Travel Story: West Coast Game Park Safari
By Vanessa Palencia
Who else recognizes the name Bandon?
Me neither. Until a few weeks ago when my partner was reminiscing about his time West Coast Game Park Safari. He talked about how he was able to get up close with some of the animals that were free roaming, like deer, goats, and llamas chasing after you (they’re really after the food you’re holding). Until then, I hadn’t realized that a town called Bandon existed, and I didn’t realize that such a park existed either. After hearing about how interactive the park was, I decided that that’s where we were going to celebrate my son’s birthday. My son is a keen animal lover, so this park would be the ultimate experience for him.
We decided to drive to the park, which was about a 9 hour drive, but if you don’t like road trips, don’t mind missing the scenery, or just don’t want to get a pancake butt from all that sitting, then it’s probably best to fly there (the nearest airport would be Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend).
The park itself sits off of highway 101, also known as the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, so the street can be relatively busy with oncoming traffic. When you pull into the driveway, the first thing you see is the gift shop, which also acts as the entryway. The gift shop itself contains a variety of gifts ranging from the traditional t-shirts and mugs to unique selenite crystal necklaces and hand-carved wooden boxes.
Once you make your way to the back of the store where the cashier is, you can purchase your entry tickets. You can also buy waffle cones filled with animal feed for 50 cents each. Trust me, you’ll want to buy those animal feed cones because having the animals chase you around the park will be the highlight of your stay.
After purchasing everything, you’ll step through the back doors and immediately see the chimp’s cage. There are other animals you can see in this area, but depending on the season and which animals the park is sponsoring, the animals can vary. When we were there, we saw red foxes, wallabies, and an emu. You can stay in this area for a little while, but you still need to enter another gate to get inside the actual park. But be warned. Once you step through those gates, you will be surrounded by the free-roaming animals and those suckers do not give a damn that you only have one cone and 30 mouths to feed. In fact, at one point, a whole herd cornered my son against the fence. Don’t worry, he wasn’t hurt, but it was highly amusing.
Once we fed the herd of deer, goats, llamas, and alpacas, we were able to freely roam the park. Due to recent rain, the floor was a bit muddy in some areas, but that did not deter my son from enjoying his time. One of the things that really sets this animal park apart from a regular zoo is their ability to allow visitors an up-close view of majestic animals, like the spotted leopard, the lion and lioness, and the black bear. Instead of the deep pits and thick glass that separates the animals from viewers in a normal zoo, there’s only a wired cage.
In addition, the park offers animal presentations throughout the day depending on the amount of visitors in the park. During our time there, we were able to pet a caracal cat, a lynx, a skunk, an opossum, and a few ferrets. If we would have stayed longer, we would have been able to interact with a bobcat, but after the drive we made, we were exhausted. However, we were able to interact with a bear named Bonnie who knew rudimentary sign language. She blew us away when she signed to us that she wanted our cones. That is the totally unique experience you can expect from this park.
The West Coast Game Park Safari really expounds on the intimate interaction between its animals and visitors to make a memorable experience. So whether you or your child(ren) are animal lovers or are just looking for a new way to experience the zoo, then this safari park is a must-see. While its small size may be off-putting to some, keep in mind that the size promotes the openness required to become familiar with and learn more about these unique animals.