Up bright and early this morning for our day at Amazing Exotics. I have looked forward to this day for quite some time now……….I’m going to stroke a tiger….I’m going to stroke a tiger. I have booked DH and myself for the tiger encounter followed by a tour of the reserve.
I remember not to use any perfumed products this morning as I don’t want to distract any tiger nostrils! I suggest to DH that I rub him down with BBQ sauce before we leave but he’s having none of it. He is asking me if I really love him because last trip to Florida I booked him in for a racing car experience at Richard Petty and now he finds himself on his way to pet a tiger.
We have our map printed out ready (thanks to yours truly and Google) so we set off from our hotel in plenty of time….
We’ve used the print out maps from Google to get us to a few new places on this trip and they’ve been great. About 70 minutes later we were definitely in Umatilla so surely Amazing Exotics is just around that corner ahead of us. We ask a few of the locals and no one…..I said NO ONE has even heard of Amazing Exotics. I’m beginning to think that the web page was a huge scam and get a little worried. Finally we come across a rangers cabin and DH jumps out of the car muttering something about dumb blondes. Two minutes later, he’s back. Apparently yours truly only printed out the first page of a two page map. We are actually only about 15 minutes away so I am still surprised that no one we stopped had heard of the place.
Ok, we are looking for a dairy after which we will find MY tigers. Look…..cows ahead, I’m getting excited. Soon we see what we are looking for but, we are nearly an hour late for our tiger encounter followed by the tour…..hope they will still let us in. This is no WDW park or BG ….no frills in sight. We pull up at a locked gate and I get out of the car to plead our way in. The guy who comes out to meet me says it’s not a problem…. There are only four people booked in today and the other two haven’t arrived yet. We are the only two willing participants for the tiger encounter so we can go ahead and get started with this while we wait to see if the other two guests will be joining us for the tour. Now, as I said….this is a very basic place which is run on donations so what you see is what you get. The ‘office’ is a run down shack that looks like it would blow down if I sneezed and to be honest, it could do with a womans touch. No ‘good’ clothes are nesasary here ….. they will be ready for at the very least, a boil wash when you leave.
We are given forms to fill in so that if a tiger eats us, Amazing Exotics are not to blame. (we need a tiger smiley) It is a rather daunting form. “you do realise that from the activities you are about to participate in could lead to serious injury or even death” If there is any time to get butterflies…..your stomach is fluttering now. Actually, we have filled in a couple of these types of forms before on our trips to Florida. One for Richard Petty Driving Experience and another for the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa so, we aren’t put off but I can imagine them giving some folks the wobblies.
Sean (Amazing Exotics worker) who is with us the whole day, goes off to get Widget our female tiger who we will be eating us today....sorry, meeting us today. We wait in the office and read up on some newspaper clippings they have on the walls from local papers who have done a write up about the place and also read a few of the comments in the guest books. A couple of minutes later, Sean returns and says Widget is waiting for us. We are given a few ground rules which we must stick to or we will be asked to leave. We step outside and walk past a few monkeys who make rude noises at us and there….in a field….is MY TIGER. Oh my gosh. I am getting so excited I can hardly breathe. I have no butterflies. I am totally comfortable with getting close to her. She is beautiful.
We are asked to walk around the edges of the field until we get to her so she can see us coming. The closer we get to her, the bigger she gets. She yawns…..my what big teeth.
Sean pats a huge tree stub and she jumps up onto it so that he can give her a drink of milk from a bottle. She will be given this treat every day so that if she ever needs medicine, they can put it in the bottle without her knowing and be sure that she will be taking them. We are told that we can pat her etc all we want and we don’t even have to be gentle with her…..she will let us be quite rough with her and even lets you pick up her tail. I am in Heaven. I turn to Dh and say “I’m gonna bubble.” Sure enough, the waterworks start. I am so happy I am crying. Sean and Widget obviously have a great bond together and he tells us that they used to go swimming in the lake and every day they go for walks through the reserve together. We stay with Widget for about three minutes …….. ok, it was actually half an hour but time went so quickly.
I will never forget this day ….. never.
The other two guests have arrived. They are a father and daughter who have also travelled from Orlando. Our tour can get started. The reserve is a lot smaller than I had imagined. In saying that, they have acres of land that they use to let the animals run on which we never saw much of.
The animals here have been rescued from circus’s, private owners, or even dumped at the gates in the middle of the night. Jack Hannah also has a chimp here. Apparently he used to take this chimp on TV shows with him etc and now he houses her here.
Our tour starts with some monkeys…..there are quite a lots of monkeys here. Sean knows all of their names and talks to each and every animal as we go around…..he is like a Dr. Dolittle and all of the animals respond to him. We also see meercats, a bear, wolves, etc. There are 16 tigers here, one lion, and about 8 leapards. Some of their stories are so sad and make you wonder how people can be so cruel. Of course I would much rather see all of these animals running wild but, because of us, man, they have been robbed of that life. I am so pleased that there are sanctuaries like this who take them in and look after them. All of the animals seem happy and a lot of them get time out of their enclosures. Some of the monkeys get jealous when Sean talks to some of their neighbours and they start making the most loud shouts you can imagine until they are made the centre of attention again.
The tour takes about 90 minutes ….. and we didn’t get bitten by a fire ant once.
Now, we are taken back to an adjoining building to the office where there is a large table and some chairs. There is a climbing frame on one wall and a few dirty toys are lying around the floor. We are introduced to a couple of spider monkeys. One of them immediately took pity on DH having little hair and immediately jumped onto his head to keep him warm. They were quite curious and not shy at all. This is the part where you get really dirty. They are all over you. I was quite well groomed when I went in there and now I look like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards then rolled around in the dust for good measure. My hair had been used as a swinging rope and I resembled Worzel Gummidge on a good day.
After about 20 minutes, the monkeys leave and another two….this time baby monkeys are brought in. Now, these are cuter but no less curious. How DH managed to keep his glasses I will never know. I could have had a real good close up many a time of a monkeys nostrils too but I didn’t want to frighten them off …. or even worse have them try and take a close up of my nostrils.
Ok, time to say goodbye to the monkeys.
Do we want to go out into a field with a leopard? Erm……..yes please. Assuming I won't frighten the spots of him with my new hairdo, I would love to meet a leopard. Same as with the tiger…..make a circle around the field so he can see us coming. He is adorable. He gets some chicken and we can also pet him etc. This is more my scene……big cats rule. We get about 15 minutes here and then our day is over.
We say goodbye to Sean and then go and write a little something in the guest book before jumping back in the car.
What a fabulous day we’ve had. We stink, we are dirty, we look terrible…..when can we do it all again...........