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Dade City Wild Things - Education, Conservation and Adventure

Updated on August 24, 2013


Recently, I got to experience the joy of Dade City Wild Things for myself, due to a friend spotting a Groupon for it. Although it was about an hour and a half away from our house, we decided to make an adventure out of it, and headed to Dade City, Florida for what would turn out to be the adventure of a lifetime and an experience that I will never forget. The drive was a simple one from where we lived, and it turned out to be one of the most unique and exciting animal adventures that I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing first-hand, and coming from an animal lover who enjoys any kind of animal adventure, that is sure saying a lot.

Although the home base for Dade City looks like nothing more than an innocuous house in the middle of the suburbs, the reality was far different. The home where you meet for the eventual tour is nondescript, but it is full of fun all on its own, and it leads to the adventure of a lifetime. At the house, you can purchase up-close encounters that are rarely matched, interact with some smaller versions of the animals that you're likely to encounter and see the reality of animal conservation up close and in person. Our Groupon consisted of a discount on the walking jungle tour (to be explored in depth later on in this hub review) and we opted for an additional purchase, enabling us to play, pet and interact with a baby three-week-old white Bengal tiger cub named Remington. This proved to be something that seeded itself in my memory in ways that are not soon forgotten, and it left me with an even more dedicated commitment to animal conservation than I had before I began.

The zoo itself actually resides on 22 acres in the heart of Dade City, and it's home to some unique and amazing animals - most of whom wouldn't have a place to call home without this animal sanctuary. Dade City Wild Things takes a unique approach to animal care that has come under fire from some of its competition. They allow guests and trainers alike to experience the animals up close and personally, which contributes to the animal's later ability to receive important veterinary care while simultaneously allowing vital enrichment in the animal's lives - something that a lot of other zoos lack.


Walking and Riding Tours

The Sunken Jungle Tour:

The Sunken Jungle tour is a two hour walking tour, where guests can get up close (closer than you may expect) to a lot of enormous wild cats - as well as their smaller cousins, new and old world monkeys and more. The tour comes complete with a guide, who is knowledgeable and well informed about all of the animals in their care, and they provide vital information about the species, habits and personalities of the animals that call the zoo home. Guests can come literally face to face with a wide variety of monkeys as well as big cats - and even bears, deer and rare animals that they may not even encounter in a traditional zoo environment. The Sunken Jungle tour runs Tuesday through Saturday at varied times, and appointments are always welcomed. This is the tour that our group went on. The tour costs $23 per person (and groupons are often available that are buy one, get one free. The only downside to this tour was that, due to its size, we were not permitted to take photographs. Photography tours can be booked on an individual basis, so the photography lovers can still take all of the pictures they'd like while gaining an up close and personal experience of a lifetime.

The Jungle Safari Ride:

This tour allow guests to see a whole different collection of animals from the comfort of a motorized tram. It features white Bengal tigers, and the rare Barbary lion, which is now extinct in the wild. The conclusion of the tour includes a trip through a field where animals are free to graze freely, where guests are given the opportunity to feed Buffalo. This tour is recommended for guests who would like to remain seated or who have difficulty walking in the Florida sun for the two hours required to take the Sunken Jungle tour. All tours can be taken individually or combined with other tours/experiences, and both give guests the opportunity to see amazing and beautiful animals at extremely close range.


Up Close and Personal Encounters

Guests who want an even more unique and remarkable experience at Dade City wild things can opt for an add on package that includes a wide variety of one-on-one or group animal encounters that are extremely rare - and incredibly remarkable. Our group opted for the add-on tiger experience. A three-week-old white tiger cub (pictured) named Remington was placed on a table in front of us, and we got to speak with his trainer, find out his history, pet him, touch him and interact with him on a personal basis. I've never imagined experiencing such an adventure, and to share it with my spouse and closest friends was a truly one-of-a-kind adventure.

Also available are packages which allow guests to swim with a tiger cub or a small alligator, feed a wide variety of animals including Buffalo, Bears and Tigers, interact with a monkey, play with a Zebra foal, and many, many more. While interacting with the Tiger was affordable (at $20 per person for a 15-20 minute session) some of the more involved encounters like swimming with a tiger cub are far more pricey. Reservations are recommended, and personal interactive encounters can be arranged with advanced notice. Picture CD's documenting your encounter can be purchased when you make the appointment, and you can also receive a code to purchase/download your picture set online.

These animal encounters are truly unique, and the experience is one that is fun for the whole family.

We are located at 37245 Meridian Avenue, Dade City, FL 33525:
37245 Meridian Avenue, Dade City, FL 33525, USA

get directions


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    • JMcFarland profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I will keep that in mind. All of the areas we saw were decent sized enclosures, and the animals seemed extremely content. They recognized and responded to their trainers, they seemed happy. I'm very picky about animal rights, and I'm spoiled by being extremely close to Busch Gardens - and their facilities are better by leaps and bounds than any of the others I've seen. Dade City seemed to have their act together.

    • Melissa A Smith profile image

      Melissa A Smith 

      6 years ago from New York

      I've actually written about Big Cat Rescue a lot. There's a lot more to the story about them and the facilities they object to. But I won't fill your comment section, I just want to say, and I could be wrong, that many times some people are dishonest about the cub rejection scenario. There's a lot of pieces to this puzzle, but anyway, glad you liked it and hopefully you're right about the cages. You may want to be prepared for some less than favorable comments from Google searchers.

    • JMcFarland profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      While I understand your concern, from what I've learned from the trainers at Dade City, your assessment is (at least partially) incorrect. First of all, the cub that we interacted with was NOT pulled from his mother. He was rejected from his Mother in a Zoo in North Carolina, and that zoo selected Dade City to keep him because of their reputation as a conservation for big cats and other animals. Yes, adult tigers are dangerous, but there are no small cages at Dade city, and the adult tigers DO still interact with the trainers. They're not ignored or abandoned. They are extremely well cared for. All of the staff there carry a true passion for the animals in their care, and it's easy to see after you've visited the zoo repeatedly. I've read their certifications when I became aware of the controversy, and I've seen the rave reviews they've been given by wildlife conservation funds. Dade city is highly respected by almost every one of their peers - except the one that is competing with them (Big Cat Rescue) which takes every opportunity to throw jabs at them unnecessarily.

    • Melissa A Smith profile image

      Melissa A Smith 

      6 years ago from New York

      I've heard about Dade City's Wild Things. The handling of these tiger cubs is controversial for two reasons: the cubs are often too young to be handled and are pulled from their mothers, and the other reason, and this is the one I side with, is that these tigers are being bred excessively to provide these photo ops. I believe it is incorrect to state that this helps with their enrichment. An adult tiger is always dangerous, and they do not play with humans when they mature but they end up in small cages and are generally unwanted at that point. I can see why you gave this zoo a good review, it must have been an enthralling experience to hold a tiger cub, I've never done it.


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