So here are my observations about the Safari Park:
1. Are you old enough to remember when it was called Lion Country Safari? When you just drove your car through it? It is much slicker and more conservation-minded now.
2. The food at the park is really, really bad. We ate lunch before meeting for Roar and Snore, and the very nice woman at the disgusting fast-food stand was really great about showing me the binder with the ingredient list for the yucky chicken she was about to put in my taco. Mexican food is almost always fine for me (minus the cheese and with a corn tortilla), and you figure that it should be pretty good when you’re that close to Mexico. It was totally gross.
3. Be prepared to walk a lot at the Safari Park. I think we could have made it all the way to Mexico, except we were walking in circles and up and down hills, and backtracking because we were lost a lot of the time. It’s really hot in Escondido (especially compared to Carlsbad which is right on the ocean). So we got very, very thirsty.
4. We stopped at the slushy place and had slushies. They were totally gross, too.
5. We exited the park at about 4 pm to check in for the Roar and Snore. We had our primo Roar and Snore parking space, and we got our luggage and dragged it to the check in desk. They’ll actually get your luggage out of your car for you, but seriously that would be dumb; we just had one rollie for the three of us. So here is my advice (and you can’t know this unless you’ve done a Roar and Snore): pack the bare minimum. You won’t have time to do ANYTHING except Roar and Snore activities. Don’t bring a book or an ipod. You’ll barely have enough time after dinner to unpack before you’re taking an evening waking tour.
6. During check in, there may be a very annoying man who has to answer every question and be an expert on everything, even answering questions that kids are supposed to answer and asking questions that kids should be asking. He is probably insecure. His tent might be next to yours. Don’t worry – you won’t be in your tent awake for more than 10 minutes, and this man will be so tired from talking so much and so loudly that he will go to bed before drum circle. (Even though his tent is near yours, he will probably not be in your tour group; there are several groups and it is possible that he will be in the cow group and you will be an elephant).
7. You’ll walk to camp with your group, which is good because they seem to group the people with six-year-olds together so that the kids can bond. DNP bonded with a little girl named Andrea a little bit, and she and Andrea bonded a lot with our guide, Cassie. Cassie was good and did not make us do elephant noises every time we saw another group or walk like elephants.
8. As soon as you arrive at camp, you eat dinner. No, do not attempt to go to your tent! We are very busy, and we have to eat so that we can go walk the equivalent of a marathon (so be sure to eat a lot). Except that the food is totally gross. We had our choice of totally gross breaded chicken (which of course I couldn’t eat), totally gross hot dogs (my stomach doesn’t like hot dogs, and with the bathrooms a short walk away, I avoided these, too) and totally gross hamburgers. I had my totally gross hamburger bunless, which meant I didn’t eat enough food.
9. After dinner we had about 5 minutes to go to our tents and put on long trousers. We set up our sleeping bags so they’d be ready when we returned (this turned out to be a good idea). Then we walked for hours with Cassie. But it was worth it because it was so great to see the animals at twilight when a lot of them are most active. And we got to meet some animals up close (springhaas and bullfrog). And we saw some behind the scenes stuff like the lion area (with their blood popsicles!). And DNP was pretty much glued to Cassie’s side, looking lovingly up at her and answering questions at every opportunity. She and the other six-year-olds in the elephant group were falling asleep standing up.
10. But… they all wanted to stay awake to have s’mores around the campfire (I roasted a marshmallow and ate a piece of chocolate; I could have eaten like ten of those) and then after that you had to do the drum circle! It was revealed (once again, to a whole new group of people) that I have no sense of rhythm. And then we went to bed. It was about 10 pm.
11. At about 10 pm you start hearing all sorts of noises (the “roar” in Roar and Snore). There was something that sounded like a dog barking and all sorts of screeching. Pretty cool! And the best part is you’re too tired to care.
12. Before you go to breakfast in the morning, your bags (or bag in our case) have to be outside your tent. See what I mean? The tent is irrelevant, so don’t spring for the luxe tent because you won’t get your money out of it. Unless you really hate sleeping on a pad and have to sleep on a bed. I had showered the night before expecting morning mayhem, but the bathrooms weren’t crowded at all when DNP and I went to brush our teeth before breakfast. On our way to the bathrooms, we stopped to see the elephants take a morning bath; like the evening, the animals are more active in the morning when it’s cool out.
13. Breakfast was totally gross; it was even worse than dinner. By this time I was starving, but after breakfast we walked another 26.2 miles all the way back out of the park.
14. And there’s something else I should mention. The entrance to the park is a lot higher than the grassy animal area, so there’s this very tall building spanning a sort of cliff. You can take the elevator down or up, or you can walk the stairs. It’s only four flights, so you have to take the stairs or you are a total out-of-shape American. So, even if you’re starving-hungry, you’ll take the stairs to prove that you are not the sort of person who takes elevators.
15. Before you leave the park, there is another animal encounter (this time an owl and some other animal I can’t remember) where you get to hear the annoying cow-man ask 4th grader questions that show how thoughtful he is (for a 4th grader, except he’s like 75). You also get a hand-stamp so you can use the park for the rest of that day (so you really get a two-day-for-one admission). We went back in for a little while to see some of the amazing African acrobats and dance the limbo.
Roar and Snore was like a three day vacation packed into one overnight. I can excuse the food because it was such a cool experience. I am pretty exhausted just writing about it…