Lion Country Safari in Florida’s Palm Beach area gives you a safari experience without the price of a plane ticket to Africa. This drive-thru safari park began in 1967 with several free-roaming lions and other animals. Nowadays, there are nearly 1,000 animals on site that roam among the preserve’s 320 acres.
Just what can you expect if you visit Lion Country Safari? Are you really going to get up close with some of the animals there? Here’s the scoop on what to expect, the cost to visit Lion Country Safari, and some tips for your visit.
What to Expect When You Visit Lion Country Safari
Lion Country Safari is a bit off the beaten path in Palm Beach County. In other words, rhinos and giraffes are not crossing your path while you’re shopping for Louis Vuitton bags in downtown West Palm Beach. Expect to drive about a half hour along 98 from downtown West Palm to get to Lion Country Safari, which is in the town of Loxachatchee. It’s about an hour from Miami.
Lion Country Safari tickets run about $41 per adult and $31 per child. Prices may fluctuate, and you may be able to find discounts for tickets online. Everyone must get a ticket except those age 3 and under. You can buy tickets online or at the gate.
When you enter the park, you can go to the drive-through safari area or the Safari World Adventure Park, which includes lots of kid-friendly activities. From a water playground (bring a bathing suit and sunscreen) to mini golf and a petting zoo, there’s plenty to entertain the kiddos at the Adventure Park. There are also ways to interact with other animals, including giraffes. The park also has a couple of places to eat. Although we didn’t make it to Safari World during our visit, it looks like a fun place for kids. We’ll focus on the safari portion of the park here.
The park also has premium experiences, such as a VIP guided tour. Advanced registration is required.
When preparing to enter the park, you’ll be reminded to keep your car doors and windows closed. This is for the animals’ safety and your own. You can also rent a vehicle from Lion Country Safari for $25 for 1 1/2 hours.
For all the reasons you can imagine, your pets also are not allowed on the drive-through safari. Lion Country Safari has kennels available for $5.
When you enter the park, you’ll be given a brochure and directed to a QR code that provides a link to an audio narration of your safari. You can also find a link to the audio tour here, both in English and Spanish. It’s a little over an hour long and follows the different reserves you’ll drive through (we name them below). It’s a lot of facts, but the narration and the map help you better appreciate what you’re seeing. Remember that the audio tour will use your cell phone data.
In the Safari at Lion Country Safari
The four-mile safari features acres upon acres of flat land where the many animals can roam. You drive through the park going through seven different areas (listed below in the order you encounter them….we also list some of the animals you’ll find in each area):
—Las Pampas, modeled after the area of the same name in Argentina. Find alpaca, brown pelicans, and marabou storks
—Buaha National Park from Africa, featuring ostriches and impalas
—Kalahari Bushveldt from southwest Africa, which includes ostriches, gemsbok (a type of antelope), and bongos (another type of antelope)
—Gorongosa Reserve, home to beautiful African lions
—Gir Forest, named for a national park in Gujarat, India. Find Asiatic water buffalo, scimitar-horned oryxes (they have very cool, long horns) and another type of antelope called nilgais
—Serengeti Plains, featuring wildebeests, watusi, and impalas
—Hwange National Park, named for the largest game reserve in western Zimbabwe and including some of better-known, beloved animals, like giraffes, Southern white rhinos, zebras, chimps, and giraffes.
Just how close do you get to the animals? It depends, but you can get pretty darn close. The animals seem pretty oblivious to the cars driving through but some of the more curious ones, like ostriches, will come up near the car. We had dozens and dozens of impalas crossing and walking ahead of our driving path (talk about a traffic jam). Because it’s the animals running the show, it all hinges on how close they feel like getting.
There are a couple of exceptions to this, including the chimps. The lions are behind protective, tall metal fences, and we noticed a couple of Lion Country Safari trucks nearby with staff. “They probably have tranquilizer darts,” someone said. “For the lions or the people?” we asked. Because after all, we are in Florida, where the people can be as unpredictable as the animals.
Seriously though, obey the rules and stay in your car. It may be hard to get a good lion shot with the protection there but you can get many other good animal shots.
You can take your time going through each protected area, even if the safari area is busy. That’s because there are many pull-off areas. So, if you want to stay and watch a certain group of animals and let some traffic go by, you can do so. Feel free to take your time, and remember that you can drive through the safari as much as you’d like on the day you buy your ticket.
If you’re in a bit of a rush, some of the areas, including Gorongosa Preserve (for the lions) have cut-through areas so you can skip them. Even if you’re doing this, just watch the speed limit signs as the animals have the right of way.
The park was an enjoyable visit on a sunny day. If you’re a photographer, bring your fancy camera or use your good phone camera. Some highlights included the curious and playful ostriches (at another safari park, we had ostriches chasing after our tram and then posing for us), the impalas crossing the road in droves, and the rhinos that were just eating and playing in the mud and grass. The zebras were pretty cool, too.
Going through the safari took about an hour and a half. If you add a visit to the Adventure Park, you definitely have a busy half-day visit or may be a full day if you stretch it out.
6 Tips for a Visit to Lion Country Safari
- Plan to visit when it’s raining or early on a sunny day. Surprisingly, the park itself recommends visiting on a rainy day as that’s when the animals are at their most active. If that doesn’t work, then early on a sunny day is their next recommendation (and ours). The park opens at 10 am on weekdays and 9:30 am on weekends. It’s open until 5 pm on weekdays and 5:30 pm on weekends.
- Consider staying at the adjacent KOA. Lion Country Safari KOA is adjacent to the park, and here’s the cool thing we’ve read: If you’re staying there, you can hear the lions roar. Otherwise, hotels are closer to West Palm.
- Watch out for other photo opps. The massive, open nature area that is Lion Country Safari naturally attracts other animals, so you may find other photo opps. For instance, we saw a heron snapping up and eating what we think was an eel or snake. It was a cool shot we could have missed had we not been paying attention.
- Use the map and audio narration to help you get to know the animals better.
- Drive slow and make use of those pull-off areas. Stay off your phone (unless you’re getting pictures with it) and look around.
- Remember that these are wild animals. The animals are part of a conservation effort, and they rule the roost, so to speak. Let them stay wild, and everyone will have fun and get along.