As ALS celebrates its 45th season this year, they’ve come up with quite an offering for visitors both recurring and new. Aptly titled “Wake Up the Wild”, this early morning, behind the scenes tour is something like I’ve never experienced. It’s extremely interactive, educational, exhilarating and an exclusive opportunity to be up close and personal with the animals.
Starting at 9:00 am, Ashleigh, my trusty photographer, and I boarded a tour bus to start our day.
Our first stop was to watch a pride of beautiful African lions devour breakfast. Yup, devour. These are majestic, wild animals after all. There’s no table manners or salad forks or napkins. And yes, the dominant male gets his choice of 5 piles of meat placed about 20 feet apart. The bus stopped a few feet away from the hungry lions and my oh my were there some amazing photo opportunities. While watching the lions feed would’ve been more than enough, we were joined by Karen and Danielle from the Marketing team (who helped create this wonderful adventure), Heather, a Game Warden and Jason, Head Hoofstock Supervisor. All of them are clearly passionate about what they do and it’s evident by their enthusiasm.
We were given a lot of information about the lion’s behaviour, their history at ALS and it truly enhanced the experience.
From there, we stopped and watched the feeding of breakfast to white lions, which was also a treat!
Interestingly, white lions are not albino lions, which is a common mistake. Albino’s have red eyes, which white lions don’t have.
Next up (and my favorite part of the adventure) was hand feeding Canada’s largest herd of giraffes. We transferred from the enclosed bus to a converted open air truck that when you’re standing, puts you about 6 feet higher off the ground. Add in an average height of nearly 6 feet and you’re 12 feet up. Add in an average arm extension of 2 feet and you’ve got an approximate 14 foot reach. But Jay, what’s with the height talk? Well, dear readers, when you’re hand feeding giraffes, every inch counts.
Armed with a huge bucket of carrots and lettuce, we were told to hold our arms high up with food in hand and stand still. Saying “heeeerrreeeeeeee giraffey giraffey giraffey giraffe” sadly doesn’t work.
If you hold it, they will come. One at a time, these gorgeous creatures came up to the truck, gave us a good once over and gracefully lowered their necks to take the food from us. As you can picture, giraffes use their tongues only to grasp food and chew it. And natures given them plenty of tongue to work with; 18-20 inches on average.
While the first time was a bit peculiar (because really, how many of you have ever feed a wild animal?) you have to wait till that massive tongue has a firm hold on the lettuce/carrot and the instant they start pulling away, you let go.
We got most of them to come by and take some food from us, there were a few that weren’t sure about taking it but hey, you can’t win them all.
One thing to mention if you’re going to participate in this: please please please keep your cell phone on silent when you’re feeding them. I use a west coast fruit phone and when I took a few pictures, the clicking sound came through and it spooked the giraffe I was trying to feed and he ran away. Maybe they like berries more than apples. But really folks, to get the most of your experience, put your phone on silent and enjoy all the hard work ALS has done in providing this striking park.
Overall, I’d say we spent about 40 minutes feeding them. It was an outstanding experience, a lot of fun and something I’ll always remember.
We moved on to see the rhino’s, wildebeests, zeebras and so many other animals in their habitat.
The great thing about the open air truck is that we ended up THIS close to the animals:
A funny moment was when driving away from the giraffes, the newborn baby giraffe followed us and yes, she (named Safari) ended up getting the last of the food!
ALS figures if the animals get to have grub in the morning, so should their guests on this adventure, so they include a gourmet breakfast/brunch after the tour.
The menu includes fresh made waffles (with several fresh fruit toppings available), pastries, delicious fruit skewers, juices, coffee/tea, sausages and bacon.
With the Wake Up the Wild experience, you get access to the park for the rest of the day and if you haven’t been to ALS, there’s a plethora of great things to check out.
Ashleigh and I saw Canada’s largest herd of Asian elephants swim in Recreation Lake, the Parrot Paradise show which exhibited their intelligence and natural abilities and the truly breathtaking Birds of Prey Flying Demonstration, which featured eagles, falcons, hawks, owls and vultures!
Oh, and we did the African Queen Boat Cruise as well which was fun.
So all in all, we had a remarkable day made even better by outstanding hosts (thanks again, team!)
This makes for a great day out with the family, friends, colleagues, heck, it’s an amazing option for a date!
ALS already has so much to offer already and now that they’ve included such an in depth, personal, educational and interactive program with awesome tour guides, this is something you definitely do NOT want to miss out on.
I’d be “lion” if I said I didn’t have a terrific time on this exclusive safari adventure.
Here’s the skinny:
Investing in a lifelong memory starts as low as $145 +HST
Available daily from July 2nd through August 29th, weekends in June and September