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Roar and Snore with lions, tigers and more!


Last updated 8/8/2018 at 11:55am

A lion surveys his

First Class camping? Is that an oxymoron? Not at San Diego Zoo's Safari Park! Roar and Snore is an overnight experience that has evolved into a first class experience. I know about this evolution because, in 2004, I barely slept in a cramped, hot tent. There were no showers. It was billed as "primitive" camping. But, now it's a new world with larger tents and sparkling showers.

Of the park's 46 tents, 10 are dubbed "Premium." One of Webster''s definitions for "premium" is, "of exceptional quality." That about sums it up. Where in the camping world do you find a queen-sized bed and electric lights, not to mention a portable heater with an A/C unit? In 2004, I had to haul water to my tent, but not so this time. The tent is complete with a water cooler trickling some wonderfully chilled water. The wooden tent floor was partially layered with a rug. The bed was quite comfortable with not only one, but two, cushy pillows.

All this sets the perfect stage for a night of unbroken rest. Not to be. I discovered that a night of broken rest is indeed part of the experience. The lion roars do actually reach the tents. At three times during the night, roars echoed across the savannah. It was a hauntingly eerie experience.

My walk under the stars (after being awakened by an early morning lion serenade) was tinged with an air of excitement. The scent of night dew on the dry grasses and bay laurel trees was pleasant. A cotton-tail rabbit scooted across my path. Owls hooted, crickets chirped and animal noises from the African savannah area were indistinguishable, but exotic-sounding. In the moonlight, I watched the surprisingly graceful elephants walking as if in slow motion.

But, let's travel back to dinner. It was not just hamburgers and beans, like in 2004, but was another first class experience. Zesty grilled chicken was accompanied by an inventive artichoke heart/mushroom salad. Campers also had a choice of green salad, sweet corn and cheese lasagna. When I saw the server arrive with a tray of artistic pastries, I thought to myself, "Camping fare? I don't think so!"

Hiking was on the itinerary - a lot of it - an evening hike to the condors and tigers, plus an early morning hike to the African savannah to see cheetahs, rhinos, lions and gazelles. These hikes are long and hikers should be in fairly good physical condition.

After our evening hike, we were lured by the campfire smoke and tried our hand at roasting marshmallows over the crackling wood fire to make s'mores. Campers then straggled off to their tents.

A bull horn wake-up call came at 6 a.m. Steam rose from the trays loaded with scrambled eggs, bacon and diced potatoes. Breakfast was enjoyed at the picnic tables overlooking the African savannah where elephants and giraffes slowly moved across the plain though the morning mist. A hummingbird, his wings a blur, zipped from flower to flower.

Roar and Snore ended at 9:30 a.m., but the pass was good the rest of the day. A highlight was the African Tram, which takes visitors to see zebras, gazelles, herds of giraffes and a "crash" of rhinos. That's right, a herd of rhinos is appropriately dubbed a "crash."

The tram driver stopped so we could witness a female black rhino on her way to the veterinarians' truck. What a sight, over a ton of flesh slowly lumbering over to the truck to greet them. "She gets a manicure from them," explained our tram driver. She must really like her manicures, what a 'girly' girl!

The camp season runs to the middle of November, so there is still plenty of time to Roar and Snore this year!

Roar and Snore Camp-Over

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

A young giraffe greets early morning Roar and Snore campers.

15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido

Overnight from 4:15 p.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Dinner, evening snack, breakfast included

Reservations: (619) 718-3000


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