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Safaris at San Diego Zoo Safari Park – prices, duration, timings

Safaris at San Diego Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a 1,800-acre wild animal enclosure in the San Pasqual Valley area of San Diego, California, near Escondido. 

More than two million locals and tourists visit San Diego Safari Park annually to get closer to wildlife and have animal encounters. 

At this Safari Park, visitors can choose from different safaris, each better than the other. 

This article shares everything you must know about the different kinds of safaris at the San Diego wildlife attraction. 

Top San Diego Zoo Safari Park Tickets

# Buy Safari Park Ticket # 2-day San Diego Zoo + San Diego Safari Park combo

Table of contents

What to expect at safari park, where to book tickets, how do online tickets work, free safari at san diego safari park, best time for african tram safari, free safari or paid safaris, wildlife safari, night vision safari, twilight wildlife safari, cabana safari, sun up cheetah safari, cart safari africa, behind-the-scenes safari, flightline safari, roar and snore safari, ultimate safari, balloon safari, faqs about the safaris at san diego zoo safari park.

The Safari Park is known for its vast, open-air exhibits that aim to replicate the animals’ natural habitats.

The expansive enclosures give the animals ample space to roam and engage in more natural behaviors.

The park is home to a diverse collection of animals, focusing on species from Africa and Asia.

You can see herds of elephants, giraffes, rhinos, zebras, antelopes, and various bird species.

The park is dedicated to wildlife conservation, and you can expect to see educational displays and signage emphasizing the importance of protecting endangered species and their habitats.

There are shows and demonstrations featuring various animals throughout the day.

These presentations provide educational insights into different species’ behaviors, adaptations, and characteristics.

The park offers some interactive exhibits where visitors can get hands-on experiences or learn more about specific animal behavior and conservation aspects.

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Tickets for San Diego Zoo Safari Park are available online or at the attraction box office.

Online ticket prices tend to be cheaper than tickets at the venue.

When you buy online, you can avoid the long queues at the attraction’s ticket counters.

Because the attraction sells a limited number of tickets, they may sell out during peak days. Booking early helps avoid last-minute disappointments.

Once you purchase San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets , they get delivered to your email address.

There is no need to get printouts of the ticket.

On the day of your visit, proceed directly to the turnstiles; you do not have to stand in line at the ticket booth. Show the e-ticket on your smartphone and enter the park.

The African Tram Safari is free with the regular San Diego Safari Park ticket .

The 30-minute guided tour happens in an open-air tram so that the visitors can connect with the San Diego Safari Park’s animals on a closer level. 

African Tram Safari at San Diego Safari Park

The tram takes a 4 km (2.5 miles) long route through San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s field habitats, and you get to see herds of giraffes, flocks of exotic birds, crashes of rhinos, etc. 

African Tram Safaris start from the African Outpost at 10 am and continue 45 minutes before the park closes. 

The best time to line up for the African Tram Safaris is before 11 am or after 3 pm because there is no crowd. 

If you reach the African Outpost between 11 am and 3 pm, you may have to wait a while to board the tram.

Besides the Africa Tram, the San Diego Safari Park admission tickets include Cheetah Run, tours and attractions, shows, animal encounters & kids playgrounds.

The only experiences NOT included in the regular ticket are the paid safaris .

A visit to San Diego Safari Park is a costly undertaking. 

The Safari Park admission costs US$69 for all visitors 12 years and above and $59 for three to 11-year-old visitors. 

This is why many visitors wonder if the free Africa Tram Safari included in the ticket is enough. 

They also want to know if it makes sense to book one of the paid safaris.

We think the paid safari tours are nice to have. 

If money isn’t an issue, and you have time, go for them. 

Else, you won’t miss much by just purchasing the regular San Diego Safari ticket and going on the free safari.

Wildlife lovers opt for the 2-day San Diego Zoo + San Diego Safari Park combo , which allows them to visit both wildlife attractions one after the other. Or if they prefer, they can visit one attraction twice. 

Paid Safaris at San Diego Safari Park 

San Diego Zoo Safari Park offers 11 safaris, for which visitors must pay extra. 

These are over and above the numerous wildlife experiences that come with the regular Safari Park ticket . 

You can book these safaris once you reach the Safari Park or call 619-718-3000 in advance.

Even if you book an extra safari, you must purchase a regular entry ticket to the park.

We explain all the different San Diego Safari Park tours so that you can decide for yourself. 

During the Wildlife Safari, your group of up to six will board an open-air safari truck with an expert guide and explore the expansive savanna habitats.

This is a private tour, and you see many birds and mammals, including some babies. 

Age Restriction: 3 years and up Duration: 1 hour Cost: US$419 per group of up to six

During the Night Vision Safari, you spot rhinos, flamingos, giraffes, and more in the dark. 

Everybody gets a pair of night vision binoculars before they hop onto an open-air safari truck to experience the Safari Park’s multispecies habitats like never before. 

The Wildlife Safari at twilight is a great way to get a complete wildlife experience. 

Led by an expert guide, your private group will board a safari truck and roll into the African savanna habitats to get closer to African animals.

You finish the safari by stopping at one of Safari Park’s breathtaking viewpoints. 

You enjoy a glass of wine or non-alcoholic beverage and a curated snack box even as you take in the sounds, smells, and views.

Age Restriction: 3 years and up Duration: 1 and a half hour Cost: US$589 per group

Cabana Safari at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

This safari is great for a family celebrating an occasion. 

You get a private cabana with stunning views of giraffe herds, iconic rhinos, and a large variety of African wildlife below. 

A dedicated host who handles all your needs, such as lunch, etc., will be available throughout the day.

Age Restriction: None Time:  Daily during park hours Duration: 1 hour Cost: US$250 per group of six

This San Diego Safari Park tour happens before the attraction opens for regular visitors. 

An experienced guide takes you on an early morning stroll through the Safari Park.

Besides strolling from the Park entrance to Shiley’s Cheetah Run and Kijamii Overlook, you also witness a cheetah run at top speed.

Since the ticket booths will be closed early in the morning, you must book this safari at least one day in advance. 

Age Restriction: None Time: 8.30 am, Saturday, Sunday, and select holidays Duration: 1 hour Cost: US$99 per person

Did you know that the San Diego Zoo houses more animals in a smaller space? Some visitors prefer to read our comparison of San Diego Safari Park and Zoo before booking their tickets.

You sit in a private safari cart and enjoy a 60-minute guided tour of the park’s spacious African savanna habitats.

The expert guide shares stories about the plants and animals in the park.

Age Restriction: None Time:  Daily during park hours Duration: 1 hour Cost: US$318 per group of six

During the Behind-the-Scenes Safari tour, you embark on a 90-minute private adventure to see animals up close and listen to wildlife stories.

A guide escorts you around the park in a deluxe cart and shows you areas closed to the public. 

There are three types of Behind-the-Scenes Safari – 

Aussie Surprise: This is an early morning safari in the Walkabout Australia section of San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Visitors will see animals such as kangaroos, Platypus, wallabies, etc. 

Elephants and Friends: During this guided tour, you go behind the scenes at the Elephant Valley and learn what it takes to care for a herd of African elephants.

Rhinos and friends: During this safari, you will visit Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center, a 3.5-acre state-of-the-art facility that conserves white rhinos.

Age Restriction: None Time:  Daily during park hours Duration: 90 minutes to 2 hours Cost: US$522 per group of six

During the Flightline Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, you will soar as high as 130 feet above the ground and take a bird’s-eye view of rhinos, giraffes, and other wildlife in the savanna habitats.

The tour includes:

  • An orientation on the tour and safety equipment
  • Brief interpretive tour
  • ‘Preparator flight’ on a smaller zipline
  • The trip by safari truck to the final launch platform
  • The final zipline flight of two-thirds of a mile

Age Restriction: 8 years and up Time: Daily during park hours Duration: 1 hour, including training Cost: US$308 per group of four

This experience is an excellent sleepover adventure at the Safari Park.

All sleepovers include activities at the Roar and Snore camp, an after-hours wildlife exploration, dinner, an evening snack, and breakfast the following morning.

This wildlife experience can be booked as a family or group of adults. 

Age Restriction: None Duration: Overnight, 4:15 pm to 9:30 am Cost: US$149 per group of six

Aptly named the Ultimate Safari, this is perhaps the best safari at San Diego Safari Park.

This experience is customized for your needs and interests with the best habitat areas, animal interactions, and a sit-down lunch. 

This five hours long safari needs reservations (minimum 72 hours ahead) and is subject to availability. 

Age Restriction: 3 years and up Duration: 5 hours or 7 hours Cost: US$710+ per person

Balloon Safari in San Diego Park

The Balloon Safari is modeled on the hot air balloon tours of the Serengeti.

The tethered helium balloon rises silently 400 feet, and you get to spend 10 to 12 minutes in the sky, gaining a bird’s eye view of the park.

Since animals are most active early in the morning, the best time to be up in the air is 9 am to noon.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the Safaris at San Diego Zoo Safari Park:

The Safari Park strives to make its attractions accessible to all visitors. Wheelchair accessibility may vary by safari tour, so it’s recommended to inquire about specific accommodations.

Yes, photography is allowed during the safari tours. However, it’s essential to follow any guidelines provided by the park and be considerate of the animals and fellow visitors.

The park prioritizes visitor safety, and safari tours adhere to strict safety guidelines. Visitors are usually briefed on safety protocols before the tours, and trained guides accompany guests during the experiences.

Some safari experiences are included with a general admission ticket , while others may require an additional booking and fee.

Sources # tripadvisor.com # Wikipedia.org # Lajollamom.com The travel specialists at TheBetterVacation.com use only high-quality sources while researching & writing their articles. We make every attempt to keep our content current, reliable and trustworthy .

Popular attractions in San Diego

# San Diego Safari Park # San Diego Zoo # Legoland California # USS Midway Museum # SeaWorld San Diego # San Diego Harbor Cruise

Other zoos in California

# Los Angeles Zoo # San Francisco Zoo

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This article was researched & written by

Shobha Mahapatra

She loves traveling in groups - of friends and relatives. The destination doesn't matter much as long she has her fun group around. She loves to try the local cuisine and clothes and also builds friendships wherever she goes. Favorite Cities: Istanbul, Hanoi, Cape Town, Singapore

1 thought on “Safaris at San Diego Zoo Safari Park – prices, duration, timings”

YOu don’t say anywhere where the tours start from? How far from the entrance is the walk?

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Go San Diego

Get the Most Out of Your Visit to San Diego’s Zoo Safari Park

Originally built as a conservation facility, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park first opened its doors in 1972. Today, it is one of San Diego’s best attractions, welcoming a whopping 2 million people through its doors annually. It’s home to more than 2,600 animals representing over 300 animal species and over 3,500 plant species. It’s also home to the largest veterinary hospital in the world, which is situated adjacent to the park.

Dozens of endangered species have been bred here and reintroduced into the wild. The entrance fees and fees from the extra cost activities help maintain this animal sanctuary and continue its great work. Below I’ve created an in-depth look at both the free and extra cost activities you can enjoy at the Safari Park.

It’s Included: What You Get with the Price of Admission

Before I get into the paid extras at the San Diego Safari Park, I’m going to give you a quick breakdown of what’s included in the price of admission as well as some freebie activities you can enjoy at the park if you know about them ahead of time.

The Africa Tram

Due to its expansive acreage, it can be hard to walk the entire park, especially during the summer when the sun is bearing down on you. So, take the complimentary Africa Tram. It’s the best way to see the entire park, ensuring you don’t miss out on any of the animal habitats. Afterward, you can explore your favorite areas again without feeling rushed. These guided rides begin departing at 10:30 a.m. and last 25 minutes. Boarding takes place at the far side of the Park.

Animal Encounters: Watch Feedings, Ask Questions, and Get Interactive

Tiger keeper talk.

Learn about Sumatran tigers at the Sumatran Longhouse located on Tiger Trail. One of the tigers’ keepers will tell you everything you want to know about these fabulous animals. Talks take place at 11:45 a.m. every day that the park is open.

