Cherokee Trace – Drive Thru Safari

Over the Christmas break, I was gifted tickets for a drive-thru safari on the outskirts of Tyler, Texas. Not surprisingly, I was a bit skeptical about a safari located in East Texas but away I went with the Smiths. Thirty minutes on a winding back country highway (only in Texas can you drive 75 miles/hr on a two lane highway), we arrived at Cherokee Trace. One lone building greeted us, where we purchased the entrance pass and feed (initially, 3 bags of feed but doubled to 6 total bags due to Jake’s generous overfeeding of the animals). A sign pointed us to the cattle guard entrance.

Immediately near the entrance, a horde of deer and a variety of 4-legged African animals swarmed the SUV. The liberal feeding from the hand of Jake and other past visitors, no doubt, must have ingrained some sort of food memory for the animals there because as soon as the car stopped, the animals began galloping towards it. The first set of animals were hesitant to come too close, but the second set did not. A group of zebras stuck their heads through the open car windows, obviously waiting to be hand fed despite a rule stating not to feed the critters from your hand.

The no feeding from the hand rule really made sense for preventing bird attacks. Yes, the various emus and rheas eat their pellets by walking up to it and with one swell peck, gobbling it down whole. I experimented with a pellet dangling off the car window, and it’s a scary site. The cutest moments of the safari trip were when giant herbivores stuck their snouts in (couldn’t fit their giant heads inside the car) and began dangling their tongues as if they were luring for their feed. Lots of animal slobber. And they boxed us in! It’s difficult to drive through a horde of ton-sized mammals.

We ran out of the initial 3 bags of feed around 1/4” of the way through the safari and looped back to buy more bags since the park was quite expansive. Note: I still had half a bag left because apparently I’m a scrooge when it comes to feeding the animals. I would like to point out that I minimize the amount I give them as I want to work a little for it and not to overindulge them. It’s for their well-being! Regardless of my miserly feed lot, the camel encounter near the end of the drive relieved me of all it as the camel swooped in, grabbed the bag, and proceeded to devour it as the pellets fell to the ground.

This safari turned out to be a hoot! Not only was everyone laughing the entire time, the animal encounters were amazing. It felt like an exotic animal petting zoo and at no time,  did I feel unsafe within the confines of the car. I wouldn’t recommend driving through in a small sedan or convertible but any mid-sized car should suffice. I highly recommend a visit to this place if you are in East Texas near the Tyler area. It might even be worth it if you are in the Dallas area because it’s such a great adventure!



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