Families searching for hands-on — and memorable — experiences this summer may want to consider the 150-acre Lake Tobias Wildlife Park in Dauphin County for encounters with exotic animals and adventurous safari tours.
“We are a unique family attraction with Safari Tours, zoo exhibits and exotic animals you can actually touch,” said Jan Tobias-Kieffer, the park’s public relations and marketing director. “We are also affordable and educational.”
For its 50th season, park staffers have made expansions and improvements to the attraction’s customer service areas by enlarging hot-food concessions, which will be better able to accommodate the growing attendance — more than 160,000 visitors last year. They also have added a bobcat exhibit to the list of animals: African lions, Asian water buffalo, a Bengal tiger, Burmese pythons, capybaras and De Brazza monkeys — just to name a few.
The park’s website, laketobias.com, has photos and facts about each species for parents who want to start the learning process before a visit.
“(Families) are impressed with the size and quality of a zoo such as this in Central Pa.,” Tobias-Kieffer said. “Many comments will be how it is more than they expected. They are particularly impressed with the lager zoo exhibits — tigers, African lions, baboons, bears — and the new Reptiles and Exotics facility with its very attractive custom-made exhibits and educational presentations.”
Visitors can spend more than three hours getting close to the animals in the park and enjoying a safari tour, during which open-air cruisers take groups across 150 acres of rolling hills with herds of wild animals from around the world.
Tour guides accompany safari travelers through pasture land and wooded areas, giving expert information on various species and their habitats. Approximately 500 mammals and flightless birds, which may vary daily, are on the tour.
“Everybody loves the Safari Tour,” she said. “It is practically everyone’s favorite attraction at the park and the reason they return so often. But a close second may be the Reptile and Exotics facility — it is really growing in popularity.”
Tables for picnic lunches are available on a first-come basis or by reservation for a fee.
Park tips ...
• Reserve about 40 minutes for the park’s Reptiles & Exotics building, opened in June 2011.
The facility has large exhibits, and educational presentations. You can simply walk through or take a seat for one of several shows given throughout the day.
Animals on display may vary daily, but will usually include snakes, lizards, amphibians, tortoises, marmosets, tropical birds, sloths, lemurs and a few surprises.
• Plan to spend at least 20 minutes at the petting zoo with a collection of creatures — from the smallest African pygmy goats to long-necked llamas. Although they are friendly, please be aware that they are not trained animals and may jump on you or attempt to nibble your clothes. Find the camels, Patagonian cavies and armadillos there.
• Bring a picnic lunch or hit up the concession stand in the center of the park. Snack foods, drinks, souvenirs and Safari Tour tickets are sold there. You can also purchase ice cream, Slush Puppies and Freeze Pops from the Chill Zone across from the Concesson Stand.