Lion Country Safari
Deep in the recesses of West Palm Beach Florida is an African Savannah. Lion Country Safari is America’s first drive-through wildlife preserve. Since 1967, Lion Country Safari has been providing a unique opportunity to visitors from all over the world.
The park is separated into two parts, the Preserve, and Safari World.
The drive-through preserve, all seven sections of it,Â is very nice. There is a wide assortment of wildlife to photograph. Wildebeest, impala’s, water buffalo, and more fill this wide area of the park. As a photographer, you always want to focus on the animals themselves. If at all possible, making the animal the focus of the shot.
At Lion Country Safari, there are many man-made obstacle that tend to get in the way of your photos. Lion Country Safari make no real attempt to “hide” these items. I recall Disney’s Animal Kingdom where food troughs were hidden behind artificial fallen trees. This way, the magic remained, while the function was preserved. Wide angle photos are usually unbalanced by the appearance of a shed, a fence, a large feeding stand, and an assortment of other items.
Each area of the preserve is separated by a series of ground grates, and fences. The ground grates consist of several rolling bars that apparently prevent the animals from leaving or entering another area. The lion area of the part is separated by a unique fencing system. Originally, this fence would automatically close when a lion approached it. Trapping people in their vehicles, inside the enclosed area until the lion moved away. There was always a jeep vehicle with park employees in the enclosure at all times, watching for anything out of the ordinary.
The lions were free to walk across the road, look in your vehicle, even play with the radio antenna. In my recent visit I noticed that the lions were no longer allowed to walk across the road, or allowed to be near the vehicles. A new interior fence was construction to house the beautiful felines and prevent them from interacting with the guest vehicles. I was saddened by this because after all, its called “Lion” Country Safari. After my tour I did visit the office to inquire why the change was made. The answer was astonishing… people were getting out of their vehicles inside the lion enclosure. Keep in mind, there are signs EVERYWHERE telling people to leave their windows up, and stay inside the vehicle. The park has many employees that drive the entire path in case someone needs assistance. Granted, there are places where you can roll down your window to take a photograph, but the lion section is NOT one to do that in. Can people be that dumb? Well, the answer is yes. As usual, a few stupid people spoil it for the rest of us. So, no lion photos can be taken without the chain link fence they are behind being seen.
Along with the aforementioned wildlife, there were also rhinoceros, zebras, monkeys and giraffe. I was disappointed to see the largest animal there, the elephant, had an area smaller than the monkeys or any other creature. I’m not sure what the deal was with that, but it was very sad. The zebras mingled with the rhinoceros, and a rhino even crossed in front of my car. Here is a tip: Rhinoceros have the right of way. Within the giraffe area were several baby giraffes. Over its lifetime, the park has seen its share of babies born including a rare white rhinoceros.
As a photographer, you are often tempted to roll down the window, and even to get out to “get the shot”. It’s very hard to get a good shot with all the obstructions in the way, and the fact that there is a line of cars behind you makes you feel rushed. I inquired at the office about guided private tours for photographers, and was told they had nothing, but I could contact their marketing department. Apparently the marketing department arranges for news people to drive with park employees.
After the preserve portion of the park, there is the Safari World area. This is the children’s part of the park, filled with amusement rides, miniature golf, a water play area, and a petting zoo. There are some reptile, and bird exhibits, but most, except for the flamingos, are in cages.
One area which my wife and I enjoyed, was the giraffe feeding area. For a small fee, you can literally feed a giraffe. The platform is raised to be “head height” for the giraffe, and allows you to hand feed them. Although this is a better opportunity for photographers, there are still many obstacles such as fences, power lines, poles, and more. I did my best to get some photos of the giraffes.
Overall, Lion Country Safari is a fun time, and does give you the opportunity to photograph animals you may not normally get to photograph.
Pros : Unique animals to photograph. Up close experience. Inexpensive.
Cons: Many obstructions. Not all animals are close up. There is a feeling of being rushed.
Check out Lion Country Safari’s web site for more information, and their operating hours.