Tennessee Safari Park Provides Unforgettable Experiences

1 Comment By 

Photo credit: Jeff Adkins

Claude M. Conley was only 15 years old when he started raising exotic animals on his family’s Crockett County farm in 1963. He began his unusual animal collection with buffalo, peacocks, elk and fallow deer on the same land where his family had been raising cotton and cattle since 1850.

“My father grew up reading about animals and visiting zoos, and he dedicated his life to raising exotic animals,” Claude H. Conley II says. “Today, our family has more than 1,300 exotic animals representing over 100 species.”

The Conley family knew they had something special on their quirky 800-acre farm in Alamo. So in 2007, Claude H. Conley II and his brother, Jon Wesley Conley, opened the farm to the public as a drive-through zoo experience called Tennessee Safari Park.

Photo credit: Jeff Adkins

“We always knew we were going to open a zoo, but we were too busy farming,” Claude H. Conley II says. “We made the decision to open it in 2003, but it took us until 2007 to make it happen. A lot of people told us we couldn’t do it – they said it would never happen.”

But those naysayers were wrong. In its first year, Tennessee Safari Park welcomed 2,500 visitors.

“All the money we made from admission we put back into the park, adding new animals each year,” Conley says. “The number of visitors grows each year. In 2018, we had more than 85,000 visitors.”

Photo credit: Jeff Adkins

A Wild Ride

What draws people to pull off Interstate 40 and spend a few hours touring a drive-through zoo, you ask? Curiosity, for one. Where else do ostriches, buffalo, camels and emus walk right up to your car window looking for a snack?

“Everybody can feed our animals through their car window, and people love interacting with the animals,” Conley says. “At our walk-through area, you can even feed a giraffe.”

Feeding the exotic animals can be a hilarious experience, since they are often eager to eat and have been known to put their entire head inside your car in search of food. They’ve also been known to snatch not only the food, but your entire food bucket. (Consider yourself warned.)

Safari Park

Photo by Jeff Adkins

Committed to Conservation

Environmentalists especially appreciate the opportunity to get up close and personal with rare and endangered animals, getting to stroke their velvety soft skin or fur. The reality is Tennessee Safari Park is more than a tourist attraction – it’s a dedicated conservational breeding center for rare and endangered creatures.

“We’ve always been committed to conservation, and it’s been really fun to watch our animal collection grow,” Conley says. “Because we breed animals, there are lots of babies everywhere. We also have about 300 animals that are not in the park and remain off exhibit.”

See more: Nashville Zoo Exhibit Showcases Heritage Breed Farm Animals

If the past is any indication of the future, Tennessee Safari Park will continue to thrive under the Conley family’s leadership in years to come. Conley’s two young sons, Claude III (age 7) and Caleb (age 3), are the sixth generation to grow up on the farm and are already learning the ropes.

Safari Park

Photo by Jeff Adkins

If You Go ...

Tennessee Safari Park

Location: 618 Conley Rd., Alamo

Phone: (731) 696-4423

Website: tennesseesafaripark.com

Hours: Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays 12 to 5 p.m. (Last car in at 4 p.m.)

Admission: $16 for adults and $12 for children ages 2 to 12. Animal feed costs $3 per bucket, or 4 buckets for $10. Tennessee Farm Bureau members can download a mobile or printed coupon for $2 off admission (maximum of six per party) at tnfarmbureau.org/membersavings or through the app.

Know Before You Go: You’ll know you’ve arrived at Tennessee Safari Park when you see the Conley family’s historic large white house, a fixture on the property since 1862. You can purchase buckets of food before navigating the 5.5-mile drive-through in your car. Then visitors can park and tour the walk-through zoo on foot, where you’ll see several types of monkeys, colorful birds and other creatures. Make time to visit the gift shop and eat at the Tennessee Safari Park Grill, which offers burgers, hot dogs, nachos and other snacks.

Travel Tip: Allow about three hours to tour the park. Cash only is accepted at the ticket booth; credit cards are accepted in the gift shop. The grill is open seasonally on weekends.

1 Comment

  1. Donna Roost

    February 23, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    Have visited Safari Park se stall times. Always fun.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay Connected

Made in Tennessee giveaways, exciting events, delicious recipes and more delivered straight to your inbox.