Beasts of the Southern Wild: Return to Virginia Safari Park

July 31, 2014 — Seven years ago, I took my girlfriend to the Virginia Safari Park, an-amazing-that-it-exists drive-through safari where you're constantly accosted by creatures (I wrote about the experience a year later). After all the crazy danger of horned, sharp-toothed, and beaked animals shoving their hungry maws into the tender parts of the interior of our car and mere inches away from our own tender parts, all I could think was…I really should bring a kid to this.

So I married my girlfriend, had a couple of them, and finally returned.

The drive-through safari hadn’t really changed, even if it felt a bit more lama-heavy this time. It was its usual exhilarating, terrifying, out-of-control, too-close-to-nature, gay old time. But the walk-around part seemed to have grown to become almost a full-fledged zoo, with cheetahs and rhinoceri and all kinds of creatures too uncomfortable with humans-on-wheels to stick in the drive-through part. Good to see the place was thriving.

New experiences for us this time around included a camel stealing one of our food buckets with its finger-like lips and strong neck (exactly like the warning signs warned us), getting to hand-feed a giraffe for the first time in my life (it felt disconcertingly like an unshaven man pressing his mouth into my palm), and realizing that having a four-year-old in the passenger seat added to both the fun and the terror of the experience by about 40 times the number of her age.

So below are some pics, above is a short video, and as soon as the three-month-old who sat placidly in the back sleeping on my wife’s lap through an experience that must surely have been the inspiration for that one Troggs song grows up, we’re going back.

I had about twenty pics that looks like this as I juggled a camera, fed animals out of my window,
drove the car, and tried to protect my child in the passenger seat from getting bit or gored.
Pretty much in that order.

This was how she was supposed to hold the bucket...

But too often, this is how she did it.

That's my hand with a giraffe attached to it.

Sometimes, the experience was terrifying...

But other times, it was extremely touching.