The Best Safari Destinations In The USA

Saruni Mara luxury lodge - male lion on plains in Masai Mara North Conservancy, Kenya
Lion spotting in the Masai Mara

A safari is on most people’s bucket lists because it truly is a life-changing experience. There’s nothing more magical than seeing some of the most incredible animals in the world in the flesh.

When planning a safari, you will probably start looking at places like Kenya, which are well-known for their exotic wildlife. But even though there are some incredible safari trips you can take there and it’s definitely a destination that you should put on your ‘to-do’ list, you should consider the alternatives too. 

Most people don’t think of the USA as a safari destination but there are actually a lot of amazing places you can go to see wildlife. Here’s everything you need to know about planning a safari in the USA, including the best places to go. 

Travelling To The USA

Your travel plans to the USA will depend entirely on the safari destination that you choose. However, there are a few things that you need to sort out, regardless of where you are travelling to. Any UK citizen that is visiting the USA needs an ESTA, which is an alternative to a visa, applicable to certain countries that the USA deems to be low risk.

All you need to do is fill out a quick form online and then pay a small fee and you are all sorted. It’s best to do this ahead of time, just in case there are any problems and to make your journey smoother.

The USA is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world

There are also extra restrictions on entering the USA at the moment due to the pandemic. When international travel is allowed again, you should be able to visit the USA hassle-free. However, it is likely that you will need proof of a negative test 3 days before your trip, or evidence that you have been vaccinated. If you do decide to go in the near future, make sure to check the restrictions regularly because the situation is constantly evolving. 

The Best Safari Destinations In The USA

California – Safari West

California’s wine country is a popular destination for tourists but, as you’d expect, most of them go for the wine. However, you will also find Safari West, an amazing wildlife park with a 400-acre preserve to explore. There is a 3-hour driving route or you can take a walking tour that gives you more of an opportunity to explore the reserve.

There are several species of animals from the African Serengeti in the wildlife reserve, including buffalo, gazelle, and wildebeest. There’s a reason that this park is nicknamed the ‘Sonoma Serengeti’ and even though it can’t match the experience of a real-life African safari, it comes as close as possible. If you want a truly magical experience, you can visit at night-time and see some of the nocturnal wildlife too. 

Saruni Mara - animals at the waterhole in Mara North Conservancy, Masai Mara, Kenya
It’s like going on safari in the Serengeti!

California – San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Safari West isn’t the only great safari park in California and if you’re spending a bit of time in the area, you should pay a visit to San Diego zoo as well. There is 1800-acres of land separate from the rest of the zoo, where you will find over 30 species of animals from six different continents. As well as amazing African animals like cheetah, you also get the chance to see the incredibly rare California condor, one of the most endangered bird species in the world. 

The rare Californian Condor

The range of different ways to see the park is one of the best things about this safari destination. You can take a guided bus tour with a knowledgeable guide who will tell you all about the animals you see, and there is a convenient tram too. But if you are looking for a unique experience, why not see it from above in a hot air balloon or on a zipline instead? 

Arizona – Bearizona Wildlife Park

California has some amazing safari destinations with lots of African animals but if you want to see more wildlife native to North America, places like the Bearizona Wildlife Park in Arizona are perfect. It’s a little smaller than other safari zones at only 160-acres, but it’s a great preservation zone that aims to look after the Ponderosa pine forest and the native animals that live there.

You’ll see black bears here

There is a driving portion of the safari followed by a walking tour that takes you up to Fort Bearizona. This is a great destination for families where you will find a lot of smaller animals in the petting zoo. 

Oregon – Wildlife Safari

The Wildlife Safari in Oregon has one of the most successful cheetah breeding programs in the USA, but they are only one of the incredible animals that you can find here. The park has different areas recreating all sorts of different habitats. It takes around an hour and a half to walk around the whole place, so it’s not that big, but there is still plenty to explore. You will find yaks, hippos, and elephants, camels and, of course, plenty of cheetahs. You can also do some great activities at Wildlife Safari, like camel riding or wine tastings for an extra fee. 

Saruni Mara luxury lodge - cheetah at Masai Mara North Conservancy, Kenya
See cheetahs in Oregon

When you are visiting wildlife parks in the USA, you need to be careful about where you go and you should always make sure that they are treating the animals well. The best way to check is to look for accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). They will check any locations and make sure that the animals are getting the care that they need. All entries on this list are AZA certified. 

Nothing quite compares to a real-life African safari, but if you are on a trip to the USA and you are an animal lover, you should definitely consider paying a visit to some of these amazing destinations. You will find all of the incredible wildlife you expect to see on an African safari and as long as you find certified locations, you will be contributing to conservation efforts.

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