Animal Ambassador Stage

Get face-to-face with one of the park’s animal ambassadors in the Safari Base Camp. This interactive program lets you get up-close-and-personal with an alligator, cheetah, or other exotic and rare animal. The animal trainers encourage you to ask your burning questions about the species and their habitats. This experience takes place twice daily, one at 9:30 a.m. and one at 2:30 p.m. Other animal encounters take place in the Gorilla Forest at 12:30 p.m. and in the African Outpost at 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. daily.

Cheetah Run

Witness the fastest mammal alive light up the racetrack at the Cheetah Run. Situated near the Lion Camp this jaw-dropping experience is included with the price of admission. You’ll sit back and relax as one of the park’s cheetahs takes off down a 330-foot straight track allowing it to really stretch its legs as it reaches top speeds of 70 mph.

Hanging Out in Nairobi Village

This area of the park offers several animal encounters and unique experiences at various times throughout the day including the Petting Kraal, Lorikeet Landing, and Lemur Walk.

Petting Kraal

Let your children meet the park’s littlest residents at the Petting Kraal where they can brush and stroke gentle goats. This takes place twice daily – at 10 a.m. and 4:45 p.m.

africa tram safari vs cart safari

Lorikeet Landing

Feed colorful rainbow lorikeets at Lorikeet Landing at 10 a.m. or 3:45 p.m. For a small fee you can purchase nectar, and these vibrant birds will land on your hand to get their fill. This experience isn’t recommended for skittish children as it can be a little overwhelming for them.

Have you ever wanted to get up-close-and-personal with a lemur? The Lemur Walk is an immersive experience where you’ll walk along a pathway through this animal’s natural habitat to catch these endearing primates living their best lives. Watch them as they socialize with one another, groom each other, jump around, climb trees, and even sunbathe. This activity has a minimum age requirement of 5 years old.

Learn more about what is included in the price of admission and purchase discounted tickets .

The Butterfly Effect

One of the most anticipated annual events at the park is the Butterfly Walk. From the end of March to the beginning of May thousands of gorgeous butterflies displaying all colors and sizes fill a greenhouse in Nairobi Village. It’s a joy to walk through as these winged creatures flit across the space. You can easily identify each with the handy identification guide provided to you. Priority butterfly viewing is available at an additional cost. You can get tickets at the Priority Ticket booth. You can also purchase a special treat to have these little guys eating out of the palm of your hand.

Tip: Wear bold and bright colors on the Butterfly walk to invite one of the butterflies to perch on your shoulder.

It’s Not Included – But It’s Worth the Additional Cost

While there are a plethora of free activities and encounters that you can experience at the park, there are also a host of extra-cost activities, experiences, and tours to choose from. They range in price from moderate to expensive, but don’t let the price run you off. The proceeds are used to maintain the park and continue to provide the animals with the best care possible.

Conservation Carousel

A perfect attraction for kids and playful adults, the Conservation Carousel is a classic carousel with 60 replicas of wild animals, many you’ll find in the park like giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs, and zebras. Hop on your favorite animal and enjoy the ride as you listen to the cheerful music. You get unlimited rides for just $6; this attraction is open from 10 am to closing time.

Balloon Safari

Fly high in the sky with the Balloon Safari experience, this tethered helium balloon launches 400 feet into the air giving you a view typically reserved for out winged friends. Designed to imitate the hot air balloon tours of the Serengeti, you’ll spend 10-12 minutes enjoying aerial views of the various animal habitats. As the price of this activity varies, you’ll have to inquire at the park to find out the cost. The best times to fly are at 9 am and 12 pm.

africa tram safari vs cart safari

Caravan Safari Adventures

Classic caravan safari adventure.

Feel like you’re on an actual safari in the open fields of Africa with the park’s classic Caravan Safari Adventure. It lasts two-hours. You’ll travel in the back of a covered, open-air safari truck as you explore at least two of their field enclosures. This experience allows you to get up-close with the mammals and birds native to Asia and Africa, plus offers an opportunity to feed the giraffes.

Age Minimum: Must be at least 8 years old Price: $125 and up

GSD Note: This tour is also available as the Caravan Safari Deluxe which simply means you get more time out on the Safari and visit more enclosures. It lasts 3.5 hours, and the cost increases to $175 and up. The age minimum is 8 years old.

Caravan Safari Twilight

This experience is identical to the classic Caravan Safari Adventure except that it takes place at twilight. You’ll enjoy cooler temperatures and beautiful evening light vistas. Tours that take place at this time of day usually see increased animal activity. They are only available during certain months, so be sure to call ahead.

Caravan Safari Kids

Designed especially with kids in mind, the Caravan Safari Kids kicks off with an animal presentation and an opportunity to meet on the park’s animal ambassadors up-close. Several hands-on activities are provided throughout the tour, and a knowledgeable guide will help your children discover just how similar humans and animals really are.

Age Minimum: Must be at least 6 years old Price: $125 and up

Note: All animal interactions and feeding opportunities are subject to the animals’ accessibility and disposition at the time of the tour.

Cheetah Safari

Perhaps one of the coolest experiences at the park, the Cheetah Safari, includes reserved trackside seats at the Cheetah Run where you’ll watch a lightning-fast cheetah whoosh by you as it chases a mechanical lure just a few feet away. Before the big chase you’ll relax in your VIP seating area as you get to enjoy an up-close-and-personal interaction with a different African animal.

After the race, both cheetah and trainer will come over to your section for an exclusive meet-and-greet experience where you can ask any questions and snap some photos. This is a one-hour activity that you must call ahead to experience, as it’s only available on select days and times.

Minimum Age: Must be at least 10 years old Price: $59 and up

Cart Safari Africa

A one-hour tour, you’ll travel in the back of a cart through the Africa enclosure as a knowledgeable guide educates you on the park’s history and answers any questions you have about the animals who inhabit that area. You’ll get great photo opportunities and have the chance to watch one of the African animals enjoy a delicious treat.

Minimum Age: Available for all ages Price: $54 and up

Cart Safari Asia

This one-hour tour takes you through the Asia enclosure via cart as a professional guide provides you a deeper understanding of the animals that inhabit the space. It’s a great opportunity to get some incredible photos of the animals, and also includes a chance to watch one of the animals receive a tasty treat.

Flightline Safari

If you’re looking for a thrill, Flightline Safari is just the activity for you. Soar across the park in a comfortable and secure safety harness 130 feet above the ground. You’ll enjoy a birds-eye-view of the park’s animals including giraffes and rhinos. This activity includes use of safety equipment, a flight orientation, interpretative tour, and a ride on two ziplines.

The Fledging zipline prepares you for the ultimate ride on the exhilarating Flightline zipline.

You’ll get exceptional views of the Safari Park as you zip roughly 2/3 of a mile before landing close to the campground at Kilima Point. You can also record you flight for an additional cost with their high-definition helmet cams. This activity lasts one hour including the training, test flight, and final flight, and tickets must be purchased in advance.

Minimum Age: Must be at least 8-years-old Price: $79 and up

Jungle Ropes Safari

Are you the daring type? If so, the Jungle Ropes Safari gives you a unique opportunity to walk, balance, climb, and swing your way through a ropes course testing your jungle skills at every turn. You’ll strap into a safety harness and receive instruction from a trained staff member before you set out on your own, or with your group, using the Smart Belay system to travel the trails at your own pace. You’ll attempt to navigate aerial tightropes, cross rope bridges, negotiate swinging log steps, and cross moving platforms among several other thrills.

There are three different courses to choose from. Try one, or try them all. The choice is yours. Trained staff will be available along the way, but this is a self-guided/paced activity. For even more excitement, add the Flightline Safari to your adventure. This activity lasts 90 minutes including training. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

Minimum Age: Must be at least 7 years old Price: $54 and up

VIP Ultimate Safari

Create your own personalized adventure at the Safari Park. You can choose between 5- and 8-hour tours that you co-create with of the park’s professional planners. All tours are tailored to your needs, requirements, and preferred activities, and include a meal of your choosing.

Minimum Age: Must be at least 3 years old Price: $690 and up

Behind-the-Scenes Safari Experiences

The Safari Park offers several Behind-the-Scenes Safari experiences where you get the chance to get an in-depth look at some of your favorite animals. Below is a quick breakdown of each one.

Butterflies & Friends

This is an exclusive interactive and guided BTS experience and the park’s most popular attraction during spring. Starting in the morning, you’ll visit with Rodrigues fruit bats where you’ll talk with one of their keepers to learn all about these furry high-flying creatures.

This is followed by an introduction to the Butterfly Jungle where you’ll meet its thousands of beautifully colorful inhabitants without the crowds. Afterward, you’ll enjoy exclusive access to Lorikeet Landing where you’ll interact with a few ambassador animals and their trainers. This two-hour walking tour is only available during the Spring season.

Minimum Age: Available for all ages Price: $119 and up 

Elephants and Friends

Take a two-hour guided tour through Elephant Valley where you’ll learn all about these massive, yet gentle animals. You’ll get an up-close animal encounter with one of their animal friends in addition to viewing the elephants from a private viewing area as you learn what it takes to care for these magnificent animals.

Minimum Age: Must be at least 3 years old Price: $89 and up

Roos & Mates

Head down under to visit your favorite hopping marsupials in the newest addition to the Safari Park – Walkabout Australia. You’ll get an up-close encounter with some of the park’s newest mates while learning how the park provides for these cute creatures, as well as a visit to their off-exhibit homes. You will also have the opportunity to feed one of these Roo’s during this two-hour tour.

Tiger and Friends

Get a rare look at the lives of the magnificent tigers in Tiger Trail and how their incredible trainers care for them. You’ll journey through the park’s multispecies field enclosures viewing the various Asian and African animals that inhabit them on this two-hour tour. It includes a visit to the off-exhibit tiger keeper area, and an animal friend encounter.

Cheetah and Friends

On this two-hour tour you’ll get the chance to meet one of the park’s cheetahs at the Benbough Amphitheater while learning about their conservation efforts. As you journey around this multispecies enclosure, you’ll learn how these incredible animals are cared for and view a variety of Asian and African animals.

Lion and Friends

Explore Lion Camp on this two-hour guided tour where you’ll learn how these powerful animals are cared for and enjoy an up-close experience with an animal friend. You’ll also get the chance to visit the off-exhibit lion keeper area, and to explore the multispecies field enclosures featuring various Asian and African animals.

Rhino Rescue Center

Spend two hours exploring the state-of-the-art Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center. This 3.5 acre facility is dedicated to the conservation of white rhinos. You’ll learn about the park’s assisted reproductive techniques, and how they’re fighting to end their extinction. It also includes a tour of the multispecies field enclosures. This tour is only available on select days seasonally.

Minimum Age: Must be at least 6 years old Price: $89 and up

Veterinary Medical Center

Get an inside look at the Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center and learn about its extensive history of veterinary services while touring this high-tech facility for two hours. You’ll see how they provide the park’s animals with the best care, and why they are industry leaders in wild animal care. This activity is only available on select days seasonally. 

Spend the Night at the Safari Park

Roar & Snore Safari provide you and your loved ones with a truly unique experience spending the night at the Safari Park. These once-in-lifetime-style experiences includes an afterhours look the park’s wildlife, guided walks, camp activities, and a campfire program. They also include dinner, an evening snack, and breakfast in the morning.

All Ages Roar & Snore

Spend the night at the park with your family and enjoy close-up animal encounters, a ride on the Africa Tram, and your choice of walking tour from relaxed to high-energy. Be sure to check their website for select dates, as they have themed sleepovers too including the seasonal Butterfly Jungle.

Minimum Age: Must be at least 3 years old Price: $145 and up

Adults Only Roar & Snore

Discover the secret lives of animals through the kind of information you can only get when there are no children around. This special Roar & Snore is for adults only and includes facetime with animals that are both fierce and friendly, as well as evening hikes. Kick it up a notch with a theme like Creepy Camp giving a whole new meaning to the term night life.

