Exceptional Expeditions – Take a Giraffe Ranch Segway Safari

Talk about fun in the Florida sun. I just took a Giraffe Ranch Segway safari. What a fun way to spend the day.

An emu. Photo by F. Scott Michael.

An emu. Photo by F. Scott Michael.

Watch my little intro (or not), then scroll down for details.

This is really, truly fun. Giraffe Ranch is a working game farm that gives interesting, humorous, educational tours of the animals that call the expansive space home. All told, the savannah-like area houses 400 animals of 70 species on 260 acres.

Owner Lex Salisbury and his wife, Elena Sheppa, have long given safari tours on a covered truck. They still do. In fact, you can see me on one in the video above, where I'm feeding a giraffe. Below is an image of the vehicle, packed with participants.

Giraffe Ranch truck safari

On the Giraffe Ranch Segway safari, riders zip around with a guide. Here you see one guy near the giraffes and an ostrich.

Giraffe Ranch offers three alternatives: You can instead travel Giraffe Ranch via Segway, camel or llama. I'm mighty fond of the Segway option. Our small group scooted all over the place and go close to so many Asian and African creatures.

Salisbury explains the Segway advantage well. "They're fun to ride, have no emissions and give you an intimate way to navigate the various eco types you encounter here (sandhill, live oak hammock and ephemeral wetland). I like viewing the dung beetles and the dung middens, and finding bird nests (killdeer with cryptically colored eggs that look like pebbles ) on the ground with the Segways.  You just can't see that stuff from the camel back or in the safari truck." True. But I like the safari truck too.  

Giraffe Ranch Segway safari adventures begin like all others: With a tour of small (humanely) caged animals, and a stop to feed grapes to lemurs. This is an add-on experience that costs extra, but, as I've said in past posts, it is worth the price. Those cuties are a hoot to feed.

Giraffe Ranch Segway Safari Lemur Photo by F Scott Michael

Here's some more of what you'll see before you board your vehicle or animal. Not pictured: a monkey "condo" with treehouses.

A porcupine. Where else will you get that close to one of these prickly pals?

Giraffe Ranch Segway Safari porcupine

Once you finish oohing and aahing, you hop on to your camo-colored Segway and follow the leader. It's easy to learn; even Queen Klutz Rona can do it, and that't saying plenty.

These red antelope are eastern mountain bongo from Kenya -- and "very endangered," Salisbury says. "I think we have the only bongo feeding encounter anywhere." More gems you'll also hear on the Giraffe Ranch Segway safari: "These forest antelope look red to us, but green to leopards, which have fewer cones in their eyes. They are found at high elevations (7000') on Mt. Kenya in bamboo forests."

These red antelope are eastern mountain bongo from Kenya -- and "very endangered," Salisbury says. "I think we have the only bongo feeding encounter anywhere." More gems you'll also hear on the Giraffe Ranch Segway safari: "These forest antelope look red to us, but green to leopards, which have fewer cones in their eyes. They are found at high elevations (7000') on Mt. Kenya in bamboo forests."

Then you scoot around to see what you can see. This pygmy hippo is entrancing.

GiraffeRanchSegwaySafari_Hippo_RonaGindin_July2017.JPG

And the ostriches and emus. They're characters, those guys and gals. Of course, on a Giraffe Ranch Segway safari you get education with your gawking. Here's a bit about the the two-legged tour stars you see below. "Moms are brown or gray, dads are black, and they incubate their eggs together with Dad doing nights and mom doing days." Who knows that stuff, right?  "After 44 days/nights, there's a synchronous hatch and the chicks grow 11 inches per month on average, with mom and dad being effective body guards keeping the chicks safe."

Giraffe Ranch Segway safari ostriches
Giraffe Ranch Segway safari ostrich

A whole lot of llamas make a colorful crew.

Giraffe Ranch Segway safari llamas

Giraffe Ranch Segway safaris offer several add-ons. They're pricy, yet during our recent tour we saw people enthusiastically sign up for "All of 'em!" and others who'd opted to skip the extras, then, during the safari, asked to add them on once they saw fellow visitors having a great time. Here's one guy spraying a rhino's belly with water. Below that, you see me bathing the rhino, then (like a bit fat chicken) feeding the rhino some cabbage.

I'm pretty sure that truck safari guests get to watch Salibury or Sheppa balance on an ostrich egg. On the Giraffe Ranch Segway safari, we got to try it ourselves.

Giraffe Ranch Segway Safari ostrich egg balance

The basics: A Giraffe Ranch Segway safari costs $180. Same for camel and llama safaris. Keep it in the budget with a truck safari. That's $90, and worth the money, which is why I've brought family and friends along over time. Add-on experiences range from $25 to $60; you'll have a great time even if you opt out.

Giraffe Ranch isn't all about animal encounters. It's also about art. Salisbury's wife and partner, Elena Sheppa, is a glass artist. She's a fine artist with a masters degree from Boston University and sells her animal-themed works at Giraffe Ranch. Here's a link.

I nabbed this photo from her Elena Shappa's website.

I nabbed this photo from her Elena Shappa's website.

I urge you to try out a Giraffe Ranch Segway safari or other experience. Honestly, this is just one of those "Who knew?" opportunities that both children and adults -- including those traveling without little ones -- seem to enjoy. Come on now. Where else can you stick a branch in a giraffe's mouth and chase a loose chicken around a prairie? Yep, we Segway safari folks helped contain a hen until employees could bring her to safety..