By Kelly Bloom Ianni CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE ON GRANDSTRANDHAPPENING.COM
Today I am waiting in what looks like a barren dirt driveway for the promise of a unique adventure. My sister Colleen and I are just outside of
the The Institute ofthe The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S) – Myrtle Beach Safari and a large ominous gate keeps us from viewing what waits on the other side. We are told that nearly 70 big cats roam free on 50 acres of land along with many other “animal ambassadors”.
This area was not easy to find, the sign post out front does not sport the name of the group and you will not find the address posted all over the Internet. This guided 3-hour wild encounters tour is private and it is amazing!
Rob, a friendly staff member and one of the few certified falconers in the US, welcomes us before the gates open. Rob has lived on the preserve for over 20 years…we begin to get a feel for the dedication that a career/life choice like this really requires. Every day must be spent with the animals. All the full-time staff lives on the preserve and open their homes to monkeys, chimps, tigers and in Rob’s case, birds of prey.
There are some basic rules, no cameras, and no bags and absolutely no food… the animals will find it! We start our walking tour along with 38 other guests. The experience happens at the front of the property but much of the rest of the land (which is well gated and secure) has tigers and lions roaming freely. At first I really didn’t know what to fully expect but I am amazed and in awe by the end of the tour. We experienced multiple once in a lifetime encounters in one morning.
We met, touched, held and fed tiger cubs, so unbelievable adorable that we could not help but kiss them. The largest feline apex predator on earth walked past us feeding from a baby bottle, he is a liger – lion/tiger mix that weighs in at over 900 lbs. Tigers frolicked in a pool with trainers as we looked on. We also held a very friendly chimpanzee, which gave high fives and hugs. We petted wolves, a cheetah, a tiny monkey, a bear cat but my personal favorite was feeding Bubbles the elephant. Bubbles is a beautiful female African elephant in her early 30’s, you may have heard strange and unbelievable stories from a friend about seeing an elephant bathing in the intercostal waterway – that would be Bubbles after taking her daily walk. On the day of our tour it poured rain and it added a wonderful element for us, it was almost like a dream at times but certainly memorable. This experience was truly one that I will never forget and will certainly go back and do again once my daughter turns 6 and is old enough to enter the preserve.
Dr. Bhagavan Antle is the man who created this amazing forum to encourage conservation efforts and promote wildlife education. Many of these animals are of the few remaining of their species on earth. Some of them are stars of the screen both big and small. You may have been exposed to them through movies, music videos and late night talk shows without even knowing they lived so close by. This preserve has been here since the 80’s but only opened to the public about 9 years ago.
Discounts are offered for entry into the tour and contacting the group directly would be best to get details on price. If you are looking for an even broader experience and have the funds to travel abroad you can accompany the T.I.G.E.R.S staff on a trip to Southern Africa and go deep into the bushveldt. There are also extended private VIP tours offered in Myrtle Beach where you can customize your exposure to a specific animal, like painting with the apes or swimming with Bubbles the elephant…
The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S) offers the Myrtle Beach Safari just 15 minutes or so from the beach. If you would like to find out more or make a reservation call (843) 361-4552.
Rating ***** (5 out of 5*)
Cost $$$$$ (3 out of 5 $)