On our vacation in mid-August to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I and my 20-year old daughter, Melissa, had a once-in-a-life-time, exciting hands-on, exotic animal safari experience. It included Bengal and Siberian tigers, Royal White Bengal tigers and the rarest tiger in the world, the Golden Tabby tiger being fed milk by staff with baby bottles! While staff handled the adult tigers, we individually experienced the baby tigers “cubs” walking on our laps and legs. It was priceless to have cubs sitting in our laps and my daughter to be using a baby bottle to feed a tiger cub. While we had heard of, we had never seen up close a most unusual and rare “Liger”; a cross between a male lion and female tiger. At the Preserve, we had our photo taken in front of this 12-feet-long male liger named Hercules who weighs over 900 lbs. Wolves were also allowed to walk around us and we could pet and feel them up close. We were sniffed, touched and fed “Bubbles”, a 26 year old African Elephant, over 9 feet tall weighing almost 4 tons. We interacted with the Rafiki Baboons and saw, felt and fed some orangutans and chimpanzees who were swinging and hanging from overhead supports an/or ambling around checking out the visitors (touching my teeth because I was smiling so broadly)! We saw an animal we had never even heard of called a “Binturong.” It was covered with long, coarse black fur. We sat on benches and it ran from person to person over our legs and laps. Bints have a prehensile tail used as a fifth hand to help them maneuver between tree branches. I’ll never forget the scent of a binturong – it smelled like frito-corn chips! We were shown a film made about Suryia, the orangutan, and when she first met Roscoe, a stray dog who was taken in at the Preserve. It showed how the blue tick hound was immediately accepted by the orangutan and how they became fast friends. We saw several tigers running at full speed (in 3 steps they get up to 45 mph) and we saw them, as well as, orangutans swimming across a clear pool with their trainers. This was the most exciting exotic animal adventure ever! A friend asked if I was scared and I told her, not except for the time I was walking close to the alligator in the pond and stumbled toward the pond! There were about 20 staff guarding the animals and 80 visitors and I felt safe. The tour was well orchestrated, narrated, enough time given for everyone to do what they wanted and nicely timed refreshments and drinks. The staff were knowledgeable and friendly. I wish all my friends who love animals could enjoy this rare opportunity. My daughter’s reaction at the end was "Wow, I’m so glad we did this! I’ll remember this my whole life."
Name: Helen S. Hinshaw