A "wild" time at The Wilds
Southeast Ohio seems an unlikely place to stumble across a
crash of rhinos — or even one rhino, for that matter.
Yet one September afternoon we were fortunate enough to see
several of them — plus giraffes, cheetahs, zebras and a list of animals whose
names I can’t remember — up close from our bus on The Wilds’ Safari Transport
The Wilds is an approximately 14 square-mile conservation
facility in Cumberland that’s home to 31 rare and endangered species from
around the world. In addition to its well-known safaris, The Wilds also offers
conservation and education programs for all ages as well as opportunities for
birding, mountain biking, fishing and ziplining, among others. (If that sounds like too much fun for one day, you can stay overnight in a yurt, cabin or lodge.)
For transparency’s sake, I’ll admit we chose the Safari
Transport tour because at $20 per adult it was the most inexpensive of the
options (our three-year-old was admitted for free). It suited our needs just
fine. The Open-Air Safari also looked like it would be loads of fun, however —
and if you’re really in the mood to splurge, you can go for the Wildside Tour,
in which you travel in a truck with The Wilds staff and feed the animals
We boarded our bus (unlike the open-air buses, the Safari
Transport buses have windows) around 10 a.m. and were one of two young families
to depart with a tour guide named Denny.
We appreciated that Denny was full of information about each
of the animals we saw and about The Wilds facility. He even had a photo book
with close-ups of all the animals we might see on the tour.
We were fortunate to have beautiful weather for our trip —
sunny and low 70s. It made for great visibility of the animals. Whenever we
came to an animal group, Denny would stop the van so we could move to the
proper side to get a better look. Smaller windows at the top of the big viewing
windows slid open so we could take pictures.
There were two stops on the approximately two-hour tour,
which came in handy with a restless three-year-old. The first Lake Trail, where
you could hike down a short trail to a pond and see geese and catfish (even
feed them, if you had a quarter for the machines). The second was at the
special viewing area for the cheetahs and other animals in the Mid-Sized
Carnivore Conservation Center.
That stop also had a snack bar and tables where you could
eat, as well as a walkway that led up to a fenced-in area where we found a few
cheetahs taking a snooze. They actually looked up when our daughter meowed at
After the tour, we enjoyed lunch outdoors at The Overlook
Café and Restaurant. Analeigh couldn’t decide whether her favorite part was the
rhinos or the giraffes. But when we took her to the gift shop, she chose a
stuffed zebra — so I guess it was a bit of everything.