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Take a walk on the wild side on your Georgia vacation. You'll find native species making their homes in wildlife refuges, with animals from around the world taking up residence in our zoos. Bring your binoculars to Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge near Richmond Hill in coastal Georgia. This refuge's mixed habitat of grassland, marsh, and cropland has offered respite to migrating birds since 1962. The former air force base offers ranger-led programs, along with the opportunity to explore trails, fish, or hunt on your own.
Down in southern Georgia, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge shelters endangered birds, snakes, and amphibians. Spend a day canoeing the swamp trails or hike or bike the Swamp Island Drive. A visit to the Atlanta Zoo lets you meet the world's animal residents in a single day. Lions, elephants, monkeys, snakes, pandas, and many other animals live at the zoo. Meet the animals that live in the world's oceans at the Georgia Aquarium, also in Atlanta. You can even get into the tank and swim with whale sharks!
Another place for close animal encounters is the Wild Animal Safari, set in Pine Mountain, central Georgia. You can explore the 200 acres in your own car or a tour bus. Did you ever think you'd be close enough to a giraffe to feed it? Buy a slobber towel to keep yourself dry!
Visit the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. The world's largest aquarium yields an entertaining and engaging experience with more than 60 exhibits and eight million gallons of water. Bring your camera to catch a shot of the beluga whales in the Cold Water Quest Animal gallery or simply gaze at the peaceful jellyfish bobbing along in the Tropical Diver gallery.
See more of the aquarium than the average visitor during the Behind the Scenes tour. Or, consider the Journey with Gentle Giants tour – an exclusive opportunity to swim with a whale shark, the largest fish in the world. With so much to see and explore across Atlanta, be sure to schedule more than one day for it all.
Travel to the Peach State and visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Found on Jekyll Island, it's a research, rehabilitation and education facility for marine turtles. Injured and sick turtles are treated in this state-of-the-art emergency center, allowing for additional research. Stroll through the exhibits to learn about sea turtle conservation efforts, and to see the story of their journey from hatching to adulthood.
All proceeds from the tour admission, purchases from the gift shop, turtle adoptions, donations and center memberships are given directly to the center. Explore in nearby Saint Simons Island. Enjoy your time visiting beautiful Jekyll Island, along the Georgia Coast.
Established in 1962, the Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge has been providing a refuge to migrating birds ever since. Explore these 2,762 acres of wildlands near Richmond Hill in Coastal Georgia. Across this impressive coastal Georgia wildlife refuge, you'll find a blend of grassland, saltwater marsh, and cropland – which, incidentally, can be found on an abandoned military airfield.
The U.S. Air Force built the airfield in 1942, and it was meant to be an auxiliary of the Dale Mabry Army Airfield. Eventually, WWII ended and the airfield was abandoned. Today, it's covered in a mix of wild grass and other vegetation. When you visit Harris Neck, you'll find a variety of fishing areas, some hunting zones, paved paths for walking and cycling, and even ranger-led interpretive programs.
In an effort to protect a large portion of the Okefenokee Swamp, local governments established the Okenfenokee National Wildlife Refuge in 1937 in southern Georgia, near the coast. At 402,000 acres the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge spans across Clinch, Charlton, and Ware counties. Join the nearly 400,000 annual visitors and explore the refuge on your next trip to the area – drive in from Kingsland or Waycross.
Enjoy a tour of the Richard S. Bolt Visitor Center – take a peek at some of the historical exhibits and be sure to visit the Okefenokee Wildlife League bookstore. Take full advantage of the outdoor recreation opportunities at Okefenokee. Head for Billy's Lake, the largest at the refuge, and try to land a keep or two. There are nearly 121 miles of swamp trails, perfect for day filled with canoeing adventures. And be sure to hike or bike the nine-mile Swamp Island Drive.
Plan for a full day of family adventures during your next visit to Georgia. Head for the deep south of the Peach State and set a course for Valdosta. Once there, be sure to set aside a whole summer day to explore Wild Adventures Theme Park. Opened in 1996, Wild Adventures can be found south of downtown along Old Clyattville Road and Briggston Road.
Wild Adventures is great for all ages – with 59 total rides, including eight roller coasters and seven water slides, there are few better ways to entertain the whole family in Valdosta. Explore this 166-acre park to the max – check out Boomerang, a reverse shuttle coaster, and don't miss Viking Voyage, a more subdued, family-first coaster. Wild Adventures is open mid-March through December.
Get in touch with your wild side in Georgia. The Wild Animal Safari allows visitors to feed a giraffe, get up close to an American Bison, or view Nilgai, Rhea, Black Buck Antelope, and North American Elk. Whether in your own vehicle, renting the park's Zebra Van, or on a tour bus, driving through the park's 200 ares is quite an experience.
On a stroll through the Walk-About, you'll see alligators, primates, wolves, bears and hyenas and even Ligers (half lion/half tiger). Exotic animals from six continents live in the Wild Animal Safari. Spend a day learning about the animals and enjoying an up close view of them. The "slobber towel" - available in the gift shop - is a fun keepsake of the visit. Warm Springs and in Lagrange are both minutes away from the Wild Animal Safari, offering excellent accommodations for central Georgia travelers.
With more than 1,500 animals across 220 species, Zoo Atlanta is an ideal destination for your next visit into Atlanta. While Atlanta and the rest of northern Georgia have plenty of iconic and historic sites to visit, Zoo Atlanta may just present one of the most unique and adventurous – 40 total acres and the largest collection of gorillas and orangutans at any zoo in the US.
With origins dating back to 1889, Zoo Atlanta is a real piece of local and state-wide history. When you do visit Zoo Atlanta, don't miss out on top exhibits and displays like the Ford African Rain Forest, or Boundless Budgies: A Parakeet Adventure. Another popular destination within the zoo is Trader's Alley: Wildlife's Fading Footprints. Any visit to Zoo Atlanta should also yield an exploration of the World of Reptiles, with over 450 and amphibians across 100 different species.