On Safari In Ohio! - The Wilds - Updated With Second Visit

Discussion in 'Wanderlust and Travel' started by bobhoge, Jul 19, 2007.

  1. The Wilds is located southeast of Zanesville, about 80 miles from our house in Columbus, Ohio. It is a place we have been talking about going to for the last several years and we finally did it on Saturday.

    See Post #9 for updated information based on a second visit

    The place is a little hard to describe; it is not a zoo, nor was it designed as an "attraction", maybe the best description is a dating service for endangered species... Oh yes, and it is BIG! :eek: as in 10,000 acres, thats just a little smaller than Manhattan Island.

    Here is a link to their website:

    I will post some photos of the critters there in "Animals" but try to describe what the photo choices and challenges are here.

    First off, you have to decide how you will travel through the area.
    One choice is an enclosed small bus:
    PLUSES -
    Not much dust and dirt.
    Air conditioned (some seemed better than others)
    You can get off at 4 locations and stay at each as long as you like, buses are about 10 minutes apart.
    These buses are included in the entrance fee.
    Shooting from the bus is either through the glass or you can open the little top windows. That opening is just large enough to get an 80-400 VR (77mm) through it without a shade. Not a lot of up and down angle allowed.

    The other choice is an open bus:
    A lot easier shooting from the open bus.
    Quite a bit of dust and dirt.
    Hot on a hot day.
    They only stop at two locations and you have to leave on the same bus you came on so you only have 15-25 minutes at each of those stops.
    The open buses are $25 in addition to your entrance fee.

    Since it was our first time there, we took the enclosed bus. We left the ticket area at about 10:15 and returned at about 2:15. We spent quite a lot of time at each of the 4 stops. If you stayed on the enclosed bus without getting off you could go around in about 1:30.
    We did not take the open bus so I can't really compare the two, but the open buses we saw seemed to be full. They told us that the open bus trip is about 2:15 with the two stops.

    The four stops:
    The Lake Trail (both buses)

    The Wetlands (enclosed bus only)

    The Mid-sized Carnivore Center (our favorite) (both buses)
    This just opened this month and the first floor is still under construction.
    The African Wild Dogs are to the left and the Cheetah are to the right as you walk in, you can also see the long walkway out of the second story of the building:

    The second floor is open on 3 sides and has lots of room to shoot from:

    The raised walkway has the Cheetah area on the right and is high enough to shoot over the fences:

    The knoll at the end of the walkway is shaded and pleasant to sit there, but you would need a long lens to shoot from there.

    The Outpost (our second favorite) (only the enclosed bus stops here):
    There are three covered areas and again this spot is on a knoll overlooking a very large pen with lots of animals.

    The next time we go, I think we would take the open bus first and then take the enclosed one.

    By having the very large pens you can see the animals in a more natural setting:cool:, but it also allows them to sometimes be far away:confused:.
    A wide shot of part of the pen shot from The Outpost - there is a prize for the first person to find the 1 Enclosed Bus, 2 Giraffe, 4 Rhino and several Bison in the photo :biggrin: The fence is beyond the bus and about that far in all directions:

    Other times they can be too close:

    Overall it was a neat spot, we bought a years membership for $60 which will pay out with two visits. There are a lot of unusual animals to see and photograph. Some of our photos are posted here:

    I think it might be a possibile spot for a Cafe meeting, but I don't think it would be worth a flight or multi-day drive just to see it.

    Bob & Nan
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 2, 2008
  2. Very nice and informative post Bob. Thanks.
  3. great series...very informative...thanks david
  4. Nice photos...I've wanted to get to the Wilds, but just haven't made it. Since you bought the membership (and plan on going back) which "bus plan" do you think is the best option?
  5. Dietz

    Dietz Guest

    Thanks for the great info, my son went there a couple of weeks on a Saturday evening and also enjoyed it.
  6. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Very nice Bob
    Thanks for a great tour
  7. Our plan for next time would be to again get there by the 10AM opening time. Take the open-sided bus while it is still cool and less dusty. You would be back at the starting point for lunch. Then take the closed bus and spend more time at the Carnivore center and visit the Outpost.

    We bought a combined membership with the Columbus Zoo. The zoo is about 10 miles from home and we go there 2 to 4 times a year. The Wilds is farther away and until they added the stops, did not seem as interesting for a photo trip.

    If you buy a 1-day admission, I think it includes one trip on the enclosed bus. You have to pay $25 per person extra for the open-sided bus. A membership includes free parking ($2 per car for non-members). admission ($18 per person for non-members), as many closed bus trips as you want, and a $5 per person discount on the open-sided bus.

    A family membership is $89, a Columbus Zoo family membership is $60, and a Combined membership is $120, so it was only $60 extra for us. Without the membership one visit would cost 2+18+18 =38 and we could save another $10 if we took the open-sided bus. Thus the payout in two visits.

    Bob & Nan
  8. GeeJay


    Jan 26, 2005
    What a treat to go on this trip with you and Nan. It's like going on a safari with you and right there in Ohio, Thanks!

    I love dogs but not sure about those African Dogs.
  9. UPDATE - Second Visit

    We made a second trip to The Wilds last month.

    This time we took the open sided bus (at extra cost). For photography it was significantly better for shooting. We again arrived just at 10AM (on a Sunday) and were the second car in the visitor parking lot. It sure did not look like that many people were arriving after us, but by 10:20 when the first open bus left, it was almost full!

    You can see from the photo in post #1, it is an old school bus with the top cut off and a roof added. I think we were lucky in that there had been rain the previous couple of days and so there was not a lot of dust when underway. It was also cooler than normal and the driver/guide said the animals were more active in those conditions.

    We sat all the way in the back of the bus where the seats face sideways. There was certainly no way to use a tripod on the bus, and I'm not sure if a monopod would be all that helpful. As before, the large size of the place means that sometimes the critters are right by the bus and sometimes VERY far away. (The "pen" for the Bison herd is over 3000 acres and you just drive by one end of it.) We found the 80-400VR and 70-300VR lenses to be a good starting place.

    We got back to the visitor center a little after 1PM. We could have taken another round in the enclosed bus, but had lunch and headed off to visit a museum in Cambridge that looked interesting.

    Both trips are in the same Smugmug album, here is a link to the first photo of the second visit:
    I will post some of the photos in "Animals"

    Note: I used my AMOD GPS tracker for this second visit, so you can click on the "Map This" button at Smugmug if desired.

    If you are nearby, it is certainly worth a stop,
    Bob & Nan
  10. GeeJay


    Jan 26, 2005
    Thanks, Bob and Nan,
    This is very special to sit here with your slideshow of your second visit! ..Many thanks for sharing your adventure and making us aware of this 'Ohio Safari'....
  11. Thanks Bob and Nan. I've been by there many times and never stopped in. I camp and fish several times a year not too far from there in the AEP areas. Always wondered what kind of facilities they had. Thanks for the info and the images.
  12. brucedane


    Jul 10, 2008
    East Tennessee
    Interesting post, Bob. We lived in northeast Ohio for years and didn't realize this was so close. Thanks for the tour!