The day started out perfectly. We had a great night’s sleep, a peaceful breakfast and an easy drive to our first destination of the day. We were early and decided to drive around a bit before waiting in line with our car at the gate to Keystone Safari.

We were still in Pennsylvania, day two of our trip to visit West Virginia. This was our first major trip to the USA, and we were excited about it. The harsh and mostly unnecessary COVID rules were lifted, and travel was allowed again. Already, this bizarre time was becoming a distant memory.

The gate attendant arrived five minutes before opening and would only think about letting us in when it was precisely 10:00. We purchased animal feed for both of us and partook in our first-ever drive-thru animal safari in the USA.

We were excited.

Admittedly, I was also a little nervous about our brand-new Rav4.

When I was a child, my parents took us to the African Lion Safari outside Cambridge, Ontario. The big feature at this zoo was the ability to drive your own car between each enclosure and have the animals (hopefully) come close. Dad did not like this idea. Animals can scratch and damage the vehicle, and with big signs releasing all liability for African Lion Safari from whatever the animals may do, Dad opted for us to take the bus. I remember liking the zoo but was disappointed that so many animals were lying about.

I am all grown up now, with a wife of my own, and in my clean and pristine new vehicle, I wondered what Dad would say if I returned with scratches, dents, or missing pieces. I have seen numerous videos of what safari animals can do, so there was no excuse for me not to know.  

We began driving and quickly encountered our first group of hungry animals. We slowly stopped the car, parked it and rolled down the windows. A donkey was casually walking toward Charlene. It was peaceful, and it was happy to get a morsel of food from her. It would gracefully place its head into the vehicle and gently use its lips to quietly remove the food from Charlene’s hand. The donkey loved it. Its eyes would close as it chewed, ears back in a relaxed fashion, and then entered the vehicle again. Every action the donkey did indicated peace, serenity, and contentment.

On the other hand, I was presented with emu.  

The emu stood the same height as the donkey. Unlike the donkey, I could not judge its emotional state of mind.

Charlene is now petting the peaceful donkey, which shows that it appreciates what my wife is doing with every fibre of its being.

I carefully turn my head back to the emu. Its head is in the car, looking at me. I am unable to tell if it is happy to see me or if it is about to go stark-raving mad and attack me with everything it has.

OH MY GOD!

STRIKE!

STRIKE AGAIN!

STRIKE!

TERROR!

TERROR AT LEVELS I NEVER EXPERIENCED BEFORE!

With speed I did not think possible, the emu struck my hand for the food on it. It struck again and again. It stared me down in between each morsel. No chewing, like the gentle donkey. A strike and a glaring look at me. Charlene had a calm donkey, and I had a large bird going crazy. There was no gentility with this beast.

For a few minutes, my hand would be assaulted for each morsel of food I held. Why did I continue to feed this flightless creature when all I had to do was roll up my window? Instead, I decided not to keep placing food in my hand, and it left me alone. It then went to Charlene’s side of the car.

While I was continuously replacing the food it had eaten and having an emu repeatedly violate my personal space, Charlene did not grab any food. The emu searched her side, looked at her, and left—no terror at all.

We would continue through the park, viewing and feeding the other animals. A good variety of creatures liked people sticking out their hands and trying to feed and pet them.  

And then it happened.

A bison spots us and quietly begins walking to us. I had never been so close to an animal this big before. I thought it was adorable seeing it come and beg for a piece of food. Yeah, it had a severe case of B.O., snot dripping from its nose and a slimy tongue, but it was cute. I liked it.

Told you so.

This was all I could think my father would say when the bison decided to stop feeding for a moment and use my car to relieve an itch. We would leave this park with a souvenir scratch on the door from its horn.

Some animals were not interested in coming to the car, which shocked and disappointed me. I wanted to see, feed and touch everything here. We continued winding our way slowly. We could see a tiny speck on the ground. It was some distance away, but it clearly noticed us and started to walk towards our car.

I placed the car into park and waited.

And we waited.  

Waited some more.

And continued to wait for this duck to slowly waddle its way from clear across the field to where we were waiting.

I grew impatient and seriously considered driving away but thought that was exceedingly cruel. Charlene would throw a few morsels of food to the more than appreciative duck.

The great thing about Keystone Safari is that it offers another section. We would leave the drive-thru section and go to the traditional zoo setting. In this other area, we fed giraffes, goats, butterflies, deer, camels and caribou and were able to observe different animals.

Despite starting the day with the terror bird at the entrance, we enjoyed our time at Keystone Safari and would return if we were ever in the area again. We spent just over three hours at this location, with much of it wasted waiting for that slow duck. It was an exciting day.

  • Direction to Keystone Safari can be found on All The Places We Have Been Map.  
  • This is a family-friendly location that appeals to all ages.
  • Like all other drive-thru safaris, Keystone is not responsible for what the animals may do to your vehicle.
  • You can only feed the animals food purchased at the zoo. Apparently, it is state law. The price of the food is reasonable.
  • Expect to spend around two to four hours touring both sides of this attraction.

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