a morning at aikman wildlife adventure

We loaded up the minivan bright and early this morning. Coffee and croissants from Art Mart–and two kids who couldn’t wait for our little Saturday morning adventure.

We drove south on I-57 to Arcola (exit 203)–and then another five miles west through the gentle, rolling hills of Amish country.

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We passed horse and buggy after horse and buggy–all the way to the former Rockome Gardens location.

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My childhood friend’s little sister Kelsey and her husband James Aikman just opened Aikman Wildlife Adventure in Arcola. The concept has been James’ dream for some time–and finally became a realty when the park opened earlier this month.

Aikman Wildlife Adventure is a 40-acre wildlife park and refuge for animals of all kinds. Their mission is to provide the highest quality of life possible to all wildlife in need while maintaining a family friendly environment through interaction, education, conservation and by creating an experience of a lifetime.

And it was–really, truly–an experience of a lifetime.

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The park boasts a 20-acre animal sanctuary–with a gravel path to drive through. And will soon offer a walk-through area with large animal habitats (bigger than most zoos), animal rides, a huge budgie aviary with a walking path and feed sticks, a large petting zoo and a playground with a pavilion and picnic area.

We took a behind the scenes tour with a park guide. You can too, for $25/person until Memorial Day. Or you can drive your own vehicle through the safari for $20/vehicle.

It was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done as a family. I’d highly recommend it. We toured the indoor and outdoor habitats and saw over thirty species of wild animals including HYENAS (my little Lion Guard fan-kids freaked). Check it.

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Wild Turkeys. They eat the parasites out of manure. You learn something new every day.

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The ass of an ass. I said ass, twice.

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Oh hey, zebra.

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Bison. Are. Big. (And friendly, just like Johnny.)

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These camels. My favorites. Fabio and Randy. Just wanted to smooch us all day.

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Scimitar-Horned Oryx. Native to Egypt. Hunted for its horns, nearly to extinction.

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Jacob’s Sheep. Three horns, yo.

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Shelters like these are built around the property to provide some protection from the wind.

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Me and My Llama (Going to the Dentist) used to be my favorite song. I’ve been singing it all day today.

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Owners James, Kelsey and Asa Aikman take us through an indoor habitat.

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HYENAS! They aren’t named Janja or Jasiri–at least not yet. But their naming rights are available along with their adoption–for any of you fans of the Lion Guard.

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Exploring the grounds. And playing on pallets. Because pallets are fun. Ha.

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Looping back around to the camels. Because camels are my spirit animal. Unload your burdens, baby. Lay it all on me.

We ended our tour in the gift shop–and learned a little more about SABLE. SABLE (Saving Animals By Lasting Encounters) is a non-profit entity established for the feeding, caring for and housing of animals. The organization partners with Aikman Wildlife Adventure to help educate guests of the park about the animals, their habitats and the conservation efforts taking place there.

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You can also make a donation through SABLE to adopt an animal at Aikman Wildlife Adventure. Your donation is tax-deductible and covers the costs of bringing the animal to the park, covers the animal’s food for a year and covers all the animal’s veterinary care. For more information or to donate, e-mail James at james@aikmanwildlife.com.

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The Aikman Wildlife Adventure is open Friday and Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday noon-5pm. For more information visit www.aikmanwildlife.com or visit their Facebook Page.

So grab the kids and hit the road–it was a 35 minute trip for us, door to door. We had a blast this morning–thanks to the Aikmans–and learned a lot. Plus it was a very quiet ride home too. Win, win, win. Boom.

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We can’t wait to go back. Thanks James, Kelsey and Asa.

3 thoughts on “a morning at aikman wildlife adventure

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