Emily has always dreamed of getting up close and personal with exotic animals. She had an opportunity to experience some bucket list interactions with unique animals on our last trip to Orlando. This area, known for theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios, is also home to Exotic Animal Experience. At this special place, visitors can enjoy once-in-a-lifetime personal experiences with exotic animals such as sloths, lemurs, zebras and kangaroos.
The Beginnings Of An Interactive Animal Encounter
This unique attraction, just a short drive from Orlando, was created by horse trainer Leslie Rush. She started out with a few exotic pets that she took on the road as a traveling petting zoo. Leslie’s animals are raised on-site at on her seven-acre property from infancy to adulthood. They’re socialized from their earliest days, living in the house and wearing diapers. Those interested in interacting with these amazing creatures usually only viewed from a distance in zoos can set up a private tour. Guests can choose from a variety of different packages. Since Emily wanted to experience all that the facility had to offer, we booked the ultimate experience.
Petting Kangaroos And A Wallaby
Kangaroos and Wallabies are native to Australia. The main difference between these types of animals is their size. The largest kangaroo species, the red kangaroo, can grow up to 6′ 7” tall and weigh 200 pounds. Wallabies are much smaller. They range from 12” to 40” long, with 10” to 29” long tails, and weigh between four and 53 pounds. These animals are known as macropods because of their unique hopping abilities. Their strong, muscular back legs can propel them across long distances, with larger kangaroos bounding as far as 15 feet in a single hop! As marsupials, the female members of these species of mammals carry their young in pouches.
Our first stop on the Exotic Animal Experience tour was with the kangaroos. Emily entered into an open habitat where kangaroos were laying in the shade beside a picnic table. She had the opportunity to bottle feed a young kangaroo and feed older kangaroos by hand. These friendly marsupials would hold Emily’s hand or wrist while feeding, forming an instant bond with her. She was amazed by the softness of their fur.
In the same yard by a wading pool and playhouse Emily found a small wallaby. She was captivated by the wallaby’s adorable appearance and gentle demeanor. The wallaby fed from her hand while she petted its soft fur. Though she regretted having to leave so soon, there were many more animals to meet on the tour. Emily bid the marsupials goodbye and headed off to her next encounter.
Holding Blossom And Saki The Sloths
Sloths are tree-dwelling mammals originally found in the jungles of Central and South America. The different sloth species include both two-toed and three-toed sloths. Though sloths appear to be lazy and slow, they are actually conserving energy to use for a fast get away from their predators. Other organisms, such as fungi, moths, beetles, and algae, can actually make their homes on a sloth’s fur.
After her encounter with the kangaroos and wallaby, Emily was able to meet with Blossom and Saki, two adorable sloths. Blossom, a two-toed sloth, was napping on a platform. Her movements were extremely slow and appeared lethargic, but they’re actually normal for a sloth. Since sloths are wild animals, it’s important to hold them correctly so they don’t bite or pinch with their claws. After a few minutes of detailed instruction, Emily was able to hold and cuddle this unique creature. Blossom wrapped her long arms around Emily and rested her belly against Emily’s torso. The darling sloth looked up at Emily and yawned. Both she and Emily enjoyed this special time of cuddling.
Emily was also introduced to a charming baby sloth named Saki. Emily remarked at how accurately the animated film Zootopia had portrayed the long, slow movements of sloths.
Playing with Gizmo The Galago
Galagos, also known as “bush babies,” are small primates that are native to Africa. Their average size is around five inches long. These nocturnal animals have large eyes which give them excellent night vision. They are adept climbers, agile jumpers, and quick runners. Their bat-like ears provide them with a keen sense of hearing.
Emily was thrilled to be able to meet Gizmo the Galago. This inquisitive creature climbed up and sat on Emily’s shoulder. The tour guide told Emily it was important to keep an eye on him as he was looking for an object to jump onto.
Cuddling with Kiwi The Kinkajou
The Kinkajou is a small mammal native to the rainforests of Central and South America. Adult Kinkajous weigh between three and 10 pounds and measure between 16 to 24 inches in length. These nocturnal creatures love to eat fruit. They’re normally gentle and shy, but can become aggressive if they feel threatened or alarmed.