Minimum Age: Must be at least 21 years old Price: $145 and up

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Tips for Visiting the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego / May 1, 2013 by Allison / 23 Comments This article may contain sponsored content or affiliate links.

Hey there! Planning a trip to San Diego? 

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is different from any other zoo my family has visited. We made a special trip for it – along with LEGOLAND California and plenty of beach time – right after my son successfully completed cancer treatment. It was a much-needed vacation for our entire family. My kids were ages 6 and 8.

We visited the San Diego Zoo on a previous trip, and were excited to see what makes the Safari Park special. Here's what you need to know to plan a great day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

It's Not in San Diego

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is NOT in San Diego. It's in Escondido, California, about an hour's drive (30 miles) north of the San Diego Zoo, which is in downtown San Diego.

The Safari Park is a little nearer to Carlsbad, home of LEGOLAND California. We booked a hotel in Carlsbad and enjoyed activities nearby. We never set foot in San Diego on this trip.

Related: My Top Tips for Visiting LEGOLAND California

africa tram safari vs cart safari

It's a Big Zoo

The official website calls the Safari Park an “expansive wildlife sanctuary.” Half the park's 1,800 acres has been set aside as a protected habitat for native species of plants and animals.

What does that mean to you? The Safari Park has fewer animals and larger habitats than the San Diego Zoo. The animals have more space to roam like they would in the wild. 

You'll probably walk a lot more at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. You can also enjoy experiences that aren't available at most other zoos.

Related: Tips for Visiting the San Diego Zoo

Safari Tours

The thing that sets the San Diego Zoo Safari Park apart its Safari Tours. These are not included in basic admission. If you want to feed giraffes, meet a cheetah, zip line over the zoo or even camp overnight, check out tour options and prices on the Safari Park home page .

Safaris may fill up, so consider making reservations in advance. Most have minimum age limits.

We would have booked the Cheetah Safari , but our cheetah lover was too young. I asked about the age limit and was told that they didn't want the cheetah to mistake a small child for a meal. I couldn't argue with that rationale.

Related: What to Expect at SeaWorld San Diego

africa tram safari vs cart safari

What's Included in Basic Admission

We bought the basic 1-Day Pass and it easily filled our entire day at the Safari Park. The basic ticket includes all of the animal exhibits, Africa Tram, shows and play areas. 

The Africa Tram tour is 20-30 minutes long and good for all ages. You'll see African animals roaming freely through acres of open space, including giraffes, rhinoceros, zebras, cape buffalo, gazelle, various birds, and more. You'll also see lions and cheetahs in separate habitats.

Arrive around opening time and walk directly to the Africa Tram at the back of the zoo to avoid long waits during peak season. Africa Tram tours typically start at 10 AM. If you can't be there early, consider riding the tram in the late afternoon to avoid peak crowds.

Related: October Deals in San Diego – Kids Get in FREE

africa tram safari vs cart safari

The best show at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is Shiley's Cheetah Run in the late afternoon. This is your chance to see a cheetah run at top speed, and it's pretty cool. If the day is not too warm and the cheetah is feeling good, he may run twice. My son loves cheetahs, so this was one of our top priorities. 

Arrive up to an hour early if you want to stand right next to the fence for the Cheetah Run. There is no seating for this show unless you purchase the Cheetah Safari. The show is 15-20 minutes long. 

There is a bird show , which is similar to bird shows we have seen at other zoos. We found it educational and entertaining, and the amphitheater is large enough that we had no trouble getting good seats just a few minutes before the show.

Our children enjoyed feeding the lorikeets . It costs nothing to go inside the habitat, but plan to spend a few dollars if you want to feed the birds.

We visited this exhibit in the afternoon and were warned that the lorikeets had already been well fed. We successfully fed a few, but the experience was not ideal. Visit early in the day to get the most from this activity.

Related: Where to See Wild Seals and Sea Lions in San Diego

africa tram safari vs cart safari

Playgrounds

Our children (ages 6 and 8) enjoyed brushing goats at the petting zoo and learning about the activities of African villagers in the Village Playground . Here, my children carried pots on their heads, “built” a hut and beat on drums. The Safari Park has three other play areas, including a splash pad in the summer.

Like many zoos, this one has a carousel , where you can purchase a single ride or all-day wristband. We skipped it this time.

Related: Best Activities for Families at Balboa Park

africa tram safari vs cart safari

Dining and Shopping

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has several restaurants and lots of gift shops. We bought healthy sandwiches and kids meals at Okavango Outpost , which were good.

You can bring your own food into the zoo in a day pack or stroller. Large coolers are not allowed inside. Packing in your own sandwiches, drinks and snacks is a good way to save money.

Related: Best Beaches in San Diego for Families

africa tram safari vs cart safari

Safari Park vs. San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is larger than the San Diego Zoo, but has fewer animals. It has more unique activities and safari tours. It is farther away from most other San Diego activities.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has a lot of favorite African animals like lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, rhinos and zebras. Pandas, polar bears, koalas and monkeys can only be seen at the San Diego Zoo.

If your family really loves zoos, then consider both the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park on the same trip. My family visits San Diego every few years, so one zoo per trip was plenty for us. 

You cannot do both the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park on the same day. They are too big and too far from each other to get your money's worth. One full day per zoo is about right.

If you can only visit one zoo, I'd pick the San Diego Zoo over the Safari Park. It has more animals and the location is more convenient. However, if you'd rather ride the Africa Tram, see the Cheetah Run or try any of the unique Safaris, then choose the Safari Park.

africa tram safari vs cart safari

Ways to Save

There are several reliable ways to save money on San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets. Remember that kids ages 2 and under get in free any time. 

Go in October – Kids age 11 and under get in free to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and dozens of other San Diego attractions during the month of October. Learn more at https://www.sandiego.org

Bundle with San Diego Zoo – Planning to visit the San Diego Zoo AND the Safari Park? A two-day ticket costs a lot less than two single-day tickets. Save even more when you choose the 3-for-1 deal, which includes both zoos and SeaWorld. Learn more at www.sdzsafaripark.org/tickets

Get Away Today – You can save about $5 per ticket through Get Away Today. Bundling discount tickets with hotel deals is where this travel agency really shines. Save an extra $25 on a San Diego vacation package with my exclusive coupon code: SDFAMILY. Learn more at getawaytoday.com .

Go City – Save up to 55% on admissions when you use this pass at 35+ San Diego attractions. The Safari Park will take one full day, so a Build-Your-Own pass or an All-Inclusive pass for 5 or 7 days are probably your best deal. Compare prices and do the math before you buy. Learn more at gocity.com .

CityPASS – Bundle and save when you build your own Southern California CityPASS. Choose from San Diego Zoo/Safari Park, LEGOLAND California, SeaWorld, Disneyland and Universal Studios. Compare prices and do the math before you buy. Learn more at www.citypass.com .

Groupon – You may find discount ticket vouchers to the San Diego Zoo/Safari Park on Groupon.com . As of August 2019, The Groupon price was the same as the official San Diego Zoo website, so be sure to compare before you commit. 

Special Groups – The following groups can save 10-15% with valid ID. Must be purchased at the ticket window. Learn more at https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/help-center

  • Students over age 12
  • Active U.S. Military – Military member gets in free. Spouse and dependents save 10%.
  • AAA Members
  • Travel agents, airline and cruise ship employees

africa tram safari vs cart safari

Our children are animal lovers and my 6-year-old son has a passion for African animals. As parents, we appreciate fun and educational outings like this, so the San Diego Zoo Safari Park was perfect for our family.

I hope these tips help you plan the perfect San Diego Zoo Safari Park day for your family.

Happy travels!

Good to Know

Where:  15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, California.

When: Open every day, including holidays. Open every day at 9:00 a.m. Closing time ranges from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m., depending on season.

How Much: Tickets start at $56 for adults (ages 12+), and $46 for children (3-11). Parking is $15 per vehicle (updated August 2019).

How Long:  One full day

Amenities:  Bathrooms, restaurants, shopping, stroller and wheelchair rentals

Website:   www.sdzsafaripark.org

Planning a trip to San Diego?

We recommend booking your trip through Get Away Today Vacations . They are the family travel experts for Southern California, and if you find a lower price on your vacation package, they will beat it by $10. Read more about our partnership with Get Away Today here .  

africa tram safari vs cart safari

ANYTIME! Save $25 on any San Diego vacation package of 2 nights or more that includes 2 tickets (San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, etc) when you use the coupon code SDFamily .

Allison on Email

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Reader Interactions

wanderingeducators

May 3, 2013 at 10:02 am

what a cool place! we’d love to visit.

Colleen Lanin

May 5, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I surprised my husband last year with the Zipline Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It’s the longest continuous zipline in the continental U.S. So awesome!

May 6, 2013 at 8:27 pm

That sounds so fun! That’s the kind of surprise I’d like.

May 7, 2013 at 10:33 am

thanks for the info, heading there this weekend for Mother’s day.

Keryn @ walking on travels

May 8, 2013 at 11:53 am

GORGEOUS photos lady! Great info for any family headed that way too.

May 8, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Thanks, Keryn! That was our first big outing with our new DSLR camera and I too was impressed with the results.

October 3, 2013 at 1:20 pm

We LOVED the San Diego Wild Animal Park. For us- the most sense with the tickets was to buy a year long membership before we left home. I don’t recall what the price was then, but it is $114 now for 2 adults. So if you only plan to go to the Wild Animal Park, that’s an extra $26, but if you plan to go to the zoo too, or more than one day at each park- it is a steal. Since we also went to the Wild Animal Park twice and the San Diego zoo twice (over the course of 3 days): it saved us a ton of money. And because we had unlimited entries, we went back to the zoo for just an hour before we had to get to the airport, just to get a chance to see the Pandas in the early morning. It was nice and relaxing to know we didn’t need to ‘get our money’s worth”. (Plus we got free parking, and then we got a magazine sent to our home for a year!)

October 3, 2013 at 3:03 pm

That’s a great tip! We bought an annual pass to Sea World San Diego once for the same reason. It’s sometimes worth looking at the price of an annual membership, even if you don’t live in the area. Look at the reciprocal benefits too. You may get free or discounted admission to other attractions in that area or in your home city!

September 18, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Is it worth going to the safari park zoo ?

Allison Laypath

September 19, 2014 at 7:34 am

I thought that the San Diego Zoo Safari Park was worthwhile. If you want a traditional zoo experience and you have to choose between the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park, choose the zoo. If you have been to the zoo and you want something a little different, try the safari park. Unless you love zoos, you may not want to do both on the same vacation.

Did I answer your question? If not, please let me know!

October 11, 2014 at 11:39 pm

do you have to buy the zoo entrance ticket to go to the Safari Park?

October 12, 2014 at 9:39 am

The Safari Tram is included in the basic entrance pass for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. You do not need to visit or purchase a pass for the San Diego Zoo in San Diego to visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido. They are different zoos in different locations and their admissions are separate, though if you do want to visit both on the same trip, you can save a few dollars by bundling the two admissions.

Nathan Bell

February 11, 2015 at 11:33 am

How long can you wait to use your 1-day pass for the Safari Park?

February 11, 2015 at 11:52 am

If you purchase a 1-day pass online through the zoo’s website, it is good for one year from the date of purchase.

May 25, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Thank you so much for the tips, we are visiting this summer and can not wait!

May 25, 2015 at 7:33 pm

Glad we could help. Have a great trip!

March 6, 2016 at 6:46 pm

I’m assuming the safari tour costs are in addition to the basic entrance fee???

March 6, 2016 at 7:33 pm

The Africa Tram is included in the basic ticket. The various safari experiences do cost more, but are optional. We had a great day with only the basic ticket. It’s a big place with some fun included activities like the Africa Tram.

