Whether you’re a giraffe lover or just an animal lover in general, I have the day trip adventure for you to put on your calendar next. Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is just an hour south of Austin on the outskirts of San Antonio. The ranch is a fun twist on traditional animal-viewing experiences and features a Texas-style African safari.
What Is Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch?
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch was created in 1984, after the family owners visited similar parks in the northeast and decided they wanted to add diversity to the area around Natural Bridge Caverns. The ranch originally spanned 200 acres, but has grown to cover a whopping 450 acres. It’s the longest running and most visited safari in Texas.
The ranch is inhabited by over 500 animals in a “home away from home.” More than 40 species from all over the world are represented, including native, exotic, and endangered wildlife. Some of the beautiful animals you’ll see are giraffes, rhinos, zebras, lemurs, wildebeests, and ostriches.
The main attraction at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is its Texas-style African safari, which spans six miles of trail throughout the property. The fun part of this adventure? You experience it all from the comfort of your car. Animals are free-roaming throughout the drive and come up to your vehicle to get food.
What Can You Expect When You Visit?
Buckle up because you’re in for the ride of your life. The fun starts before you even get to the admissions booth. Just beyond the entrance lies a giraffe enclosure and barn. The newest star and addition to the family, darling Faith, is often standing with her mama at the front to greet visitors. While you’re waiting in line, you can just stare at them in awe. I know I did!
Once you get to the admissions booth, you’ll get a bag of feed for the car (with the option to buy more) and a safari map. From there, you can choose between a few options: start by checking out the petting zoo and Lemur Island, visit with the giraffes at the front, or head straight onto the adventurous safari.
If you don’t stop to walk along the giraffe barns and enclosure, I recommend beginning by driving straight to the safari. The drive can take from an hour to two hours, depending on how long you linger with the animals. Cars will be lined up on the side of the road for picture-taking and feeding the visiting wildebeests, zebras, and other animal friends. If you’ve finished at your stop, you are free to drive around those who are still parked. Just be careful to steer clear of anyone else on the road–be it vehicle or animal.
If you decide to turn into Tower Creek, about halfway through the main path, you’ll get to see another gorgeous herd of giraffes (called a tower), along with ostriches and other fun animals. There’s also a Sweet Stop and restrooms, so this is the perfect place for a quick break before you head over to the zebras and rhinos.
At the end of the safari, you can stop back at the base camp for more fun. There’s a petting barnyard with some lively goats. If you have extra feed after your drive through the safari, use it here and give your kiddos one more chance to get up close and personal with the animals. Lemur Island is in the middle of a koi fish feeding pond, and there are a few more animal enclosures to see while you’re in the area.
If you’re feeling a little munchy after the safari, stop by the park’s Safari Camp Grill to grab some grub and fuel up. You’ll find a range of items on the menu, from pulled pork BBQ sandwiches, to personal pizzas, to burgers.
Giraffe Conservation Efforts at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is proud of its successful giraffe breeding program, which recently welcomed its 32nd baby giraffe, Faith, on Nov. 9, 2017. Faith is the third generation of giraffes born on the property. The park is also home to a rare pair of giraffe twins born in 2013, only the ninth known living set in the world.
“Forty percent of all giraffe subspecies have been lost in the last 30 years,” says Tiffany Soechting, resident animal specialist at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. She hand-reared Buddy, the male giraffe twin. The inseparable bond that was created became the driving force for her being a voice for giraffes.
On World Giraffe Day, June 21, Soechting teamed up with fellow giraffe conservationists Ashley Davison, Fred Bercovitch, and Catherine Land to establish Save the Giraffes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to guaranteeing the protection and preservation of giraffes in their natural habitat. The organization has been able to give money to three different projects since its creation: Chimpembele, GPS Collaring, and Project Giraffe.
Between its fun, unique safari and dedication to preserving endangered species, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is an all-around great experience. And if you decide that one time through the safari isn’t enough, you don’t have to worry about paying to go through again. Visitors can enjoy the adventure as many times as they like before the park closes for the day.
26515 Natural Bridge Caverns Road, San Antonio, TX – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you ever been on a Texas-style safari?