The problem with a lot of urban zoos is that the animals are confined to small areas while the people are free to roam about and look in on them. One of the advantages of living in a state with a lot of open room and inexpensive real estate is that someone can turn a profit by turning the equation around. At least, that’s the basic idea behind the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch just north of San Antonio, Texas.
The visit starts with a couple lines of traffic for paying admission (see their website for current rates), and then a parking lot to come inside their gift shop (shown above).
Just across from the gift shop is a large area where some of the giraffes from the ranch are kept (particularly ones about to give birth or that have just given birth).
This fellow doesn’t seem to sure about all the visitors looking up at him.
But then you meet one of the youngsters who appears to be licking the wire fence and realize things may be a bit different than you think they are.
A quick look from another giraffe standing in front of a large shed, and it’s time to check out the other area by the gift shop — a pond and petting zoo.
Not sure why so many ponds in San Antonio include Koi, but the dash of color is probably one reason.
Near the pond is this windmill that looks like it might be functional, but then again maybe not.
An island surrounded by the pond has some lemurs.
And then you get to the petting zoo proper where the goats will be happy to butt you with their heads until you give them some food.
Back to the car, and time to get in line to drive through on the “safari”.
Most of the animals in the first area are being kind of chill. We went mid-day so most of them had been fed earlier, and were a bit more interested in getting out of the heat.
Some seemed to be taking the chill a little further than others.
But then you get this fellow who seemed interested in finding out why all the cars were coming through. We’ll see him again in a minute.
Yup, these fellows are keeping in the shade and among the cool areas in the rocks.
While this deer is taking advantage of a shady area by a tree.
Oh, and did I just hear a snort by the other window?
Not sure if he was really curious or just hungry, but he’d decided to get up and give us a closer look.
Some kids in the car in front of us started throwing some of the pellets they’d bought, but this guy wanted to make sure we weren’t going anywhere.
Evidently satisfied that my camera was not something more suspicious, he went over to where the pellets had been thrown, and took a snack while still keeping a bit of an eye on us.
A look at the line of cars that had moved ahead while I was taking my time with the photos.
This fellow started to move our way.
Only to start backing up when our escort decided to come over again.
He moved a little further back, and then found some hay that was likely left from the morning feeding, and they kept an eye on each other as they both enjoyed a snack.
Drove on around the next bend and saw this youngster in the trees.
And a bit further on some of these wildebeests enjoying a bit of shade.
Another couple a little closer to the road.
We then drove a bit to the next section of the park.
This is a newer section that was opened up once they paved a road from the area around the top of the hill to the plains below it. As the sign shows, this is where the other group of giraffes can be found, as well as animals that are more accustomed to a savannah lifestyle.
The road makes a long and reasonably wide U where the giraffes are in a fenced space between the sections of road, and most of the other animals are grazing freely in the areas outside.
But even here, many of the animals seemed to prefer a bit cooler areas to standing out in the sun.
Ostriches, on the other hand, seem more inclined on going along with where they think the food will be.
Though I doubt anyone had been throwing pellets that far off the road.
A few more of the critters running around.
While the antelope did not seem to be up to playing that much for the afternoon.
And these couple of fellows were in full nap mode.
A little further along and at least one of them was keeping an eye on things.
And then in the grass we spied this kangaroo also taking it easy.
A bit past the kangaroo, this herd was a little more active, with one of them coming up to us to see if we were going to be generous.
Moving along we got to some more “Texas-styled” critters.
Another animal who had noticed us not feeding the early ones, and so watched but didn’t waste his time checking us out.
And completing the drive around to see the giraffes from the other side.
Moving on to the next area, there was a pond with this house for the ducks and geese.
Because this area had very few trees, most of the feeding areas had cover like this where the animals could graze and get a bit of shelter from the heat.
A bit closer shot of a few of them availing themselves of the opportunities.
Not to say that a few of them weren’t willing to come up to the cars for an extra snack.
On the other side of the car, one of a few Zebras was walking, grabbing some pellets, and then moving on. Not surprisingly, the slowest traffic tended to be around the Zebras.
Driving to the last area of the park, a grassland near another lake had this small herd.
As well as this fellow camped slightly onto the road that we all had to drive around.
Just before leaving there was this small herd as one final chance for folks to unload their pellets. Which meant that I had to time my shot where I wasn’t likely to get hit by a few.
So if you’re looking for a somewhat different kind of animal viewing experience, the Wilderness Ranch might be worth an hour or two of your time. The animals are most active early in the mornings, and late in the afternoons, so you may want to time your visit accordingly.