Cesar perez

June 16, 2016 at 2:22 am

Thank you. This is what i wanted to hear. How long does it take for the basic safari

June 16, 2016 at 8:26 am

Glad to be helpful! I don’t recall the exact time for the Africa Tram, but I’d guess it was around 30 minutes. The last tram leaves 45 minutes before the park closes. 11-3 are peak times on busy days.

May 11, 2016 at 10:53 pm

which safari experience is worth it? I’m thinking the bikes anyone suggest it?

November 22, 2017 at 5:10 pm

How much does it cost to zipline at the Safari Zoo?

November 27, 2017 at 8:59 am

The Flightline Safari currently starts at $79 per person.

Have a question or comment? Add it here. Cancel reply

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africa tram safari vs cart safari

How to do San Diego, from Beaches to Zoos.

What’s Included in Your San Diego Safari Park Admission?

What do San Diego Safari Park tickets include? Here’s a free vs paid tours & attractions chart. Plus the one word you’ll need to instantly know which is which. And that makes decisions so much easier.

San Diego Safari Park admission tickets include  Africa Tram, keeper talks & attractions, entertainment, animal encounters & kids playgrounds . But any activity with “Safari” in its name requires payment in addition to the cost of admission. Parking is not included.   It costs $20 minimum.

If you make purchases through the links in this post, I may be compensated. Read my Advertising Disclosure for more info. Thanks! ~ Nancy

* Save with a secret promo code on each San Diego Zoo or Safari Park 1-Day Pass. Go any day. Go directly to the gate. Click  HERE  to get your code, instructions & discounted tickets by email. By clicking the link above you agree to receive an automated email message. Valid only at aRes Travel , San Diego’s local authorized ticket seller. Read my full privacy policy .

San Diego Zoo Safari Park entrance with guest admission ticket

Continue reading if you’re curious about whether you can have a great time with just what’s included with admission. I’ve provided descriptions of all the activities, animal encounters, shows, and Safaris at San Diego Zoo Safari Park for you to help you make up your mind.

What San Diego Safari Park Exhibit Areas  Are Included With Admission

First, parking is not free at San Diego Zoo Safari Park. But most of the rest of the park can be explored freely with your entry fee. When you look at the Safari Park map there are 14 different sections at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. All but two of them are accessible to you with your admission.

Map of San Diego Zoo Safari Park walkable exhibit areas included with admission indicated with a yellow outline.

The 2 different areas that you are not able to navigate on your own are Africa Plains and Asian Savanna. I marked them with a yellow outline on the map above. You cannot enter these large field exhibits unless you are with Safari Park personnel. You can get inside via paid Safari experiences or via the free Africa Tram. However, many of the animals in both of these areas are visible from other areas in the park.

Highlights of San Diego Safari Park That Are Free With Entry Ticket

The following tours and attractions are some of the highlights at Safari Park. You can ride and experience them as many times as you like. They are:

Africa Tram

Do not miss riding the Africa Tram , it’s included at no extra charge with your admission. It’s also one of the must-see attractions at Safari Park. I’ve been able to ride the Tram hundreds of times (no exaggeration). And every time I notice something new. 

Sometimes its been a new baby giraffe or rhino! At other times it’s two antelope sparring with their horns. Or herds of every type of animal running in the same direction like shoppers at a Black Friday sale. Just because one giraffe became spooked by a blowing leaf.

It’s best to ride Africa Tram either early in the day or late. The animals are most active when it is cool. Ride as many times as you’d like while you’re at San Diego Safari Park.

Hidden Jungle

Hidden Jungle is a tropical rain forest aviary that’s included in your San Diego Safari Park admission ticket . It’s located in the Gorilla Forest area. This climate-controlled environment is populated by colorful birds, delicate plants and towering trees. It can be a bit humid during the summer and early fall. Visit the birds either early or late in the day during those seasons.

This is also where the Butterfly Jungle event takes place every spring . Thousands of colorful butterflies flutter by in search of nectar from the blooming jungle flowers. They often land on you. Which makes the experience special for kids and adults alike. 

At the end of the Butterfly Jungle event, the birds eat any caterpillars that have hatched. This ensures that the colorful non-native butterflies do not invade the fertile farms of the San Pasqual Valley.

The Gorilla Forest is also free with your admission . It’s home to the Safari Park’s troop of Western lowland Gorillas. 

These (relatively) peaceful, family-oriented, plant-eaters are a favorite with kids. Their exhibit includes gorilla hand and footprints (which kids love to measure against their own). There is a life-sized drawing that guests can use to compare their arm lengths to that of an adult male gorilla. And recordings of the noises made by the gorillas when they’re communicating with each other.

Kangaroo Walk

Kangaroo Walk in Walkabout Australia is included with Admission to San Diego Safari Park.

Kangaroo Walk is free with your San Diego Safari Park entry also . Mingle with kangaroos, wallabies, and waterfowl in this Australian savanna grassland environment inside Walkabout Australia. See the ‘roos with their baby joeys go bounding by.

There are a few wallabies that come on the marked paths for some gentle petting and stroking. Because of COVID, this is now discouraged. But sometimes the critters insist. Don’t worry. Wallabies feel like they look, soft and woolly! 

Do you want to know about other animals that you are allowed to touch at either San Diego Zoo or Safari Park? Then check out my article, “ Can You Hold Animals at the San Diego Zoo? “

Nairobi Station

Frog at Nairobi Village in San Diego Safari Park

You don’t need to pay extra to walk through Nairobi Station . You can get close-up views of some of San Diego Safari Park’s smaller animals. Depending upon the animal you may even get to touch them. Just make sure to ask their keepers first. 

Nairobi Station is also the home of the Animal Care Center . Animal babies that need to be hand-raised because their mothers cannot care for them are brought to this nursery. It can get very crowded (with people) here if this facility is hosting young lions or cheetahs. 

africa tram safari vs cart safari

While you’re here, take a look at the sandcat. WARNING : If you love felines, their round faces will make your heart melt into a puddle on the floor. Even those who don’t particularly like cats have been known to succumb to their megatonne-weight cuteness.

Petting Kraal

Sign outside of Petting Kraal in Safari Park warning you that the goats will eat anything

Petting and brushing the goats in the Petting Kraal will not cost you any extra in addition to your admission fee. This is the closest thing to a classic “children’s petting zoo” at either the Safari Park or the San Diego Zoo. The pygmy, Nubian, and Boer goats are just the right size to interact with human kids. 

Be sure to close and secure any purses or backpacks. The goats are intensely curious and will nibble on almost anything. 

Playgrounds

There are 5 play areas for kids. And as far as I’m concerned that deserves its own category.

Camp Play Area

You and your kids are free to enter Camp Play Area with your park admission . It’s located in Tiger Trail (click the link for my full article). This playground is built to resemble a logging camp in the Sumatran rain forest. There are logs to climb, rope ladders and statues of tigers and their cubs to play on. And of course there are real tigers to look at right around the corner.

Jameson Research Island

This seasonal water play area won’t cost you or your kids any extra cash . It’s located on the African Loop trail within the Safari Park’s African Outpost area. It is usually open during the hot days of summer. It provides cooling splashes on the walk between the flamingos and colobus monkeys. 

Samburu Jungle Gym

Samburu Jungle Gym is free with admission to San Diego Safari Park

  You’ll love that your kids can climb and explore here because it comes free with the Safari Park admission . This playground is located in the African Woods area. It’s close to the bird show amphitheatre and the Lemur Walk.

Your little monkeys will enjoy a shaded play area with a jeep, rhino and a lion to ‘ride’ and tree trunks to crawl through. You’ll be happy because you’ll be keeping an eye on them from shaded Samburu Terrace . Sip a cool craft beer or soda while you’re unwinding. 

Savanna Cool Zone

Savanna Cool Zone is free with a ticket to San Diego Safari Park

This seasonal water playground is open to everyone with entry to Safari Park . It’s located near Lion Camp and Shiley’s Cheetah Run track. It’s a godsend for parents who are waiting in the hot sun for Cheetah Run to start. Send the kiddos to cool off in the fountains. And if you get soaked trying to retrieve them that’s not so bad.

Village Playground

V illage Playground is also free with admission to San Diego Safari Park.   It’s located in the Nairobi Village area between the Petting Kraal and the Rodrigues fruit bat exhibit. It’s a good place for those kids who get a bit intimidated by the goats next door. 

Entertainment 

The San Diego Safari Park does a good job of disguising conservation education as entertainment. You’ll find that these 4 activities provide a fun way to learn about endangered species and how you can help save them and their habitat.

Training Talk

Entry to this 15-minute bird training session is free with your admission . It’s only 15 minutes long, but it is fascinating to watch the positive reinforcement training process. Makes you think that if the Safari Park can teach their feathered charges to do all sorts of amazing things, that you have a chance with your (sometimes) bird-brained babies. Hope!

Robert the Zebra

Robert the Zebra at San Diego Safari Park.

If Robert the Zebra was located in Las Vegas you would be paying big bucks to see him. But since he’s at San Diego Safari Park you get to see his snarky shtick free with your entry ticket.

Robert’s an interactive digital puppet that’s visible on a big screen in Nairobi Station. He tells jokes, talks with children and adults about what it’s like to be a zebra, and asks visitors questions about their experiences at Safari Park. Listen carefully, some of the kids’ answers to his queries are priceless!

Tiger Keeper Talk

Tiger Keeper Talks are another experience that is included with admission to San Diego Safari Park . Each morning the keepers interact with one of the tigers. For a bit of meat or a scratch behind an ear, the giant cat cooperates to display some of its amazing adaptations to life in the wild. 

The highlight for me is when the tiger is asked to stretch full-length upright against the protective mesh barrier so that the keeper can inspect the belly. A tiger on its hind legs is HUGE. And a little scary. 

Frequent Flyers

I would pay extra to see this bird show, but I’m glad that Frequent Flyers is free with any Safari Park admission . It’s a free-flying show, which means that any of them are free to fly off into the Escondido sky. But they don’t.

The level of training shown by the birds is impressive. It features vultures, secretary birds, hawks and 3 adorable guinea hens. But the cute star of the show isn’t a bird at all. I’m not going to tell you what it is. Just go see Frequent Flyers and have some fun. 

Cheetah Run

Unfortunately, Cheetah Run was put on hold during the COVID-19 restrictions and has not been brought back yet. But if it is brought back, it is a MUST SEE.

Cheetah Run at San Diego Safari Park

Sun Up Cheetah SAFARI is an early morning paid experience where you get taken in a Safari truck for an exclusive look at the park and see a cheetah run at top speed. Check it out HERE .

Bring your camera because you’ll have the best place to watch the cat run. And your guide and the trainer will arrange for you to be photographed with the cheetah.

Best spots to see Cheetah Run without paying for Cheetah Safari

Here are some of the best Cheetah Run viewing locations if you aren’t in the paid Safari:  

  • On the bridge across from the Savanna Cool Zone. The kids can play in the water while you wait
  • Below the Balloon Safari, along the walk to the Africa Tram close to the bridge. The sun will be at your back. And during the summertime that’s a blessing.
  • On the other side of Shiley’s Cheetah along the path to Lion Camp. Again, close to the bridge. There are some shady spots here by the trees.

Animal Encounters

Animal ambassador stage.

Fossa at Animal Ambassador Stage in San Diego Safari Park

The Animal Ambassador Stage presentations are free with your admission . They are your chance to view some species that may not be on exhibit. The stage is located in Safari Base Camp close to the park entrance. The Ambassadors come out from the park’s opening to noon. And then again starting at 4:00pm to when the park closes. 

africa tram safari vs cart safari

The more spectacular Animal Ambassadors are usually brought out closer to noon. At that time you’re more likely to see their BIG python “Julius Squeezer”, high-jumping servals & caracals , and sometimes even cheetahs. 

Near Benbough Amphitheater (Animal Encounter)

We’ve seen a lot of cheetahs at this free presentation which takes place in Gorilla Forest. It only lasts 15 minutes, but it’s a more informal, intimate setting so you get a more up-close view. If you’re reluctant to ask your questions in large crowds, this may be the perfect place for you to get some answers. 

