For centuries, the only way to see a polar bear and a giraffe on the same day was to ride a saddled giraffe all the way to the Arctic Circle. Witness climatological opposites coexist with today's Groupon: for $150, you get a camel expedition for two at Giraffe Ranch in Dade City (a $300 value).
Guests climb aboard a connected train of gentle camels for lofty views of Giraffe Ranch's 47-acre USDA-licensed and Zoological Association of America–accredited game farm and wildlife preserve. While seated in saddles equipped with handlebars, pairs of passengers keep eyes peeled for free-roaming Asian, African, and prehistoric beasts. During tours, guides spin true tales about native and exotic animals, the habitats in which they survive, and the farm's ongoing conservation efforts concerning endangered species and those extinct in the wild. After camel trains roam across lush pastures dotted with massive live oak trees under blue skies, guests can feed hungry giraffes, pat the heads of curious zebras, or send top-secret bird calls to soaring sandhill cranes and baby ostriches. Giraffe Ranch recommends that riders come bedecked in hats, closed-toe shoes, and long pants.
The husband and wife owners of Giraffe Ranch wake up each morning to the squawks, chirps, and growls of rhinoceroses, hippos, ostriches, and a menagerie of other exotic animals. After feeding their giraffes, they tend to the cattle and collect eggs from their free-range chickens that cluck across their 47-acre combination of a working organic farm and a wildlife preserve accredited by the Zoological Association of America. Encompassing four ecosystems, the preserve sprawls under 400-year-old oak trees and across native orchards into wetlands filled with nesting sandhill cranes. With the aid of their son, the owners lead tours through habitats for endangered or otherwise extinct African and South American animals, walking past pens of African crested porcupines, guinea pigs, fossa; as well as lemurs that guests can feed by hand or T-shirt cannon. Their tours never follow the same path, instead changing to skirt around grazing goats or to meet a brood of newly hatched baby ostriches.
Not content to simply lead guests on relaxing strolls, guides also load passengers into four-wheel-drive safari trucks—custom built by the owner after vehicles used in Africa—or onto the backs of camels for extended preserve tours that showcase larger game such as Indian rhinoceroses, pygmy hippopotamuses, llamas, and antelopes. Guides also steer tours toward feeding times, encouraging passengers to pass leaves to the preserve's namesake giraffes from the truck. An onsite shop boasts shelves of glass art, plush lemurs and giraffes, and T-shirts—many designed by the owner's wife—alongside handcrafted African decor. Shop staffers also proffer organic fertilizer, organic free-range eggs, and grass-fed beef harvested on the farm.