Emily was happy to meet a Kinkajou as she had never before seen one in person. Kiwi the Kinkajou was slender, with a long tail. He could use his five-inch long tongue to extract nectar from flowers and obtain fruit from trees. Since it was day time, he was very sleepy and content to snuggle in Emily’s arms.
Playing Around with Lemurs
Lemurs are energetic primates native to the island of Madagascar. Though at one time gorilla-sized lemurs existed, the lemur species alive today are much smaller. Their weight ranges from a little more than one ounce to 20 pounds. Eating and social patterns for Lemurs vary from species to species.
Emily got to meet Ruffles, a black and brown baby lemur who was still in diapers. Like a young toddler, he fidgeted and moved around restlessly in Emily’s arms. He was still getting used to people, so interacting with Ruffles kept Emily on her toes!
Next she met a group of black and white ruffed lemurs. These are the ones who look like King Julian from the Madagascar movies. Of the two species of ruffed lemurs, these are the more endangered. When we came to their area, these cute lemurs with fluffy black and white fur jumped around with excitement. Some of them even wanted to play hide and seek behind a chair. They enjoyed being petted and scratched. The curious lemurs touched and looked directly into Emily’s GoPro camera while she snapped photos of their antics. This was by far the most fun and entertaining animal encounter experience of the day.
Meeting Mojo The Muntjac Deer
The Muntjac is a species of barking deer that grows to be about the size of a dog. Though native to Southeast Asia, some Muntjacs that were recently introduced to England escaped and have formed feral populations. The males have long canine teeth that point downward and resemble tusks.
Emily was fascinated by this unusual deer. His demeanor was gentle and sweet, and he welcomed her attention. She rubbed his neck and he made a sound that reminded Emily of the sound of a squeaky toy.
Up Close with Fainting Goats
Internet video recordings of goats who appear to faint and fall over aren’t a hoax. The myotonic goat is native to Tennessee. Due to a hereditary genetic condition its muscles freeze for around three seconds when it feels startled. When this happens, it can appear as if the goat has fainted, giving it the nickname “fainting goat.” This small species of goat ranges from 17 to 25 inches tall.
Emily met the fainting goats in a fenced in farm area. These friendly goats jumped and put their front legs up on her, eager to play. She had to be careful not to bend down too far or the goats would try to jump on her back! The goats must not have considered her to be a threat, because none of them fainted. They were still extremely cute and fun to play with, however.
Animal Encounter with Zoey The Zebra
Zebras are native to Africa. Famous for their strikingly beautiful stripes, these animals each have their own unique stripe pattern. They have excellent eyesight and hearing. Unlike horses and mules, most species of zebra are very difficult to tame since they panic easily.
Because Zoey the Zebra has such a wild nature, she was kept in a pasture behind a fence. Lisa, the tour guide, brought Zoey to the fence line for Emily to observe. She was feisty, so it seemed unlikely that she would allow Emily to pet her. However, when Emily approached Zoey and put her hand up to her, the Zebra became amazingly calm. She even allowed Emily to pet her and take pictures with her. Perhaps we should call Emily the “Zebra Whisperer.”
We were so engaged with the animals on our tour that we forgot to take many pictures. Thankfully, we had arranged ahead of time for our tour guide to take photos for us as part of our tour package. We highly recommend for visitors to invest in this bonus feature. It will free you up to spend more quality time focused on the animals.
At the time of this article being written, prices for the Exotic Animal Encounter in Orlando are as follows:
What: Exotic Animal Experience in Orlando
Group Visit: $95 per person plus tax for ages 10 and up. This includes a two-hour guided encounter for a group of up to 25 people.
Private Visit (Two person minimum): $195 plus tax per person for ages 10 and up, $95 plus tax per person for ages 7-10. This includes a two hour guided encounter just for your private party.
Ultimate Experience: $275 plus tax per person for ages 12 and up, $195 plus tax per person for ages 7-11. This includes a two-hour guided encounter with all animals along with a chance to hold both sloths.
Simply Sloths (Two person minimum): $195 plus tax per person. This includes 45 minutes of petting, holding, and feeding sloths.
More Info: Visit http://www.exoticanimalexperience.net/ to find out more details about this exceptional animal encounter experience.
Next time you’re looking for something new to do around Orlando, consider Exotic Animal Experience. Our family loved this fun, educational opportunity to interact with adorable and amazing animals. We highly recommend it!