Lawn at Okavango Outpost (Animal Encounter)

Leaping caracal at the Lawn at Okavango Terrace in San Diego Safari Park

The animal activity on the Lawn at Okavango Outpost is another, more informal free edu-tainment experience. It only lasts 15 minutes, sometimes a bit longer depending upon the animal. But it’s a wonderful photo opportunity. It’s usually uncrowded. Bob has gotten some great photos of leaping caracals here.

8 Types of Safari – Premium Paid Experiences

Here are the eight types of premium “Safari” tours/experiences offered at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Most of them have several different options. That means that there are more than 30 different types of Safaris to try at the Escondido wild animal park. 

It can get confusing.

I’m going to give you just the basic outlines below. If you’re interested in reserving one of the safaris check out my guide to choosing the best San Diego Safari Park tour for you and your family. The summary chart on that page includes prices, age limits, and trip durations which will help make your decision easier.

Balloon Safari

Fly 400 feet above the park and the picturesque San Pasqual Valley. Best to ride this between opening and noon because it can be grounded because of the strong afternoon winds. Check my balloon safari review for prices & more details. 

Behind the Scenes Safari

Tour areas that are off-limits to most park guests. Get an insider’s view of the park while exploring the nighttime ‘bedrooms’ of various animals like platypuses, elephants, tigers, rhinos, kangaroos & cheetahs, feed okapis and see the veterinary center. You can find more information including prices in my Behind the Scenes Safari review.

Caravan Safari

Take a shaded truck with a knowledgeable guide into the park’s huge Asian and African field exhibits. See herds of antelope and other animals up close. Taking stunning animal photos is EASY. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to point your camera first. The best part is that you frequently have opportunities to feed giraffes and rhinos. Best. Selfies. Ever. For more info including prices read my Caravan Safari review . 

Cart Safari

View herds of giraffes, rhinos, antelope from the comfort of a 9 passenger cart. Your driver will fill you in on the park history, weird animal facts and answer your questions about animal care and conservation. It’s a more relaxed ride than the Caravan Safari. There are great animal photo opportunities, especially when your driver offers enrichment items or treats to some of the wildlife. Find out more about the two types and prices in my Cart Safari review .

Sun Up Cheetah Safari

Cheetah Safari at San Diego Safari Park is an event you pay for in addition to your admission.

Get the best views of a cheetah running. Have a close encounter with another African Animal Ambassador beforehand. Then have a meet & greet with the spotted sprinter after. Take home great photos of you with a cheetah and wonderful memories. Discover more details including price in my Cheetah Safari review .

Flightline Safari

If you or your kids are adrenaline junkies, this is the safari for you! Soar over the park’s open wildlife fields like a condor. It’s an exhilarating ride over beautiful scenery and animals. Training and practice provided. Find out about prices and more in my Flightline Safari review .

Roar & Snore Safari

africa tram safari vs cart safari

My personal favorite. Spend the night at Safari Park. You sleep in tents overlooking the Africa Plains exhibit. The location’s sandwiched between Elephant Valley and Lion Camp. You fall asleep to the low muttering (and sometimes trumpeting) of elephants and rise to roaring lions. Good food. Great keeper talks. And s’mores around a campfire. I’ve put more details about prices and what to expect in my Roar & Snore Safari review .

Ultimate Safari

Customize your Safari Park experience. Go behind the scenes. Meet animal ambassadors up close. Do it all with your own personal guide. And yes, they feed you too. Find out all about prices and what you can do in my Ultimate Safari review .

Closing Thoughts

I hope that you now have a better idea of what types of tours, attractions, encounters and entertainment that you get with your entry ticket. You can have a wonderful time and fill a whole day (or more) with just the activities that you get with your San Diego Safari Park admission ticket.

Nancy Ulrich

I'm nuts...about animals, polymer clay, mixed media art & husband Bob. Happily planted in San Diego among good friends, family that I would have chosen if given the choice and optimism for a bountiful future for us all.

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The Ultimate Guide to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

By tiffany nicole.

The Ultimate Guide to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Are you planning on making a trip to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park? The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, is north of San Diego, and includes a spacious 1800 acres for the animals to roam freely. I’ve always had a love for Africa and a major bucket list item is to go on a safari. So as you can tell, my adventuring heart was dying to check out the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. H ere I’ve put together everything you need to know for a trip to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, enjoy!

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Zoo Safari Park: General Info

Location:  Google Maps

15500 San Pasqual Valley Road

Escondido, California 92027-7017

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located in Escondido, about a 40-minute drive (depending on traffic) north of the San Diego Zoo . With roughly 1,800 acres of land and a semi-arid environment, it truly feels like you’ve left San Diego and have gone out adventuring in the savannas of Africa.

Hours: Open everyday (including holidays) 9:00am – 5:00pm

Ticket Price:

  • 1 Day Pass – Adult (ages 12+) $52, Child (ages 3-11) $42
  • 1 Day Pass Plus -(Adult $58, Child $48) Also includes one 4-D Theater experience. 
  • 2 Visit Pass – (Adult $83.25, Child $73.25) One visit to San Diego Zoo and one visit to San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Or, two visits to San Diego Zoo – or – two visits to San Diego Zoo Safari Park 
  • Go San Diego Card – (Adult $199, Child $179) 3-day, all-inclusive attraction pass with free admission to the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld San Diego, and 35 other attractions.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Info About the Park

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park consists of free-range enclosures that house wild and endangered animals from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. Here you can go on safari and get close-up views of rhinos, giraffes, elephants, buffalo and more!

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a not-for-profit organization that began is a species conservation and breeding facility for the San Diego Zoo. The idea was to provide the ability to see these beautiful animals in a more natural environment, rather than in cages. Since opening in 1972, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has received many awards for its breeding programs and conservation efforts.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

There are so many safari tours to choose from! But it’s important to note that not all the safaris available are included in the park admission.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Free Safaris

  • Cheetah Safari –  At the Cheetah Safari you have the opportunity to watch a cheetah go from 0 to 70 mph in just a few seconds as they magnificently race down a 330-foot-long track.

Note:  T he Cheetah Safari is included in your general admission ticket, however for an additional fee ($50) you can receive a private up-close encounter with much better viewing.

Cheetah Run Safari - Africa Tram - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

  • The Africa Tram -T he Africa Tram i s a 45-minute guided tour around the African field exhibit. It’s nice and relaxing, and you can enjoy beautiful views of the park. The Africa Tram is technically not a safari, however it is free so I lumped it in this category. It opens at 10am, and I would recommend getting there right when it opens, maybe even a little bit before it opens. If you don’t, it’s likely you’ll wait approximately 30 minutes or more, but regardless it’s definitely worth the wait.

Africa Tram - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Safaris with Additional Fees

  • Caravan Safari ($111 and up) –  The Caravan Safari i s arguably the most popular and exciting safari. However for an additional $111 fee, I had to pass. On this safari you have the opportunity to travel inside the field enclosures on a covered, open-air safari truck and get up–close views of these amazing animals. The cherry on top is you get to feed giraffes from the truck!

Caravan Safari - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

  • Cart Safari ($50 and up) –  The Cart Safari i s a 1-hour ride with a guide where you’ll learn more about the park’s beginnings and the animals who call the Safari Park their home. Here you can choose between an African or Asian safari.

Elephants - Africa Tram - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

  • Balloon Safari  (Price subject to change) –  The Balloon Safari w as modeled after the hot air balloon tours of the Serengeti, and you’ll rise up to 400 feet over the park for a bird’s eye view! This safari’s availability is subject to wind and weather conditions.

Balloon Safari - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

  • Jungle Ropes Safari ($50 and up) –  T he Jungle Ropes Safari is for the daredevils and adventurers! You’ll use a belay system as you walk across rope bridges and aerial tightropes through the jungle treetops.

Jungle Ropes Safari - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

  • Behind-the-Scene Safari ($80 and up) –  With the Behind-the-Scene Safari y ou can spend 2 hours getting up close and personal to the animal of your choice. Here you have the option of choosing between rhinos, tigers, lions, cheetahs, or learning about the veterinary services at the park. 

Rhino - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

  • Flightline Safari  ($75 and up)  –  On the Flightline Safari , h arness yourself in and soar 130 feet above the field enclosures for a bird’s eye view of the park.
  • Roar & Snore Safari ($140 and up) –  Pack your bags because the Roar & Snore Safari includes a sleepover in the safari park. Here you can camp and take a look at the wildlife after-hours.

Pink Flamingos - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

  • VIP Ultimate Safari ($690 and up) –  The VIP Ultimate Safari is your dream come true, in the safari park experience. You can get a completely customized itinerary depending on your interests for seeing exclusive off-exhibit areas of the park and your very own personal tour guide.

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The Ultimate Guide to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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AK

They have a WHOLE OTHER PARK? Mind blown. <3

Tiffany Nicole

Haha I know, right! Amazing. <3

Estella Catron

Wow!! I didn’t know there was so much you could do at this zoo!! Amazing. Thank you for sharing!

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Safari cart transporting visitors

Cart Safari

$60 & up*.

Price is per person

At A Glance

  • $60 & up per person
  • Offered Daily

Age Range: All ages may join Cart Safari Africa and Cart Safari Asia. Children 15 years old and younger must be accompanied by a paid adult. Limit of 2 children per adult per group. Ages 0-2 must sit on adult lap. Limit of two lap children per group.”

Change/ Cancellation: Reservations may be changed up to 3 days before the program. Changes made 3 days or less prior to the program are not permitted. Cancellations received more than 3 days before the scheduled program are subject to a $25 Cancellation Fee. Cancellations made 3 days or less prior to the program, payment is non-refundable.

If anyone in your party requires the use of a wheelchair during the tour, after booking, please call 619-718-3000 so we can notate your order prior to your visit.

Rhinos

Deluxe Cart Safari

  • $90 & up per person
  • Offered daily
  • Asian and African savanna habitats

All ages. Children 15 years old and younger must be accompanied by a paid adult. Limit of 2 children per adult per group. Ages 0-2 must sit on adult lap. Limit of two lap children per group. Strollers and child car seats not permitted on cart.

Travel the world without leaving San Diego! Board a deluxe Safari cart, and see wildlife of the savannas of Africa and Asia, led by one of our knowledgeable guides. Step off the cart for a look at incredible wildlife, and snap some amazing photos as you experience this unique Safari. 

Admission is separate and required. If anyone in your party requires the use of a wheelchair during the tour, after booking, please call 619-718-3000 so we can notate your order prior to your visit.

Mother giraffe and calf

Cart Safari Africa

  • African savanna habitats

Age Range: All ages may join Cart Safari Africa and Cart Safari Asia . Children 15 years old and younger must be accompanied by a paid adult. Limit of 2 children per adult per group. Ages 0-2 must sit on adult lap. Limit of two lap children per group. 

Sit back in the comfort of your deluxe Safari cart, as you enjoy a 60-minute guided tour of the Park’s spacious African savanna habitats, led by one of our knowledgeable guides. As you explore these habitats together, your guide will share stories about the plants and animals in our care, and how our conservation work is making an impact worldwide. Questions are encouraged! Step off the cart for a look at some unique wildlife, and snap some amazing photos as you enjoy this one-of-a-kind Safari Park experience.

greater one-horned rhinos

Cart Safari Asia

  • Asian savanna habitats

Sit back in the comfort of your deluxe Safari cart, as you enjoy a 60-minute guided tour of the Safari Park’s spacious Asian savanna habitats, led by one of our knowledgeable guides. As you explore these habitats together, your guide will share stories about the plants and animals in our care, and how our conservation work is making an impact worldwide. Questions are encouraged! Step off the cart for a look at some unique critters, and snap some amazing photos as you enjoy this unique Safari Park experience. 

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Two elephants nose to nose

Behind-the-Scenes Safari

These Safaris are guaranteed to thrill and amaze! Your guide will escort you to a variety of locations around the Park to see animals up close and share stories of wildlife care and conservation.  

