The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is huge. With 1,800 acres, first-time visitors can be overwhelmed. Luckily, the actual walking portion of the park is much manageable. Fun Diego Family has put together two San Diego Zoo Safari Park Walking Guides. This is our San Diego Zoo Safari Park Early Morning Tour.
The goal of tour one is to go on the Africa Tram as early as possible. This avoids lines and lets you see the animals when they are more active. Thus, this tour is best done when you arrive as close as possible to the park opening. If you come later in the day you may want to consider our afternoon tour.
Note these tours do not take into account shows or special events like the Cheetah Run at 3:30. Also, we are not discussing dining options. The good news is that the Safari Park has food options throughout the park. If you get hungry you will never be far from a place to eat.
To make navigation easier, there are 19 locator signs throughout the Safari Park. We will be referring to these locator signs and suggest you also pick up a park map at the entrance.
In this tour, you head straight for the Africa Tram. You make only one stop, at Lemur Walk. Lemur Walk is a new exhibit where visitors can actually walk into the lemur exhibit. The lemurs are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, so we suggest doing this first (on our other tour we do this near the end).
As you enter the park go right through Wings of the World Aviary. This will put you into the Safari Base Camp area. To get to the tram head right at locator 3 and 4 down Nairobi Walk. This will take you through Nairobi Village. For the time being, just keep walking as you will come back here later.
At the end of Nairobi Walk, you will come to the Mombasa Cooker restaurant at point 6. From here it is a short walk past Lorikeet Landing to locator 9 which is Lemur Walk. Go into Lemur Walk and check out the lemurs. When you come out, turn right and walk a short distance down to the elevators.
The elevators are situated above the plains of the Safari Park. They provide a great view of the area. Take the elevator down and turn right. You will go past Cheetah Run and the Lion Camp to point 13 which is the Africa Tram.
Ride the 30-minute Africa Tram which is one of the Safari Park’s premier attractions. Usually, it is not crowded early in the morning. Also, animals tend to be more active early in the day.
From the Africa Tram, you will exit and go to your left through the African Outpost. This follows the African Loop, clockwise. The loop goes to Jameson Research Island to locator 12 and ends at locator 10 by the elevators.
Here you want to go through the Lion Camp, near the tram entrance. This will end up at point 14 on the African Plains Trail. Turn right and take the African Plains Trail counterclockwise to Kijamii Overlook and on to Kilma Point.
At locator 15 you will come to the Herb Garden. There are plans to connect this trail with the Tiger Trail and the upper parts of the Safari Park. However, for now, you will need to head back to the center of the park.
From locator 15 you will head past Elephant Valley and Tembo Stadium (once used for elephant shows). This will put you at locator 16. From here you will go under the bridge and up-the-hill to Nairobi Village.
In Nairobi Village go left towards the Mombasa Cooker. At locator 6 you can go into Lorikeet Landing to feed the birds. You can also check out Hidden Jungle, if it is open.
This will take you to locator 9 by the Lemur Walk. From here turn right towards Samburu Jungle Gym and the Benbough Amphitheater Bird Show. The Jungle Gym is a kid’s play area with restaurant. It can be completely avoided by walking past it towards the Gorilla Trail.
Locator 7 is the Gorilla Forest, along with the Water-Wise Garden. The Gorilla Loop ends back in Nairobi Village at the Lagoon Loop. Turn left to do the Lagoon Loop clockwise.
Lagoon Loop will take you over a waterfall and hugs the lagoon until locator 5 near the Mombasa Cooker. By now this area should look familiar. At locator 5 turn left down Nairobi Walk.
Nairobi Walk has the Bat Exhibit, a petting zoo, a small playground, meerkats and the animal nursery. This is also where the add-on Jungle Ropes Safari is located.
Nairobi Walk ends at locator 3 and 4 back at the Safari Base Camp where you started your day. From here you will go see the upper parts of the Safari Park.
Safari Walk starts at locator 2, right by the Ranger Base. Head up to locator 17 and go left towards Walkabout Australia at locator 18. Walkabout Australia is the newest area of the park and is still in development. Be sure not to miss the Bonsai Pavilion, to the left, at the top of Walkabout Australia.
Walkabout Australia ends at a gift shop at the entrance to World Gardens and Condor Ridge. Going left will take you to the World Gardens loop along Garden Trail. Going right will take you to Condor Ridge.
The Garden Trail has been under construction in recent years. This is a scenic area with a focus on plants. There are no animals and it is uphill. So, if you have children consider this loop optional.
Whether you take Garden Trail or not, you will head down Condor Trail to Condor Ridge. The Condor Trail loops downhill towards locator 19. At this point turn left towards Tiger Trail. You can also visit the short Epiphyllum Trail and African Overlook.
Tiger Trail loops clockwise through the tiger exhibit, play area and back to locator 17. Note, halfway through there is a trail that seems to lead downhill towards the elephants. This trail will eventually connect to the lower area, but for now is a dead-end.
From locator 17 you take the short Safari Walk back to locator 2 and the Safari Base Camp. At this point, you have pretty much done a full walking tour of the Safari Park. The exit is straight ahead. On our way out, we like to stop at the Plant Trader gift shop and check out the talking parrot there.
Of course, many times we don’t make it to the Safari Park until after lunch or later. In this case, we like to do our San Diego Zoo Safari Park Afternoon Tour.
For detailed guides to each area of the Safari Park go here.