Trike Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park—If We Could Talk to the Animals.
Just imagine it, what a neat achievement that would be. Dr. Dolittle may be a fictional character, yet the reality is that getting up close to some fantastic and exotic animals can be as easy as a visit to the Safari Park here in San Diego. With their new Trike Safari, seeing (and talking to) them in what could be the closest setting to their natural environment is exciting and fun. The electric-assist adult trikes will whisk you to areas that most will never experience, just outside of the large enclosures that house them.
My wife and I were so pleased to be in a position to take the safari. Our group of 8 was escorted and enlightened by two of their courteous and wise guides. There was room for two more guests as the fleet of trikes is ready for many takers. They offer 4 one hour safaris every day, 5 depending on the season. Count on being at least 12 years old to ride, and my sandals stayed behind as regular shoes are required for the safari. Helmets and cool water were part of the included items, and they have shoes on-hand for the casual visitors like me.
A couple of my favorite shops were instrumental in helping the park put these trikes together. Electric Bike Central in Little Italy did the work, mating the Sun adult three-wheeled trikes with the eRAD mid-drive systems from Lectric Cycles (Tempe AZ). Their 350 watt motor is restricted to the lowest 3 power levels to give you just enough oomph for the rolling hills that surround the large habitats. These are simple single-speed machines with a front V brake for stopping. A large basket in the back handily holds your gear and an oversize saddle holds your ‘you know what’.
The trikes maneuver easily enough as you work the dirt trails and gravel expanses, some with narrow paved cart paths in the middle. Before you make it out with the animals, you get some riding instructions and a chance to prove your handling prowess on the shortest of obstacle courses in the meeting area. With two guides handling the group, any issues or questions are worked out with you quickly, so enjoying the sights and sounds of the wild animals won’t be interrupted. Some of the stops were on minor grades, making getting started again a minor chore until the automatic pedelec kicked in as the pedals turned a bit.
On top of my known interest in reporting on E-bikes and E-bike tours (I think you know by now I will be a speaker at this year’s National Bicycle Tourism Conference on the subject of E-bike tours), I was truly intrigued by the unique perspective the Trike Safari offers of this incredible venue. Way back they had rail car tours that really were great. They switched to rubber-tired trams when the rail systems proved challenging to steady operations. Some, me included, felt a better view of the park and animals were provided by the railcars and the paths they took though the park.
Still, the trams are a comfy and satisfying way to see the animals, and we did that tour just before our Trike Safari experience. They encircle both the African Plains and Asian Savanna, and make stops for closer viewing and info sessions on just what the animals are all about. There are other safaris too, including the chance to actually get inside the main enclosure to feed the giraffes. The closest thing to the Trike Safari is the Cart Safari if you would rather be escorted in an oversize golf cart instead of having your own electric trike to enjoy. The carts are the only other tour vehicles that visit the normally unseen parts deep in the park (and right along the enclosure’s fences).
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park tried some Segways before the trikes, but I can only imagine many of the reasons these trikes are a better experience. I won’t say the paths we rode were steep or unduly rough, but did find the trikes handled our safari well. The trikes and the Trike Safari are still morphing their way to perfection with minor changes as the weeks go by. In the two months it has been active, it has proved very popular. I was glad to offer them a few suggestions too, and could tell from the park’s response that they are genuinely interested in making sure that each Trike Safari guest gets the best experience possible. BTW, if they decide to name the individual trikes with a popular animal’s name, you can thank me for that.
Each Trike Safari will be different as the animals are on their own schedule. The guides are keen to spot (and point out) the most interesting behaviors and animals closest to the boundaries on each tour they host. Even though our visit was on a warm day, the beasts we came to see were very active. There were a few that came to greet us, maybe thinking some snacks were in hand. Stories of the rhinos getting restless with the trikes riding by were spoken of, yet today they seemed to accept our presence with just a mild interest. Of course the electric trikes are quiet as can be, still not the kind of sights they got back home in the wild.
Part of the Trike Safari included areas not in the main habitats. We rode close to the Cheetahs who were resting in the cool grass, and watched folks feeding the giraffes too. At each chosen viewing site we parked our trusty trikes and got an earful of wisdom from the guides who have hands-on experience with many of the animals we came to interact with. Although we weren’t really part of each animal’s live, it sure felt like it. The stops were sometimes in the shade of trees from the homes of the animals we saw and that allowed for water breaks too.
So, do I recommend you take a Trike Safari, or for that matter, just make sure you visit the Zoo Safari Park? By all means I do, as this is way more than just a first class operation. It is the best of all worlds in viewing and learning about the creatures that roam our earth in faraway places. Our Zoo in Balboa Park is really something to be sure, yet the way this park is set-up and run, it will grab the attention of anyone with even the mildest of interest levels for such things.
Climb aboard an electric trike, the animals are waiting to hear from you, Turbo Bob.
“Cyclers see considerable more of this beautiful world than any other class of citizens. A good bicycle, well applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to.”—Dr. K. K. Doty
Look for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on-line.
Links to find Electric Bike Central
Looking for Lectric Cycles? This will help.
These videos I took on the Trike Safari will give you a basic feel what to expect on your visit.