New safari opens in Topeka zoo

Visitors to the Topeka Zoo’s newest exhibit can now experience what it’s like to go on a safari.

Camp Cowabunga opened Friday to the public. The exhibit is based on zoo director emeritus Gary Clarke’s experiences leading safaris, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported .

“What we’ve tried to do with this experience is plant enough se and ideas that people can use a little bit of imagination and really imagine what it might be like,” said zoo director Brendan Wiley.

The entrance features a mixed species animal exhibit with patas monkeys, guinea fowl and tortoises. The exhibit opens onto Dung Beetle Square, which displays a Land Rover sourced from South Africa, a hot air balloon basket and a canoe, all of which are modes of safari transportation.

The square also includes mosquito net tents, a three-sided safari loo, a bucket shower and a campfire circle. The exhibit is part of a larger plan that involves the zoo opening a tract of land for the elephants.

The first three tents are named after the first three lions that lived at the Topeka Zoo. The fourth tent is called Gary’s Tent, which has educational displays about the safari experience and Africa.

Clarke became the zoo’s director in 1963 and stayed for two dozen years. He led 140 safaris in nine countries after retiring, and traveled on his own to more countries in Africa.

“Not everybody can afford to take that safari experience,” Wiley said. “But you can come here and get a taste of it. And I hope that they leave this experience having learned, not just about the safari experience, but about the animals I hope they have fun. There’s a lot of things built into this to simply make people smile and something that the Topeka community can be proud of.”