We all know that the zoo is in Columbus, but did you know you can go on a safari right here in the MOV? Take a little drive to Cumberland and go on a safari at The Wilds.
The Wilds sits on reclaimed AEP mining land that has been resurfaced. The initial idea of the Wilds started in the late 70’s but they didn’t open their doors to the public until 1994. It hasn’t stopped growing since. They started out with the Przewalski’s wild horses in 1992 and have moved on to include a carnivore center in 2007. There are now various programs at the Wilds, including summer education camps, 10K and 5K run/walks, and zip lining tours over the animal pastures. They’ve also expanded since that first bus tour. You can now take an open air, sunset, horseback, or wildside tour. If you’d like to make a weekend out of it you can stay in one of the yurts on Nomad Ridge and watch the sun rise over the grasslands. There are also cabins and a lodge if you’d like to make it more of a family adventure. The Cabins and Lodge are nestled along a lake for ideal summer fun. You can do a little fishing, play some corn hole, take out a boat and even jump on a floating trampoline. Unlike a hotel where you might be stuck looking at an office building out your window, The Wilds offer no bad views, just picturesque beauty for miles around.My personal favorite thing to do is the wildside tour, where you ride along with one of the animal management specialists. When I went, I got to feed the rhino and Tuffy the giraffe. You get up close and personal on this particular tour driving through the pastures and it’s a wonderful opportunity for photos. Did you know rhinos can be bigger than a pickup truck? It’s pretty crazy to pull up beside one and see just how big they are in real life. Since the tour guides on this particular tour are also the animal management people, they really know their stuff. They work with these animals’ day in and day out and it shows. They do tours rain or shine so be sure to dress appropriately!
Another favorite is the zip line tour. If you stand on the observation deck outside the gift shop you’ll be able to hear people trying out their Tarzan yells as they zoom through the trees. Zip lining gives you a completely different perspective from the tours since you’re above ground the entire time, and it’s a unique opportunity to see the animals. You won’t see everything though so don’t bank on this being a substitute for an actual tour.I worked there one summer and I have to say it was one of best temporary jobs I’ve ever had. Every customer was beaming and couldn’t wait to tell you what all they saw on the tour. Something I liked to do whenever I had the time was to walk up the hill between where you buy your tickets and the gift shop and sit by the wind harp. It doesn’t look like much and it hasn’t been tuned in a while but it’s still worth the walk up the hill. When it was new and tuned the hills really were alive with the sounds of music carried to your ears upon the wind. It’s a little less melodic now that it’s out of tune but no less interesting.
The Wild’s mission is “to lead and inspire by connecting people and wildlife.” The tours do just that. Every tour is led by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic person who loves what they get to do every day. Every trip is educational and filled with adventure. Take the winding road to Cumberland and check it out for yourself. You’ll be hard pressed to leave the Wild’s without a smile on your face.Pro tip: Fill up your gas tank! The Wilds is located pretty far from the nearest town or gas station. If you do happen to run out of gas they’ll be glad to give you a gallon or two so you can make it back to civilization. All they ask is that you make a donation to the Wilds conservation effort.