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Cart Safari

2929 Zoo Drive,, San Diego, 92101, CA

  • Infants 0-2
  • Little Kids 3-6
  • Big Kids 7-9
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  • Teens 13-17

The cart safari tours the Africa Plains or Asian Savanna from an open-air cart, seating eight people. The hour-long tour stops in the safari for a photo op and a chance to feed an animal.

Family Hotels Near Cart Safari

Doubletree Hotel San Diego Downtown

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Lafayette Hotel

africa tram safari vs cart safari

Courtyard San Diego Downtown

africa tram safari vs cart safari

Palomar San Diego, A Kimpton Hotel

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The US Grant San Diego Hotel

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Westgate Hotel San Diego

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Safari Park entrance

SAN DIEGO ZOO SAFARI PARK

San diego zoo safari park 2024 fact sheet.

WHAT: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is an international nonprofit conservation organization that operates two world-class parks, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and empowers people to connect with plants and animals, develop an appreciation for nature, and contribute to the safeguarding of wildlife everywhere by becoming Wildlife Allies. With a focus on healthy ecosystems and the interconnectedness of the health of people, wildlife and the habitat they rely on, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance aims to drive conservation outcomes benefiting people and planet. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance collaborates and partners with hundreds of individuals and organizations worldwide to address conservation challenges utilizing innovative strategies. The Alliance synergizes skills honed at the Zoo and Park with experience in the field to inspire and catalyze conservation action on behalf of wildlife, working towards a world where all life thrives.

The  San Diego Zoo Safari Park , an 1,800-acre wildlife park, is home to more than 3,000 animals representing over 300 species. Located in Escondido, California, the Safari Park welcomes guests to see animals in herds of mixed species in expansive savanna habitats. The Safari Park is a vast, accredited botanical garden featuring more than 1.3 million plants representing over 3,700 species. Guests are invited to take part in thrilling safari experiences and create lasting memories while supporting San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s conservation efforts to save wildlife worldwide.  

LOCATION:   15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, CA 92027

NOTABLE HABITAT:  Walkabout Australia transports guests to the Land Down Under to discover Australia’s remarkable wildlife and come face-to-face with some of the most mysterious animals on Earth, including two platypuses. Located in the Nelson M. Millsberg Platypus Habitat, these are the only platypuses in the world currently residing outside of Australia. In addition to witnessing these one-of-a-kind freshwater wonders, guests can explore grasslands with Western gray kangaroos, see tree kangaroos up close, and interact with Australian wildlife ambassadors.

SAFARI EXPERIENCES*:            

  • The Africa Tram is an exciting expedition that takes guests on a guided adventure 2.5 miles around one of the Safari Park’s expansive savanna habitats. The tram is an open-air, soft-wheeled vehicle inspired by the legendary safari trains of Africa. The Africa Tram is included with admission.  
  • A Behind-the-Scenes Safari allows guests to venture deep into the Safari Park and get a closer look at their favorite wildlife. During these small-group tours, guests venture to exclusive areas not accessible to the public, where a knowledgeable guide shares how we care for wildlife and carry out conservation work in San Diego and around the globe.  
  • On a Wildlife Safari , guests will travel in the back of a covered, open-air safari truck with an expert guide as they venture into one of our expansive savanna habitats to get an up-close view of a variety of birds and mammals.  
  • A Cart Safari brings guests amazing views of wildlife in our African savanna or Asian savanna habitats from the comfort of our intimate safari carts. A knowledgeable guide will share information about the wildlife and our conservation work locally and around the world. The relaxed pace allows for a more personalized look at the Safari Park.  
  • Flightline Safari , an exciting zipline adventure, allows guests to soar like a condor over the Safari Park. Riders enjoy instruction and a short fledgling flight before taking a safari vehicle to the top of a hill overlooking the San Pasqual Valley. From there, riders fly more than 2/3 of a mile, with a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the wildlife and ecosystems below.  
  • Enjoy unbelievable views shared only by the birds that soar over the Safari Park grounds. Modeled after the hot air balloon tours of the Serengeti, the Balloon Safari tethered helium balloon rises silently up to 400 feet. Adventurers spend 10 to 12 minutes in the sky over the Safari Park. The best time to fly is 9 a.m. to noon, and approximate hours of balloon operation are 9 a.m. to dusk.  
  • Roar & Snore Safari is an overnight camping experience that overlooks the East Africa savanna habitat, the Safari Park’s largest. Seasoned campers may enjoy a Classic or Vista tent, while those who prefer a more luxurious experience should check out our Premium tents. Campers enjoy walking tours, meals and up-close wildlife encounters.  
  • Walk through the Safari Park to see a variety of wildlife with the Wildlife Trek . A knowledgeable guide will share insights into the behavior of our wildlife and the care they receive. Along the way, guests will learn about some of our conservation projects with our allies around the world.  
  • The Ultimate Safari is the key to off-view areas and the very best in personalized service. As a VIP, guests will receive a customized tour curated by the Safari Park’s team of professionals and spend up to seven hours exploring with a private tour guide. Each Ultimate Safari is tailored to guests’ individual interests and includes a meal. Ultimate Safaris require advance reservations (minimum 72 hours).

*Safari experiences are subject to change and availability. Admission is separate and required. See sdzsafaripark.org/safaris for more information.

YOUTH FAVORITES*:  Young explorers will love the Park’s play areas , including the Conservation Carousel . Youngsters can climb and explore the safari-themed Mawazo Woods Discovery Area (ages 5-12), splash around at the Savanna Cool Zone, or participate in interactive play at the Village Playground. They can also check out the Tiger Trail Play Area, which features a simulated logging camp with play elements such as a rope climb and a log walk bridge.

*Additional fee required for Conservation Carousel rides. Water elements at Savanna Cool Zone are turned off during the winter/fall season, and the area may be intermittently impacted by construction.

HORTICULTURE HIGHLIGHT: Botanical enthusiasts can enjoy the Safari Park’s World Gardens, with thousands of plants representing geographical areas from around the globe. Featured gardens include the Baja Garden, Old World Succulent Garden, Epiphyllum Trail, Bonsai Pavilion and California Nativescapes Garden.

SPECIAL ACTIVITIES*:            

  • Spring Safari Featuring Butterfly Jungle March 16–May 12, 202 4 In addition to extraordinary encounters with wildlife, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park will be filled with springtime treats and festivities around every corner. As part of Spring Safari, the Safari Park will feature an optional premium Butterfly Jungle Safari experience.  
  • Wild Weekend: Australian Forest May 18–19, 2024 From elusive, nocturnal platypuses to intriguing cassowaries and hopping kangaroos, explore fascinating wildlife through our Australian Forest Conservation Hub during this Wild Weekend. There’s excitement for everyone with interactive activities, engaging talks, and more.  
  • Wild Weekend: Savanna  Aug. 10–11, 2024 Covering nearly half of the African continent, savannas are large ecosystems characterized by vast grasslands, scattered trees, and seasonal rains. Join us to discover our collaborative efforts to save and protect the wildlife of this iconic landscape through our Savanna Conservation Hub.   
  • Kids Free Oct. 1–31, 2024 Throughout the entire month of October, youth ages 11 and younger receive free admission. Kids Free is designed to give youths an opportunity to visit the Safari Park and learn about the Earth’s wildlife and the conservation efforts underway to save them.  
  • Autumn Festival Weekends in Oct. 2024 During Autumn Festival, Safari Park guests are invited to celebrate the fall season with live music, entertainment and fun educational experiences. At the Safari Park’s many restaurants, guests can enjoy delectable tastes of autumn.  
  • Wild Weekend: Southwest  Oct. 12–13, 2024 Desert tortoises, burrowing owls, mountain lions, Quino checkerspot butterflies, and Torrey pines are just some of the remarkable and endangered species found in the region we call home. Connect with local wildlife and learn about the diverse ecosystems we share through our Southwest Conservation Hub.  
  • Wild Holidays Select dates from Nov. 29, 2024–Jan. 5, 2025 Seasonal decorations, incredible light displays, holiday entertainment and a festive atmosphere will greet visitors at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park as the Park spreads its own version of holiday cheer.

*Subject to change. Certain dates not included, and times may vary. Visit sdzsafaripark.org for full details.

NOTABLE DINING: The Watering Hole at Kijamii Overlook is a full-service restaurant and bar. The restaurant is located above the Safari Park’s East Africa savanna habitat, where guests can watch rhinos, giraffes and other wildlife roam.

HOURS*:  Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours seasonally.

*Hours subject to change.

ADMISSION*: 1-Day Pass (includes one visit to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Africa Tram and all regularly scheduled experiences)

*Prices and ticket packages are subject to change and availability. For pricing and information, visit sdzsafaripark.org/tickets .

MEMBERSHIP: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s large membership base is vital in helping our nonprofit organization make a difference for wildlife around the globe and help build a world where all life thrives. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance offers a variety of memberships with options and benefits based on the level of choice, ensuring everyone can become Wildlife Allies.

EVENTS: The San Diego Zoo Safari Park offers beautiful outdoor and indoor spaces with sweeping vistas and lush, wooded areas that provide exceptional settings for any event, from birthday parties and high school proms to weddings and anniversaries. By scheduling an event—large or small—at one of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s two conservation parks, guests are not only selecting a unique and memorable venue; they are also contributing directly to support conservation efforts protecting wildlife around the world. Learn more at events.sandiegozoo.org .

PARKING: For pricing and information, see sdzsafaripark.org/plan-your-visit .

PHONE: 619-231-1515

SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook Instagram Twitter/X YouTube TikTok Podcast Twitch Pinterest Flickr Giphy

CONTACT:                  San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Public Relations 619-685-3291 [email protected] sdzwa.org

About San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, a nonprofit conservation leader, inspires passion for nature and collaboration for a healthier world. The Alliance supports innovative conservation science through global partnerships. Through wildlife care, science expertise and collaboration, more than 44 endangered species have been reintroduced to native habitats. Annually, the Alliance reaches over 1 billion people, in person at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and virtually in 150 countries through media channels, including San Diego Zoo Wildlife Explorers television programming in children’s hospitals in 14 countries. Wildlife Allies—members, donors and guests—make success possible. 

Link includes:

  • San Diego Zoo Tickets
  • Safari Park Tickets

The Atlas Heart

San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park: Main Differences & Which One is Better

* This article contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you.

TL;DR: We compared San Diego Zoo vs. Safari Park and found that both parks cost the same, but the San Diego Zoo is best for families with young kids because there are more animals, transportation options, and play areas. Meanwhile, the Safari Park offers safari experiences, with large enclosures and unique tours, so it’s best for those looking for different experiences from a zoo and who might be willing to pay extra for it.

If you’re making a trip to San Diego, the famous San Diego Zoo is a must-see attraction. But how do you choose between the San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park? 

Many visitors assume they’re the same thing–or at least in the same place–but they’re actually in different locations and offer different experiences. 

I’ve visited a lot of zoos in California and beyond, but the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Park are my favorites. 

Not only will you see a lot of animals, but it’s clear that they’re also well-cared for with amazing, spacious habitats. 

The gorgeous San Diego climate helps, too–my last trip was in December, and the whole day was sunny and warm.

If you love animals, you’ll have a great time at either park, but it’s good to know the key differences between San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park so you can make the best decision for your trip. 

Use this guide to find out what admission includes and what it doesn’t, and what you can expect at both parks so you can make the most of your trip.

Note: this article contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

San Diego zoo vs safari park

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Table of Contents

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is located minutes from downtown San Diego, just off Park Blvd in Balboa Park. It’s an oasis in the midst of the urban jungle. 

The zoo is home to over 12,000 rare and endangered animals and represents over 600 species. Spread out over 100 acres, you’ll want to devote an entire day to experiencing this massive zoo. 

To give you a bit of background–the San Diego Zoo began on a whim. After the 1915 California-Panama Exhibition ended, the animals from the event were abandoned in Balboa Park. 

