Living in San Diego is absolutely awesome! Being a transplant form the east coast, I have fallen in love with this west coast city. Beyond the weather, the laid back attitude and beautiful beaches, there is just always something fun and exciting to do.

One of those amazing things to see and experience is the world famous, San Diego Zoo. The one downside to the Zoo, is that every single person who comes to visit from the east coast, always wants to go to the Zoo. Life is so rough in California, I have become sick of going to the world famous San Diego Zoo……

So when my brother flew out from the east coast, and he asked to go to the San Diego Zoo, I quickly suggested the San Diego Zoo Safari Park instead.  If you did not know, the San Diego owns a Safari Park which is more inland and offers a completely different experience than the Zoo.  If you are like me and have gone to the Zoo multiple times, the Safari Park is worth checking out.

Safari Park

Before we get into the awesomeness of this park, I am going to say upfront this place can get expensive real quick. The standard Zoo in San Diego costs $50 per person to enter. This is pretty much the only fee that you will pay in the park other than food etc.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, also costs $50 to enter, but the entire park is built around experiences that all cost more and can quickly add up, especially for a family. The base $50 fee includes, the Africa Tram and Cheetah Run. More on these later.

Some of the Experiences that you can add on are:

You can tell from the above list, that there is a whole lot of experiences to be had the Safari Park, but your long day at the park can quickly become expensive.

With my brother in town, we had quite an ambitious day planned. We had actually driven up to Los Angeles in the morning to stop by the Hollywood Sign for a few pictures. If you look on a map, the Hollywood Sign is not a quick ride back to the Safari Park….

So we got to the park a little late, which brings me to my first tip. If there is a specific experience you want to see, make sure you get there early. On a busy day the experiences sell out very quickly and different events have specific start times. We really wanted to go on the Caravan Safari, but it was all sold out when we arrived.

Want a overhead view of the park? Check out the Balloon Safari

Want a overhead view of the park? Check out the Balloon Safari

One of  my concerns when planning this trip was that you would only get to see animals while on a “Safari” of some sort. Do not worry though, there are plenty of animals to see while walking around the park, like  a normal zoo. There are not as many walking exhibits like the standard San Diego Zoo experience, but the Safari park is obviously going to focus on the safari aspect.


If you go to the Safari Park, the one thing you absolutely have to see is the Cheetah run! At the Cheetah run, they take a Cheetah and pull a fake rabbit on a line down a grass track and you get to see a Cheetah run at full speed! Honestly if you go to the park just once, this is worth the $50 entrance fee.

Make sure you ask what time the Safari run is going when you get to the park,  and get there early! Everyone in the park it seems comes to see this event, and it is free to watch, but there are not a whole lot of good viewing spots.

We did not get there early, and we ended up paying a little bit to get into a preferred viewing area. If you pay $50 for the Cheetah Safari you can get preferred viewing area with seats and get to meet a Cheetah before the viewing of the run.  We did not pay for this, but there is a cheaper preferred viewing area for around $15 but you do not get to meet the cheetah, which is what we purchased. These tickets can be purchased from around the corner.

Baby Cheetah

Baby Cheetah

The handlers first brought out a baby cheetah to walk around and show off to the crowd that was gathering. It was this cheetah that they brought into the Cheetah Safari preferred seating to show to the people willing to pay $50.

The cheetah has a friend who is a dog and they will conduct a test run of the line with the fake rabbit and the dog before they bring the cheetah out. This test run is a great way to test out your camera skills and prepare for the faster cheetah to come.


When the cheetah actually runs make sure you do not blink, it is unbelievable how fast these things can run. Your entire life you are taught that a cheetah is one of the fastest animals in the world, and despite this it never hit me how beautifully fast these animals are until you see one sprints by you at full speed.

I tuned the speed up on my Sony A6000 and prepared to try and capture the cheetah as it ran by. Here are my shots below:

As you can see in the last photo, the cheetah actually out ran the rabbit pretty early down the track. Luckily for us he didn’t just stop and destroy it there, he kept running. After the run, they handlers will walk the cheetah and dog back down the track and this is a great time to snap some pictures of these beautiful animals.

After the cheetah calms down after the run, the handlers will examine her and, if all looks good you will be treated to a second run! We were fortunate enough to get to see the Cheetah run a second time!

After the Cheetah run was over we sprinted to the included safari tram. And yes we actually did run… most of the park was at the cheetah run, so we figured we could avoid a long line if we got there quickly. This paid off and we hardly had to wait to get on the safari tram!

Despite wanting to do the safari caravan, tour, the included safari was great, and going at the end of the day is a great time to go and take pictures! Here are the photos I took along our safari!

Overall the San Diego Safari Park is a beautiful park, and well worth the trip despite the price. If you live in the area, I would suggest to do one experience each time you visit. I will be taking a lot more visitors from the east coast to visit this park!