Thursday, August 30, 2012

Six Flags Announces Wild Safari Tradition To End

Great Adventure's Wild Safari

Growing up Jersey, the theme park du jour of the shore was Six Flags Great Adventure. 

Unlike the other 18 Six Flag parks nationwide, Great Adventure stood apart from the rest because it has the largest drive-thru safari outside of Africa.

According to an article in The Star-Ledger newspaper, Six Flags Great Adventure announced on Aug. 20, 2012 that they would stop letting guests use their own cars for tours of the animal sanctuary, ending a tradition that began almost 40 years ago.

The article reported that park spokeswoman Kristin Siebeneicher said, “We are discontinuing allowing cars to drive through Wild Safari at the end of the 2012 season.” She also said the park is closing for the season on Sept. 30, 2012, a month earlier than scheduled.

According to a recent article in The Star-Ledger, Six Flags announced today that it would be revamping the Wild Safari to Safari Off Road Adventure. 
Park visitors will begin at a “rustic loading station filled with artifacts from the Wilds’ global journeys” and board an open-air safari vehicle driven by park employees. At Camp Aventura, guests will be able to get closer to some of the animals and hand-feed or pet them. A zip-line ride over the Camp will be available for an additional fee.
The original safari, which opened in 1974, houses 1,200 animals from six continents spread across the 350-acre park. More than 10 million visitors have passed through over the past 38 years.

According to Safari Director, Bill Rives, the drive-thru park “has been an institution for many families whose first glimpse of exotic animals was with their faces pressed against the window.  That chapter of our history is now coming to a close.”

For me personally, my fondest memories of the Wild Safari were from growing up.  Who could ever forget being thoroughly embarrassed by the glaring red and raw butts of the baboons?  They would jump on the hood of your car, do an about face and predictably moon us.  That is unless they decided to pro-create in front of us; somehow the female always wore the most bored expression as we drove by.

My absolute favorite animals were the giraffes.  Along with their friends the camels, both species were always so curious and looking for law-breakers who were willing to feed them through a cracked window or sunroof.

In my child’s mind, I felt that driving through the Safari made me like Max from Where the Wild Things Are.  It was sheer excitement to see bears, tigers and lions stroll “near” your car – up close and personal. 

The article stated that most of the dangerous animals are kept away from vehicle roads but, if I recall correctly, when I was very small, the so called dangerous animals were not always kept from the vehicles. 

This is definitely the end of an era for several generations in my family, even my son Shane who had the good fortune…I think…of driving through the animal park but not actually seeing any animals.

Five summers ago, we were in New Jersey for my half-sister’s high school graduation and thought it would be a great idea for the family to spend the day at Great Adventure. 

It ended up being a super fun day; however, we started our sojourn off in the Wild Safari where my Aunt Trish’s car promptly broke down.  Luckily, we had my cousin – who was a former car surgeon at Toyota– with us.  He warily got out into the zebra enclosure to work on Trisha’s Pathfinder for the good part of an hour. 

I suppose we were also lucky that most of the dangerous animals are kept away from the vehicle roads.  A rogue ostrich came strolling by, but mostly the animals were not impressed by their human guests.

After quite some time, a tow truck arrived and jumped the car.  We quickly exited the Safari and parked in the main lot of the Amusement Park portion.  From there, we ignored our car troubles and had a great time.  Little did I know it would be my last visit to the Wild Safari. Ever. In. My. Life. 

At least we had these last 40 years, it was a great adventure to say the least.


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