Local physician Harry Wegeforth heard a lion roar while driving by in 1916 and joked that it would be splendid if San Diego had a zoo. The idea grew and Dr. Wegeforth pursued it. 

As it turned out, the city of San Diego was keen for someone else to assume responsibility for the lion–along with the wolves, coyotes, bears, and monkeys left by the exposition. And thus, the zoo was born.

Conservation has always been a massive part of the zoo’s mission and there are many ethical breeding programs at the San Diego Zoo. In other words, you can often spot baby animals! 

The best way to find out what’s new at the zoo is to take the guided bus tour in the park, which takes you by all the highlights and offers lots of exciting information about the animals.

Who’s the San Diego Zoo for? 

The San Diego Zoo is world-famous and perfect for anyone interested in wildlife. It’s popular with families but is a fun place for adults too. 

Zoos can be somewhat sad and cramped, but it’s clear that the animals at the San Diego Zoo are well-cared for. And unlike some places, the zoo doesn’t force animals to entertain anyone.

Conservation has always been key to the zoo’s mission, and the San Diego Zoo partners with organizations worldwide to preserve endangered species. Many of the animals born at the zoo have been safely introduced into the wild.

One of the San Diego Zoo’s biggest success stories was its giant pandas. In collaboration with scientists in China, researchers at the San Diego Zoo set up a breeding program that saw several cubs born in captivity. 

Scientists learned a lot from this program and were able to help pandas in the wild. In fact, pandas have now left the endangered species list.

Although the panda program ended with the pair’s return to China in 2019, the San Diego Zoo still has a wide variety of animals to visit.

Its location in Balboa Park is close to downtown San Diego, making it more convenient to visit than the San Diego Safari Park in Escondido.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego zoo safari park

Founded in 1964, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park first existed as a place to breed animals for the zoo, but has since become an attraction in its own right.

With 1,800 acres of open space, the safari park focuses on allowing animals to roam naturally across the plains without the cages of traditional zoos.

The most prominent animal exhibits at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are the African and Asian savannas. 

The 300 species at the safari park include elephants, rare rhinos, giraffes, gazelles, antelope, tigers, and much more. 

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has also had a lot of success with its breeding programs, most famously with California Condors.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park has another special animal exhibit–a pair of platypuses, the only two living outside of Australia! You can find these unique animals in the Australian Walkabout sector of the wild animal park.

Although the space for animals is enormous, the safari park isn’t a drive-through experience. 

Guests walk through the San Diego Zoo Safari Park or take guided tours. The entrance fee includes the Africa Tram, which takes guests through the African area. Other tours cost extra.

Who’s the San Diego Safari Park for?

Like the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Safari Park is suitable for all ages and abilities. It’s a unique opportunity to see animals in a near-natural environment and learn about conservation. 

Unlike the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is not in downtown San Diego. You’ll need to travel 30-45 minutes by car to Escondido. 

If you’re interested in African and Asian animals, this is the ideal park.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park vs San Diego Zoo

Location, tickets & hours.

location tickets hours

The San Diego Zoo is in Balboa Park, San Diego. The address is 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA. 

Because of its location in the heart of San Diego, the San Diego Zoo is easy to visit if you’re staying in the city. Free parking is available in the lot outside the zoo.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located at 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, a 30-45-minute car journey from central San Diego. 

There’s a parking fee at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park: $15 per vehicle or $20 for RVs. On weekends and holidays, there’s preferred parking available for an extra $18. The two zoos are 35 miles apart.

Both the zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park cost the same to visit. San Diego Zoo tickets and San Diego Safari Park tickets cost $67 for an adult and $55 for a child at either park at the gate (as of 2022). Children under two are free. 

However, there are discounts available if you purchase a ticket in advance.

No reservations are necessary and the ticket is good for a year. You can buy this discounted ticket to the San Diego Zoo or the San Diego Zoo Safari Park online at least 24 hours before you want to go.

Both the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are open everyday, rain or shine – even on holidays. Usually they open at 9 am and close between 5 pm to 8 pm, but the exact hours change depending on the season and special events.

Click here to check the hours of the San Diego Zoo on the day that you plan to visit. And here to check the Safari Park hours.

Park Size, Transportation & Accessibility

Park size transportation accessibility

The park sizes are very different. The San Diego Zoo covers 100 acres, whereas the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a massive 1,800 acres in size.

Both the zoo and the San Diego Safari Park have similar walking distances between animal exhibits despite the size difference.

Although you could see both San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Park in one day, you would likely miss out on a lot! Instead, I’d recommend one day for each park.

Expect to walk a lot in both San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park–you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes ! 

There are several other ways to get around the two world-class zoos if you’re getting sore feet.

The San Diego Zoo is built into a canyon and is very hilly. Fortunately, there are three elevators to help you get up and down the levels. You can find two in the Lost Forest and one in the Asian Passage. 

There’s also a hop-on, hop-off bus Kangaroo Express bus service around the park. There are four stops, marked with a yellow kangaroo sign. This service is included in your San Diego Zoo ticket and can be a real foot saver.

Another fun way to get around the San Diego Zoo is the Skyfari Aerial Tram, a not-to-be-missed experience. 

The gondolas take you above the treetops from Front Street near the Children’s Zoo to the Northern Frontier next to the Polar Bear Plunge, giving you a bird’s eye view of the animals.

In addition, there’s a 35-minute guided bus tour around the zoo, which starts near the San Diego Zoo entrance. 

I suggest doing this as soon as you arrive. That way, the line will be shorter and you’ll get inspiration for where you want to visit that day. 

Over at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, you’ll find the Africa Tram, a 25-minute guided tour of the Africa savanna area. Like the San Diego Zoo guided tour, it’s a good idea to take this first thing in the morning. 

The busiest times for the Africa Tram are between 11 am and 3 pm.

Both the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Park are wheelchair accessible. Complementary shuttles are available at both parks for guests who require help getting around. 

You’ll want to pick up a San Diego Zoo map or one for the safari park when you arrive at each respective park, so you don’t get lost!

Animals, Shows & Attractions

Animals shows attractions

The San Diego Zoo has more animals from across the globe, including Africa, Central America, South America, Australia, and Asia. The safari park focuses on large animals from Africa and Asia.

Both zoo and safari park tickets include a ton of activities and shows. In addition to the free things to do, there are several exciting paid-for experiences at both the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Your ticket to the San Diego Zoo includes a guided bus tour, the Kangaroo Bus, Skyfari, wildlife talks, and play areas. 

If you have young kids, you’ll know how important play areas are to help them burn off some energy on a day out. 

You can find four play areas around the zoo: Tree of Dreams in the Wild Woods, Polar Play Area at the Northern Frontier, Elephant Play Area in the Elephant Odyssey, and Koala Klimber in the Australian Outback.

Of course, the San Diego Zoo is exceptional for its animal collection–especially the rare and endangered species.

Don’t miss the Galapagos tortoises, some of which have been with the zoo since 1928, or the pygmy hippos, which are adorable miniature versions of the African mammal. 

My personal favorite is the okapi, an unusual animal that looks like a cross between a zebra and a giraffe.

San Diego Zoo also has polar bears, a very popular exhibit. You can watch these giant creatures swim gracefully in the water through the viewing glass, which is a memorable experience. The bears seem to enjoy watching people too!

Find out more about the animals at one of the daily wildlife presentations at noon at the Africa Rocks Stage. 

These presentations are an opportunity to meet the animal ambassadors who work at the zoo, studying and caring for the animals. 

In addition to animals, the San Diego Zoo has a fantastic collection of plants from around the world. 

Once or twice a month (find the list of days here ), the zoo has Plant Days when the Orchid House is open to visitors. During these events, you can also take a guided bus tour of the botanical garden.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has fewer animals and species than the San Diego Zoo, which offers a more traditional zoo experience. 

Instead, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has mostly larger animals in huge enclosures so that visitors can see wildlife in a more natural setting.

The admission price includes the Africa Tram, a guided open-sided bus tour around the African savanna area, access to a petting zoo, and several play areas.

The petting zoo hosts a herd of kraal, which look like goats but are cuter. Don’t skip this if you have kids in your group; it’s always a big hit. You can find the cuddly kraal at Nairobi Village. 

Children will also love the four play areas in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. If you’re visiting on a hot summer day, head to Savanna Cool Zone in Lion Camp for some water fun.

If you’re comparing the San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park on included activities, it’s clear the zoo has more to do. 

However, if you’re willing to spend more on upgrades, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has incredible opportunities to get close to the wildlife.

Special Tours & Upgraded Encounters

Special tours upgraded encounters

I hate spending more money when I’ve already paid for admission, but even I must admit that there are some special San Diego Zoo tours and safaris. 

It helps to know that the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park operate as non-profits, so everything you buy in the parks goes toward caring for the animals, wildlife conservation, and nothing else.

For a tour of the San Diego Zoo, book a Discovery Cart Tour for $55 each, which offers a 60-minute guided trip around the park. 

These private tours are ideal if you have lots of questions or are short on time and want to make the most of your experience at the zoo.

Those looking for an up-close encounter with exotic animals should reserve a spot on the Animals in Action Experience or Crazy About Cats, which take guests to visit incredible creatures in person. 

Or take an early morning photo expedition to visit the cheetahs, who are at their most playful at the start of the day.

Other tours and animal encounters are available, so check the San Diego Zoo’s website for the latest offers.

Going on a wildlife safari in Africa is at the top of my bucket list, but I’ll need to wait a few years. For now, a wildlife safari in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is much more child-friendly (and considerably cheaper).

The best tour at the safari park is the Ultimate Safari, where you receive five or seven hours with a guide plus a sit-down lunch. 

This customized tour is pricey at $675 per person but would be a memorable special occasion gift for an animal lover. 

Shorter, cheaper experiences are also available at the San Diego Safari Park. For instance, the one-hour Wildlife Safari is perfect for families.

Or, the romantic Twilight Wildlife Safari (formerly known as the Caravan Safari Twilight) ends with a drink and snacks as you watch the sunset over the savanna. 

The Behind the Scenes Safari takes you to off-limits areas to learn about animal care. Tickets for both the Twilight Wildlife (Caravan) Safari and the Behind the Scenes Safari start at $89. 

Adrenaline seekers, take note: the Flightline Safari will see you soaring across the plains, 130 feet in the air, for a unique bird’s eye view of the safari park. 

Or, if you prefer a more gentle flight, take off on a Balloon Safari to enjoy the view from a hot air balloon basket at 400 feet.

You can also access the park before it’s open with the Sun Up Cheetah Safari, where you can see a cheetah run at top speed. Or, sign up for a unique sunrise Surprise Stroll tour–no two tours are alike!

For a real adventure, stay the night in canvas tents on the Roar and Snore Safari. From $149 per person, this safari experience includes overnight accommodation, an after-hours look at the animals, a campfire program, dinner, a snack, and breakfast. I think this is pretty good value!

Comparing the San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park on special upgraded tours: San Diego Safari Park has many more choices for tours. 

Seeing a cheetah run, ziplining over animals on the Flightline Safari, and staying overnight in a safari tent are all fantastic experiences you won’t find anywhere else.

Food & Drink Options

Food drink options

The San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park allow guests to bring in their own food and drink, although you can’t trundle a giant cooler around. 

Having said that, the food and drink options at both the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park are tasty, diverse, and healthy, so there’s no need to take your own food.

The San Diego Zoo has a good mix of “theme park” food like hot dogs, kettle corn, and ice cream (the best cones are from Hua Mei) and healthier meals like freshly-made sandwiches and salads. 

If the zoo is your only day in San Diego, you can try fish tacos, the dish the city is famous for, paired with a local craft beer.

There’s even a sit-down venue, Albert’s Restaurant, where you can enjoy steak frites on a private patio next to a waterfall. I advise making reservations for Albert’s, which can get busy on weekends and holidays.

The food and drink options at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are equally good. Some of the eateries have views over the plains, so you don’t have to miss out on a moment of wildlife watching. 

