Comfortable companion Cassie, a spotted jaguar, nuzzles Luther, a black jaguar — Photo courtesy of Dade City's Wild Things
Dade City’s Wild Things is tucked away on a pristine 22-acre property about 45 minutes from downtown Tampa. This hidden gem is a sanctuary for rescued and adopted wild things of all kinds and features over 200 animals. Attracting about 45,000 visitors per year, the park serves as an opportunity to educate the public while providing a safe home for animals in need.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws - one that attracts visitors from all over the world - is the opportunity to experience a personal animal encounter. During a personal encounter, you are able to interact with some of the animals up close. You can feed them, pet them and hold them - depending, of course, on the animal.
Some of the more cuddly options include a tiger cub, lynx or macaque, while the not-so-cuddly options include an alligator, bearded dragon or ball python. However, if you really want adventure, Dade City’s Wild Things offers the unique opportunity to swim with a tiger or an alligator.
The Sunken Jungle Tour takes you to the bottom of an ancient sinkhole — Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers
Guided tours are offered to two areas of the property. The Sunken Jungle Walking Tour takes visitors on a pathway that spirals down the sloping walls of an ancient sinkhole, giving the impression you are entering a hidden world full of towering oak trees and lush foliage.
Wildlife habitats are arranged throughout the area and feature a variety of big cats, including African lions, Florida panthers and jaguars. Also featured are primates such as baboons, capuchins, lemurs and macaques.
The second tour is the Jungle Safari Ride that takes visitors via motorized tram through another part of property, where you’ll get up close to a host of exotic animals including gibbons, ostriches, kangaroos, a white Bengal tiger and the Barbary lion, now extinct in the wild.
At the end of the tour, visitors are able to feed their buffalo. This is a good option for guests with young children or disabilities.
Randy Stearns is the son of owners Kenny and Kathy and carries on the family business as president of Dade City's Wild Things — Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers
Owned and operated by Kenny and Kathy Stearns, Dade City’s Wild Things arose from their shared passion for animals and their desire to provide a comfortable sanctuary for those that are injured, abused and unwanted.
As the number of animals they rescued kept rising, they decided to open their beautiful property to the public and allow everyone the opportunity to experience the wildlife in a natural Florida landscape. Their son Randy is now following in their footsteps and is currently president and head animal trainer at the zoo.