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


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. 

What to expect at 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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Where to book tickets

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.

How do online tickets work

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.

Free safari at San Diego Safari 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
African Tram Safari at San Diego Safari Park. Image: Sdzsafaripark.org

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. 

Best time for African Tram Safari

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.

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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. 

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. 

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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. 

Wildlife Safari

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

Night Vision Safari

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. 

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

Twilight Wildlife Safari

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

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

Sun Up Cheetah Safari

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.

Cart Safari Africa

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

Behind-the-Scenes Safari

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

Flightline Safari

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

Roar and Snore Safari

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

Ultimate Safari

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

Balloon Safari in San Diego Park
San Diego Safari Park’s Safari Balloon takes off in the background. Image: Sdzsafaripark.org

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.

FAQs about the Safaris at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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

Are the safari tours wheelchair accessible?

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.

Can I take photos during the safari tours?

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.

What safety measures are in place during the safari tours?

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.

Are the safari tours included in the general admission ticket, or do they require a separate fee?

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

# 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.

# 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

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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