I especially like The Watering Hole at Kijami Overlook, which has a tasty sandwich and salad menu. 

Macan Market, located on the Tiger Trail, is another good spot to enjoy a light lunch while spotting tigers. 

On a hot day, head to Lion Camp Slush and Snacks, where you can build your own slushie for a cooling treat.

FAQs About the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

FAQs about the San Diego zoo and safari park

Is the San Diego Zoo or the Safari Park better for toddlers? How about for babies?

If you have a toddler and you’re trying to compare the San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park, consider this: you’ll see more animals at San Diego Zoo. There’s also a children’s zoo, more transport options around the zoo, and there’s slightly less walking. 

Both places are fun for toddlers, but the San Diego Zoo is easier for families with young kids.

As for babies, they won’t care where they are. Pick the park you think you’ll enjoy the most.

Is it worth going to the San Diego Zoo AND Safari Park?

Definitely! The two parks offer different experiences. 

I wouldn’t attempt to do both on the same day, as there’s a 45-minute drive between the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Plus, there’s a lot to see in each wild animal park in San Diego.

Is the San Diego Zoo bigger than the Safari Park?

No, the San Diego Zoo is 100 acres in size compared to the 1,800 acres at the safari park. 

Remember, the safari park’s extra space is mostly for the animals. The length of the pathways guests walk along is roughly the same in both parks.

What is the difference between a zoo and a safari park?

You’ll get more of a traditional zoo experience at the San Diego Zoo. 

In contrast, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is an opportunity to see large animals roaming free across large enclosures. 

The safari park focuses on African and Asian animals and has some great safari tours as add-ons, like the Ultimate Safari, while the zoo offers close-up animal encounters.

How far is the Safari Park from the San Diego Zoo?

The Safari Park’s general location is about 35 miles away from San Diego Zoo in Escondido. The journey time in a car is 45 minutes without traffic, although there’s often traffic on this route.

How much time do you need to see each park? Could you see both the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park in one day?

Both the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park deserve an entire day of their own but give them at least three hours each if you can’t spare a whole day for both. 

You could see both in one day, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so, as the two parks aren’t that close and there’s so much to do at each park.

San Diego Zoo vs San Diego Safari Park: Which One is Better?

San Diego zoo vs san diego safari park which one is better

When deciding between the San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park, it depends on your personal preferences.

The San Diego Zoo has all the animals as the safari park and more, except for the platypuses. You can only see these unique creatures at Walkabout Australia in the San Diego Safari Park. 

So, if you really want to see a polar bear, for example, you would be better off picking the San Diego Zoo vs the Safari Park.

There’s also the location to take into consideration. If you’re staying in the central San Diego area, the San Diego Zoo is more convenient to reach than the San Diego Safari Park. 

If you don’t have a car, the San Diego Zoo is more accessible to get to by public transportation. Also, there’s free parking at the San Diego Zoo, which is always lovely.

If you’re considering adding an upgrade to your experience, this could be the ultimate deciding factor between the two parks. 

When comparing the San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park, the San Diego Zoo offers fewer experiences than the safari park.

If your dream is to feed giraffes, float over herds of elephants in a balloon, stay the night in a wild animal park, or go on a cheetah safari, the safari park offers all of this and more.

Whichever you choose, both the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park are some of the top things to do in the San Diego area , so you’ll have a fantastic time at either.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Sarah McDonald

Sarah McDonald is a travel writer based in the Bay Area. She writes for the national parenting website Red Tricycle and on her own family travel blog, Tiny Trailblazers . She loves exploring California’s outdoors and has a weakness for a national park gift shop.

Sarah enjoys sharing her Bay Area expertise with readers curious to try popular restaurants and off-the-beaten-path adventures in California. When she’s not writing reviews and travel guides, you’ll likely find her trying to keep up with her kids on a hiking trail or deciphering the menu at a new restaurant.

Looking for more Southern California travel inspiration? Check out these related articles below!

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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.

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Please note the hours for the Zoo change with seasons and holidays. 9-5 in winter; 9-7 during some months; 9-9 in summer. It is open special hours for Halloween week and Christmas holidays. Also, it may close early for some special events. **Check hours online before planning your trip.

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COMMENTS

  1. What's the Best San Diego Safari Park Tour? Chart & Reviews

    Africa Tram's the best free San Diego Safari Park tour. The 1-hour Wildlife Safari truck trip into the African fields is the most popular paid one. ... CART SAFARI TOURS - Offered daily. - African savanna habitats: $57 - 67: 1 hour: All - Asian savanna habitats: $57 - 67: 1 hour: All - Deluxe: $90 - 110: 90 min: All: FLIGHTLINE ...

  2. Is it worth doing the Africa Cart Safari AND the...

    San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Escondido: "Is it worth doing the Africa Cart Safari AND the..." | Check out 7 answers, plus see 4,667 reviews, articles, and 5,534 photos of San Diego Zoo Safari Park, ranked No.1 on Tripadvisor among 146 attractions in Escondido. ... When the park began the tram covered the entire park, all the animals. I'm not sure ...

  3. San Diego Zoo Safari Park Tips

    Cart Safari — The Cart Safari follows a similar path as the Africa Tram around the exhibits, but you can get closer to some areas, ask questions and request to pause to get the perfect picture. When we did this tour, we went to the Asia habitat and saw rarely seen animals. ... You can explore much of the park on foot, and if you do, you ...

  4. Hello, We were debating whether to do the...

    The cart safari stays on defined paths and remains on the periphery of the African or Asian field exhibits (you choose which you want to do). It's largely an expanded and much more personal Africa Tram experience. The tram, which is included in your admission ticket, is a scripted tour and every tram follows the same path but each "driver ...

  5. Africa Tram

    Busiest 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on peak attendance days. The Africa Tram is an exciting expedition, with safari tour vehicles and our diverse wildlife creating a relaxing adventure. The ride path takes you around some of the savanna habitats, giving you a chance to connect with wildlife on a closer level. Approximately 25 minutes.

  6. Africa Tram Safari

    San Diego Zoo Safari Park: Africa Tram Safari - worth every cent - See 4,651 traveler reviews, 5,479 candid photos, and great deals for Escondido, CA, at Tripadvisor. ... The cart safari allows take you on a golf cart and you have the options of viewing the Asian or African animals. We chose the Asian animals, because you can see the African ...

  7. Safari Park

    The safari park version is quite good, and you see the animals closer up and from different vantages than you can do on the walking tour. If you've tended to skip the bus tour at the main zoo, don't skip the safari park version - it's worthwhile. The extra-charge safari options basically get you closer to the animals for a longer time.

  8. Safaris at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

    Free safari or paid safaris. A visit to San Diego Safari Park is a costly undertaking. The Safari Park admission costs US$69 for all visitors 12 years and above and $59 for three to 11-year-old visitors. This is why many visitors wonder if the free Africa Tram Safari included in the ticket is enough.

  9. [2021] Africa Tram San Diego Zoo Safari Park

    The Africa Tram at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is OPEN! I'm so excited. Easily the best park about the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is the Africa Tram. And it...

  10. San Diego Zoo Safari Park Guide: 2024 Hours, Tours, Tips

    The Africa Tram is the only safari included with your entrance ticket. If you are not booking a Wildlife Safari, plan time for Africa Tram. Departing from the African Outpost, the tram travels 2.5 miles around African Plains and gives you a look at the animals that reside in the field enclosures, such as white rhinoceroses, giraffes, Cape ...

  11. Get the Most Out of Your Visit to San Diego's Zoo Safari Park

    The Africa Tram. Due to its expansive acreage, it can be hard to walk the entire park, especially during the summer when the sun is bearing down on you. ... Cart Safari Africa. A one-hour tour, you'll travel in the back of a cart through the Africa enclosure as a knowledgeable guide educates you on the park's history and answers any ...

  12. Tips for Visiting the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

    Arrive around opening time and walk directly to the Africa Tram at the back of the zoo to avoid long waits during peak season. Africa Tram tours typically start at 10 AM. If you can't be there early, consider riding the tram in the late afternoon to avoid peak crowds. Related: October Deals in San Diego - Kids Get in FREE. Shows. The best ...

  13. 13 San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park Differences-Which is Best?

    AFRICA SAFARI TRAM. I love the Africa tram. I could ride it all day. ... Cart Safari Tours - (1 HOUR for $55+ per person) Asian or African Cart Safari with guide to carry you around the field enclosures. Animal feeding & photo opportunities. Carts carry only 9 people, good for special family outings and small groups that want to stay together

  14. What's Included in Your San Diego Safari Park Admission?

    Here are some of the best Cheetah Run viewing locations if you aren't in the paid Safari: On the bridge across from the Savanna Cool Zone. The kids can play in the water while you wait; Below the Balloon Safari, along the walk to the Africa Tram close to the bridge. The sun will be at your back. And during the summertime that's a blessing.

  15. Cart Safari Experience

    San Diego Zoo Safari Park: Cart Safari Experience - See 4,661 traveler reviews, 5,496 candid photos, and great deals for Escondido, CA, at Tripadvisor. ... All reviews cheetah run tram ride african tram african safari bird show giraffes and rhinos cart safari tiger exhibit roar and snore zip line natural environment endangered species hot air ...

  16. San Diego Zoo Safari Park Review & Tips

    While there are a variety of unique attractions at the San Diego Safari Park, its flagship offering is the Africa Tram, which takes guests on a 30-minute safari across the park's African Plains. This post offers a review of the San Diego Safari Park, animal photos, and various tips & tricks for making the most of your visit to the Safari Park.

  17. A Tourist's Guide to San Diego Zoo Safari Park

    Choose the Cart Safari Africa experience to travel in the back of an open-air safari truck. Traveling with an expert guide, you'll tour the expansive savannah habitats of the Safari Park at San Diego Zoo. ... The Africa Tram tour lasts 25 minutes and will take you around some of the park's natural habitat so you can get close to the animals ...

  18. The Ultimate Guide to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

    The Africa Tram-T he Africa Tram i s a 45-minute guided tour around the African field exhibit. It's nice and relaxing, and you can enjoy beautiful views of the park. ... Cart Safari ($50 and up) - The Cart Safari i s a 1-hour ride with a guide where you'll learn more about the park's beginnings and the animals who call the Safari Park ...

  19. Cart Safari

    Step off the cart for a look at incredible wildlife, and snap some amazing photos as you experience this unique Safari. Admission is separate and required. If anyone in your party requires the use of a wheelchair during the tour, after booking, please call 619-718-3000 so we can notate your order prior to your visit.

  20. Cart Safari (San Diego, CA) 2024 Review & Ratings

    2929 Zoo Drive,, San Diego, 92101, CA. Best For: Infants 0-2. Little Kids 3-6. Big Kids 7-9. Tweens 10-12. Teens 13-17. The cart safari tours the Africa Plains or Asian Savanna from an open-air cart, seating eight people. The hour-long tour stops in the safari for a photo op and a chance to feed an animal.

  21. Say NO to the Africa Cart Safari!!!!

    This ride was nearly identical to the Cart Safari, and it was FREE!! For $330 we literally went on an upper road in the park and saw a ton of sage brush and some big horn sheep. Then the same loop that the Africa Tram takes. This left a very sour taste in our mouth. DO NOT PAY for the Africa Cart Safari. It is a total rip off!!!!!

  22. San Diego Zoo Safari Park Fact Sheet

    SAFARI EXPERIENCES*: The Africa Tram is an exciting expedition that takes guests on a guided adventure 2.5 miles around one of the Safari Park's expansive savanna habitats. The tram is an open-air, soft-wheeled vehicle inspired by the legendary safari trains of Africa. The Africa Tram is included with admission.

  23. San Diego Zoo Vs Safari Park: The BEST Park To Visit And Why

    The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located at 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, a 30-45-minute car journey from central San Diego. There's a parking fee at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park: $15 per vehicle or $20 for RVs. On weekends and holidays, there's preferred parking available for an extra $18.