If you’re looking for an up-close animal experience, it doesn’t get any closer than the Outback Safari at Hollywild Animal Park
, 2325 Hampton Road in the Spartanburg
County town of Wellford.
My family and I recently climbed on the safari bus, bags of bread for feeding ($6) in hand for a wild ride. Thousands of people take the ride through Hollywild’s Safari during the regular zoo season. It’s one of the upstate
zoo’s many hands on animal experiences.
Our friendly driver and safari guide, Nicole, introduced us to all of the animals. Tank the White Rhinoceros was the first to welcome visitors from his fenced in habitat. Hollywild is known for its famous animals. Park Executive Director David Meeks founded Cinema Animal Talent, an agency that provides rare and unusual talent for movies, commercials and special events and dozens of his “Celebrity Zooperstars” call Hollywild home.
Tank is the only working rhino in the country and has been in Blue Cross/Blue Shield commercials, a national Land Rover ad campaign (Land Rover lost a few SUVs to rhino play), and a ZICAM commercial.
Jordan, a big black Watusi (water buffalo) bull they call the King of the Safari, American bison (buffalo), sika and fallow deer, a giant Holstein cow, and emu were some of the animals that approached the bus for treats.
There were also “Waffalos” in the herd. Zookeepers came up with that term for the buffalo and Watusi cross animals, which have been given names like Eggo and Poptart. It’s an incredible experience to reach out and pet the head and touch the nose of the towering animals.
The safari fields make up 70 of the more than 100 acres of the zoo, which is home to more than 70 species and more than 700 animals. My parents took me to the animal park, then named M&M zoo, when I was a kid in the 1980s, and I have fond memories of feeding the animals. I”m glad I can now take my daughter to experience the fun.
Kim Atchley, marketing director for Hollywild, says the park is there to entertain but also to provide awareness to conservation issues. “These animals cannot be released to the wild because they’ve spent their lives depending on humans, but we hope that by giving people the opportunity to learn about the animals and their native lands that there’s a better chance their natural habitats will be protected so native species can survive and thrive in the wild where they belong.”
If your family loves animals, Hollywild Animal Park is a must. They are open year-round and during the holiday season put on quite a show with their Holiday Lights Safari
. The event is Hollywild’s primary fundraiser of the year and helps the park continue to make improvements to habitats and care for animals.
Admission to the park is $12 for adults, $8 for children ages 2-14, the disabled and seniors; and $10 for students and military. For park hours and more information, visit the Hollywild website at www.hollywild.com