A lot of tourist attractions claim to have “something for everyone.” While few actually live up to the billing, Wilstem Wildlife Park in Southern Indiana is an exception.
You like exotic animals from around the world? Wilstem has them.
Animals from down under? Got those.
You like native North American critters? Wilstem has them … even grizzly bears.
Horseback riding? Check. Ziplining? It has nine lines zipping a total of 5,000 feet through the canopy. Overnight lodging? Got those. ATV riding? Check.
Wilstem is a unique 1,100 acres of peaceful secluded woodlands surrounded by rolling hills and meadows. Hiking, swimming, biking are also among the outdoor activities. But it’s the one-of-a-kind animal encounters with many rare and endangered animals, including up-close and educational opportunities, that have folks on social media raving and dishing out ratings of four-of-five and five-of-five stars.
Wilstem’s newest attraction is its “Drive-Thru Safari Park” which opened last June. On the self-guided slow drive, visitors may spy up to 40 species of animals roaming freely, all from the comfort of their own vehicles! The animals may even come to your vehicle and you can feed them through your windows. The grizzlies are not visible on the Drive-Thru Safari. The giraffes and elephants might be visible depending on the time of day you visit.
Guided wagon rides are also available. Some of the past visitors noted on social media sites that the wagon rides can get visitors a little closer to some of the more shy animals, plus having a Wilstem staff person along for the ride provided information about the animals.
Motorcycles and open top vehicles are not allowed on the Drive-Thru Safari.
Wilstem offers a variety of packages that allow visitors to have special close encounters with the elephants, grizzlies, giraffes, kangaroos and the sloth. Differently priced packages within each animal group allow varying amounts of access to the animals.
The most popular elephant experience is the “Spa Encounter.” How many folks can say they bathed an elephant? For $99 for adult and $79 for a child 4-to-8-years-old, the Spa Encounter allows visitors to spray and scrub an elephant and even “paint” its toenails for an unforgettable experience with nature’s endangered and largest land animal. The spa group then joins the “Educational Encounter” which allows you to learn more about them, ask questions, touch, and take one-of-a-kind photos.
Grizzly Bear Encounters feature Jeff “The Bear Man” Watson and his two grizzlies, Bob and Screech. This trio has been featured on Animal Planet’s Project Grizzly as well as Discovery Channel’s Porter Ridge. Watson and his grizzlies were featured in a cover story of this publication back in 2008.
The park is open for general admission from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Reservations are recommended for all animal experiences including the drive-thru park. Prices vary widely for the various activities. Face masks are required for most of the activities. The park is located off U.S. 150 between French Lick and Paoli. Be sure to look for the sign.
Wilstem offers lodging opportunities including two-bedroom cabins, three-bedroom cabins, studios, and a 10-bedroom lodge and can accommodate family reunions and wedding parties.
For information or to make reservations and purchase tickets, call 812-936-4484; or visit its website at https://www.wilstem.com. You can also find them on Facebook.