The new Tiger Trail exhibit is really amazingly well done. Visitors to San Diego wonder, Is it worth the drive up to Escondido to see the San Diego Zoo Safari Park? Will the kids enjoy it as well or better than the Zoo? The answer is yes, yes, and yes!

The Tiger Trail exhibit is child-friendly. But you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it. Adults love it, too. You owe it to yourself to see the Tiger Trail exhibit, if you haven’t been to Safari Park in a long while.

  • At the end of this post, I have tips for taking little ones to Safari Park.

So, what is so great about Tiger Trail?

1. Tigers!


Six adult Sumatran tigers make their home in the new Tiger Trail habitat. Sumatran tigers are an endangered species. Only about 400 of them are left in the wild. The exhibit’s areas are designed to let you close to these gorgeous animals up close. It is as if you have walked into their world, with a tiger around every bend.

2. Log Bridge walkway


One of the first activities you encounter as you approach the Tiger Trail area of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is the Log Walk. Kids love to balance themselves along a series of logs. Netting to hold onto lines the path. Your kids will want to do the Log Walk again and again.

3. Sumatran Longhouse Theme

I was so impressed by the Tiger Trail exhibit creators’ attention to detail. It is as if we are suddenly transported to the island of Sumatra, in the country of Indonesia. At the heart of Tiger Trail is a magnificent, open-sided building called the Sambutan Longhouse. It is inspired by Indonesian longhouses, where several families live in community, alongside each other.

We have had the privilege of visiting Indonesia, and getting out into the countryside villages. When we got into the Tiger Trail exhibit, I thought, All that is missing is the humidity! Inland San Diego county can be hot, but it is usually dry. (So, if anyone chanced to hit Tiger Trail this past week, they really “lucked” out. Because of San Diego’s record-breaking heat and humidity this summer, I’m sure the Sumatran tigers were in their native element. And visitors could experience even the cloying climate of tropical Indonesia. Whoo hoo! Drip along with me, anyone?)

A fun motif throughout the whole exhibit are the benches. They are everywhere. Each one is uniquely designed, and most are dedicated to a zoo donor.


4. Tiger Training


A really interesting feature at Tiger Trail is the Tiger Training Wall. At certain times of the day, a tiger keeper will work with one of the animals. You can watch, just a few feet away. The keepers use positive reinforcement to teach the tigers behaviors that allow the staff to help keep the cats healthy. One of the tigers had a swollen mouth while we were visiting. Can you imagine trying to get a tiger to take a pill? It’s hard enough to treat our sweet tabby cat. So one of the behaviors they train the cats is to open their mouths wide.

5. Kids’ Play Area with Illegal Logging Camp Theme


OK. I will admit, this play area is just awesome. Our grandkiddos, ages 3 and 4, had a blast there. Be sure and allow some time for your kids to run around and burn off some energy at the play area. It has one of those rope grid climbing walls. You know, the kind that suck shoes off kids? The kids can climb up that, run around the top and come down a slide. Again and again. The benches I mentioned above? They are there, too. Plenty of them, though the ones in the shade are in high demand. So adults can take some time off your feet. Well, that is, in-between jumping up to help your little one get her shoes back on again and again. There is a tiger statue the kids can climb on, and some baby cubs hidden away in a den.

So, why did this play area upset me? It is a great representation of an illegal logging camp. The conservation message of the play area is to remind us all that the world’s forests are in danger. That message just hit a little too close to home for me. You see, my husband and I lived in one of those endangered forests in the southern part of the island of Palawan in the Philippines for many, many years. Logging is and has been illegal in the Philippines for decades, but illegal loggers still flourish in places far from the cities and enforcement of laws. We could often hear chainsaws chopping down the tropical hardwood trees. The noise of the chainsaws carried in the quiet of the jungle from far away. The logs were then floated down river to the ocean, and loaded on ships to sell in Malaysia. Apparently Malaysian laws about cutting down hardwood trees are less strict than the Philippines. It is very very difficult to enforce the illegal logging ban.

So all the authentic features of the play area – the jeans and tee-shirts draped over a clothesline, the wood cooking fire, the chainsaw embedded in a log, the piped in voices speaking in another language. The only thing missing was the smell of gasoline of the chainsaws. . .

