle for more than two hours my kids were ready to move on so we skipped out early. I'm sure we missed out on a fun time but we'll be back and will make sure to stay next time (when my youngest is a bit older).

All that being said, my family did enjoy a great time and I would highly recommend this Safari Wilderness experience in Central Florida. My kids won't soon forget those close animal encounters and are still bragging about it to friends and family! #takethekids

Thanks Safari Wilderness for helping us make exciting new travel memories!

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