This was one of the coolest experiences of my life! I got to feed this giraffe named Hodari at Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. Wildlife Safari is a park where you get to drive through and see the animals in a safari-like setting in their own habitat without the traditional things you have at the zoo--like fences, etc. Of course the exception is the enclosure for the wildcats and bears, etc. I'm pretty sure they don't want lions chasing down zebras and eating them in front of small children. Ha! You can also pay an extra fee for special animal encounters, one of which was feeding the giraffes. We were driven out to the giraffes in a special open-top truck. The animal encounters do come with a disclaimer that they cannot guarantee the animals will cooperate. This day--as my luck would have it--the giraffes did not cooperate. They were up on a hill and had no desire to come down to where we were waiting and hoping. Staff drove out to them in trucks to try and coax them down. Not a chance. They did at one point seem like they were making their way to us, but instead they just stopped and started fighting. Giraffe fighting is crazy. They stand next to each other and one at a time will swing their long necks around and bring their head and neck crashing into the chest of the other giraffe.Considering there necks weight like 400 plus pounds that is ridiculous.
I was very disappointed, as feeding the giraffes was what I was most looking forward to. We talked to the tour guide afterwards, and they told us they would honor our tickets if we came back the next day for the next set time for giraffe feeding. We enjoyed the rest of our time that day, which included an elephant encounter with Alice the elephant who did a dance and a workout routine for us after we got to feed her some celery.
The next morning we checked out of our hotel, dropped Belle off at the PetSmart groomers for a couple of hours, and headed back to Wildlife Safari. I was worried we would once again be disappointed, but thank goodness we were not! It was a beautiful day, and Hodari the giraffe was definitely in the mood to come greet us and enjoy all the goodies that awaited him. He was inches from my face, his loooooong tongue licked my fingers as he took the carrots and lettuce from me. It was amazing! Giraffes are obviously big...but you really have no idea until they are standing with their face in yours.
If you ever get a chance to experience an animal like this up close and personal, I strongly suggest it. It really was a once in a lifetime experience. Sadly, Hodari died last year. You can see that story HERE .