It all rang very true. But for me, very sad. I hate that beautiful old trees are being lost.

6. Waterfall and Landscaping


Kids love the curtain waterfall at Tiger Trail. And though they might not realize how terrific the landscaping is, adults will thoroughly enjoy it. By contrast with the savannah area of Safari Park, where the large animals roam freely, Tiger Trail seems cozy and intimate.

In fact, it was designed specifically for the Sumatran tigers.

When officials started discussing what would be needed in a proper tiger exhibit. . .

“We primarily wanted lots of shade,” Nelson said. “Tigers are forest-dwelling animals, so they gravitate toward the shade — it makes them feel a little bit more at home. A lion, you can put him in a big, open enclosure and it will feel like the Savannah. But the tigers like forest and water.”

These acres, directly uphill from the previous tiger exhibit, provide both in abundance. Besides affording visitors breathtaking views of the elegant predators, each of the three new tiger enclosures came fitted with pools and at least two of them even offer heated rocks, which will come in handy when the San Pasqual Valley gives way to its decidedly un-tropical winter chill. article in the San Diego Union-Tribune

So, the tigers benefit for their environment, but so do we. Shade is a good thing. And I love the views.


7. Tiger Tummies!


This is just the best!

The glass walls of one of the enclosures allow you to see the big cats up so much closer than you ever have been able to before. If you are lucky, one or two of the tigers will be sprawled out in the shade. Kids are enthralled, and like to sit right up to the glass. Some of the younger ones scatter when the tigers move. You are just that close. Of course, the glass is thick and all are perfectly safe.

What I loved was studying the markings on the tiger’s heads. Each one is an individual.

But tiger tummies? What could be better than that?


Oh, those tips I mentioned for bringing your kids to Safari Park?

  • Be aware that inland San Diego county can be hot in the daytime, but cools down at sunset. It can get cookin’ hot in the summer months. So bring along plenty of water, and some sunscreen.
  • To save money, pack some snacks, drinks, and maybe even sandwiches. Good food is available, but pricey. There are picnic tables throughout the park.
  • Really small children (under 3 years) don’t get much out of the tram ride. They have a hard time waiting in line, to begin with. Then, the animals are too far away, and it is hard for them to sit still in the tram. I say, skip it, and focus on the fun things that are right at their eye level, of which there are plenty. They LOVE to feed the ducks and water birds.
  • Likewise, the Cheetah Run is not-so-fun for really small kids. It involves a whole lot of waiting, and just a few seconds of watching the cheetah run. And it is hard for little ones to see unless someone holds them up. Are your kids or grandkids as heavy as mine? And did I mention lots of waiting?
  • Save some time for the play areas. Great exercise for all those large muscle groups!
  • Parking at Safari Park is $12. If you are going to visit the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park at least twice, it really pays to spring for a Zoo Membership. Basic membership gives a $3 discount on parking, and with Diamond Membership parking is free.
  • Check the website for Safari Park hours. Right now closing time is 5 pm, though it is open later in the summer months.
  • Be prepared for the drive to and from Safari Park if you are coming from the city of San Diego. Safari Park is about 30 miles from central San Diego. But allow 45 minutes to get there and an hour to get home. Our grandkiddos often fall asleep in the carseats on the ride home. So a potty stop before leaving the park is important. And some snacks in the car. We try to remember to tilt the carseats back, so if they fall asleep, they are comfortable. You may hit rush hour traffic on your return to the city.

 San Diego Zoo Safari Park
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road
Escondido, CA 92027
(760) 747-8702

To learn more about the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, click here.

Donna Amis DavisAnimals Wild & TameKid StuffSan DiegoDonna Amis Davis,Palawan,Safari Park,San Diego,San Diego Zoo,tigers,Travel and TourismThe new Tiger Trail exhibit is really amazingly well done. Visitors to San Diego wonder, Is it worth the drive up to Escondido to see the San Diego Zoo Safari Park? Will the kids enjoy it as well or better than the Zoo? The answer is yes, yes, and...Author of BY THE SULU SEA