For those looking to get out of the Southern Arizona heat, there is a place in Camp Verde near Sedona, which provides an escape from Arizona altogether.
Tucked away in the mountains is the Out of Africa Wildlife Park, which provides a close encounter to tigers, lions, bears, reptiles, rhinos and much more.
In 1988, Dean and Prayeri Harrison founded Out of Africa, a preserve born from their single-minded objective of bringing God, people, and animals together in a natural setting.
In 2005, the park expanded its operations, moving to the high desert foothills of Mingus Mountain in Camp Verde, on 104 acres that look north toward the red rocks of Sedona and the San Francisco Peaks.
While the views might be nice around the park, it’s the animals that make the experience one to remember.
Many of the animals in the park from white tigers, bears, lions to Boom Boom the coveted rhino that has been placed at the park to finish out his life.
Boom Boom, at 5,000 pounds, was formerly owned by the Catskill Game Farm in New York State. When the park went out of business, Boom Boom, along with 1,000 other animals, was put up for auction.
Boom Boom’s new owner was a purported game hunter from Texas where canned hunts are legal.
Canned hunting is the killing of an animal in an enclosure to obtain a trophy.
Teamed with a coalition of locals and animal activists, Marc Ecko, of New York City, negotiated the rescue and repurchased the rhino, paying twice the amount of the winning bid.
Ecko placed Boom Boom at Out of Africa, where he sits near the park opening. While he sleeps most of the time, when Boom Boom is up and roaming, he gets close enough to touch.
Part of what makes Out of Africa so special is the closeness to the animals. Many of the tigers and lions are sitting behind a chain-link fence. Some tigers can be seen pacing back and forth nearby while visitors sit and enjoy the snack bar.
One of those tigers was rescued by Out of Africa. The tiger was being kept as a house pet, and was being fed cat food. When Out of Africa got him, he was malnourished. After some time, this tiger has become one of the park’s largest at 300 pounds.
Out of Africa is also unique because of the sheer number of stories that comes with each animal. There are a lion that wasn’t breathing at birth, but was revived by professionals, and now sits at the park. There is two bears that were being kept in a basement by a taxidermist who had sad plans for the animals.
From big cats, to bears, to rhinos and reptiles, there are plenty of animals to see inside the cages, but Out of Africa takes the experience a step further, allowing visitors to take a ride and interact with the animals.
Giraffes are a big part of the park. In a safari ride, visitors are able to feed the giraffes, zebras and camels. Some giraffes get close enough to lick the visitors, causing a variety of mixed reactions.
Given the amount of animals, stories and features at the park, it’s no surprise that a single visit can last up to six hours.
Out of Africa is located at 4020 N. Cherry Rd. in Camp Verde, general admission is $36 for adults, $34 for seniors and Veterans and Active Military get in for $22.
Children between the ages of 3 and 12 are $20, and children under three are free.
For more information, visit the website at www.outofafricapark.com.