Africa is home to some of the Earth’s most breathtaking and intriguing animals. So many people dream of making it to Africa some day to see these animals in person. But if you can’t find the time or resources to get to Africa, there are other places where you can see these animals just as you would in Africa. The zoos on this list bring Africa to you through immersive and realistic open savanna exhibits that are impressively similar to what someone might experience on an African safari. We are counting down the 10 best places in the world to view African wildlife outside of Africa.
10.) Lion Country Safari, Loxahatchee, FL
Home to over 900 animals, Lion Country Safari is Florida’s only drive-through and walk-through Safari and was America’s first “cageless” zoo. With about five miles of road to drive on, visitors to the park get as close to African animals as you can get without touching them. With thrilling animals such as lions, rhinos, giraffes, and ostriches, driving through the savanna at Lion Country Safari will be sure to give visitors an incredible look at the beautiful animals of Africa.
9.) Fuji Safari Park, Susono, Japan
Located at the foot of a gorgeous mountain, Fuji Safari Park also offers the option of driving through their savanna to get up close and personal with African animals. During the drive, visitors will see elephants, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, rhinos, and several other species of large mammals. There is also a walk-through area of the park where hippos, leopards, and and lemurs can be seen. One unique aspect of this savanna exhibit is that the elephant area includes a huge pool deep enough for them to fully submerge themselves and cool off.
8.) African Savanna: Bioparc Valencia, Valencia, Spain
This mixed-species exhibit features a natural combination of giraffes, birds, antelope, and wildebeest. The African Savanna area is close by other African exhibits such as wetlands, Madagascar, and equatorial forests. In all, this area of the park is over 1,000,000 sq. ft. and is filled with rich vegetation that is native to Africa. Accented by rocks, caves, a “river,” and enormous baobab trees, this open savanna is very natural and expansive.
7.) Giants of the Savannah: Dallas Zoo, Dallas, TX
Opened in 2010, Giants of the Savannah is a top savanna exhibit in the United States and features many of the beloved, charismatic animals of Africa. The Dallas Zoo is home to five elephants that were rescued from Swaziland, Africa after suffering through devastating drought. Research shows that this savanna is designed beautifully for the amount of walking that elephants would naturally do in the wild to find food and water, explore, and exercise. Because of the enrichment that is placed around the exhibit as well as the other species of animals, the elephants are encouraged to move more. The enclosure also includes water holes for bathing and small hills for additional exercise for all the animals.
6.) The Savanna: Kolmården Wildlife Park, Norrköping, Sweden
While many zoos throughout the world are home to African animals, the Kolmården Wildlife Park is the only place in Sweden where you can see Addax antelopes, Grevy’s zebras, gorillas, and several other animals. The savanna portion of the zoo is home to rhinos, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, and ostriches. One way to view the animals is through a gondola ride across the exhibits and savanna to bring visitors amazing views of the animals below. There is also a lodge overlooking the plains where patrons may sit on a deck and listen to presentations about the animals and what goes into caring for them. The superb accessibility of this wildlife park makes it one of the top destinations in all of Scandinavia.
5.) East African Savanna: Chimelong Safari Park, Guangzhou, China
Visitors to this Chinese safari park have not one, but three ways to explore the open savanna! There is an aerial cable car, a driving tour, and a walking tour. The cable car ride brings riders within just 3 feet of the ground in some places, has a glass floor, and is silent so it does not disturb the animals or the people. The ground safari ride is divided into sections based on continents. All of the sections combined equal over 1 billion sq. ft! In the African portion, visitors feel like they are racing the herds of zebra and antelope as they run in large herds at high speeds. With such a large area, this savanna is almost as close as you can get to Africa without actually going there.
4.) Serengeti Plain: Bush Gardens Tampa, Tampa Bay, FL
At 65 acres, the Serengeti Plain is a massive, ecologically accurate savanna located just a few miles from the beaches of Tampa Bay. Sharing the space together are rhinos, giraffes, ostriches, zebras, and several species of antelope. Just beyond the plains and separated by a moat are some of the large carnivores of Africa: lions and hyenas. The moat is almost invisible when standing level to the ground and gives the appearance that the lions are living among the other animals of the plains. Visitors can choose to take a train ride around the plains or a cable car above it. And for those that want to get even closer to the animals, an open air safari ride can be purchased for an additional fee.
3.) Harambe Wildlife Preserve: Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, FL
With a total area of 110 acres and with 34 species of African animals roaming freely, Harambe Wildlife Preserve is very impressive. Home to one of the most complete collections of African animals in North America, visitors may see rhinos, warthogs, zebras, wildebeest, ostriches, hippos, flamingos, crocodiles, and many more species while on a safari ride. A private resort near the preserve also gives those staying at Disney for their vacation an incredible look at the animals right outside their hotel window. The preserve is beautifully landscaped and makes guests feel completely immersed in an African ecosystem.
2.) The Wilds, Cumberland, OH
As North America’s largest conservation facility (over 14 square miles!), The Wilds is an amazing sight to behold. This enormous savanna is home to cheetahs, White rhinos, African painted dogs, giraffes, Grevy’s zebra, and the Scimitar oryx, a species that has been extinct in the wild for nearly 40 years. These animals roam freely and live together just as they would in the wild. The mission of The Wilds is to lead in conservation and to connect people with wildlife. They are doing just that through their breeding programs, safari rides for visitors, and conservation projects all around the world.
1.) African Plains: San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego, CA
Topping off our list of the best savanna exhibits in the world is this large, enriching, and highly accessible exhibit at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Featuring rhinos, wild ass, ostriches, vultures, giraffes, and zebras, it is the many different ways that visitors have access to viewing these animals that makes this our #1 exhibit. The Safari Park offers 9 ways to go on a safari: traditional safari truck, a tram, a cart, a ropes course above the zoo, a caravan, a sleepover, a VIP tour, a zip-line, and the most unique of all, a balloon ride! In the savanna exhibit itself, animals have access to plenty of enrichment, pools for swimming and drinking, African vegetation, and of course, the fun of watching visitors explore in so many ways.
In this listing, exhibits were ranked based on size, number of species, and visitor accessibility. These 10 exhibits offer guests the most unique and realistic African experiences outside of Africa. Be sure to consider them when planning your next vacation!