Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in San Antonio

This week, we visited Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch just north of San Antonio and we had a fantastic time!!

The start of the tour began while waiting in line to purchase our tickets and enter the park.  Off to the left, we saw the giraffes!   The boys couldn't wait, and jumped out of the car to see them before we had even paid :o)

This May, Natural Bridge experienced a wonderful and unusual event!  Twin giraffes were born and survived.  

This is a rare occurrence, as mothers carrying twins frequently abort or one of the twins doesn't make it. In fact, this pair is the only set of twins currently living in the US and one of only two twin giraffes ever born in the US!  

They were born on May 10th, so they were just over a month and a half old. 

The  boy giraffe was clumsily cute.  At one point, he actually tripped over his long legs trying to move toward the fence!  

And watching the mama giraffe care for her young was really special!

If you get a chance to go out and see them, it is well worth the trip!

After we had parked the car and checked out the giraffes, we took a tour of the facilities.  There are some gibbon monkeys, parrots, lemurs and a variety of other animals in cages. 

But the true excitement comes during the safari drive!

I was really not sure what to expect.  

I had read reviews of visitors only seeing two animals in their whole trip, so in the first few hundred feet, I feared that would be our case.  

But almost immediately, we found all sorts of creatures roaming the prairie.  

As it was early morning, many of the animals came directly up to the car to be fed.  While the official rules state that you should not feed the animals directly from your hands, we were told that is more of a 'technicality'.  And most of the animals were very accustomed to approaching the car looking for a handout!

In the case of this ostrich, he came a little too close ;o)  That beak looked mighty sharp!

One of our favorites were the miniature donkeys.  (I'm sure they have some different and much fancier name, but that's what they looked like to us!)  In trying to reach the food, they would curl their lips back into a hilarious grin!

As it turns out, late spring or early summer is a great time to visit the ranch.  

There were all sorts of baby animals along the way. 

While the babies rarely approach the car, you can see them just slightly off the road.  

Above is a cute one we caught halfway through the trip.

After we completed the tour, we wound up back at the main barn.  

We discovered, in addition to the caged animals, a small petting zoo with many goats.  

The kids had a great time getting up close and personal with all the animals!

Tips and Thoughts

* The key to having a great time is to go *early*.  We arrived right around 10am, about an hour after they had opened.  The day was still cool, and the animals mostly unfed, so we had a great experience.  I'd bet we wouldn't have seen so many animals had we arrived much later!

* The ranch gives you one free bag of food with your purchase, and then sells additional bags for $1 each.  We purchased an additional bag for each rider, and that was dollars well invested!  There is no place to purchase food along the route, so once you run out, you're out.  So make sure you purchase enough to last the whole trip!  (And as further proof of the previous point - with seven riders, we fed a whole lot of beasts before we exited - I would bet that after noon, most animals are no longer hungry!)

*  The driving tour probably took us around an hour and a half.  We went slowly and took our time.  Generally, we only moved on when a line had formed behind us.  I'm sure we could have made it through quicker - but that's not really the point. ;o)  This didn't include time in the petting zoo, checking out the giraffes, or lunch. All told, our total visit was probably around 3 hours.

* The entrance fee includes unlimited trips around the park for the entire day.  We were tired and hot, and didn't make it around a second time, but keep in mind that it is an option!

* The ranch's main area has a cafe with a variety of fairly reasonably priced fast food.  There is also a nice covered pavilion if you choose to bring a picnic lunch.

* If you're looking to save a few dollars, there is a $2 off coupon floating around the web that is good until the end of this year.  I think it might even be available on their webpage.

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