Mom bites her tongue as toddler goes nose to nose with wildlife

August 18, 2011|Amy Dulebohn

On a whim last week, my boyfriend and I took his 7-year-old son and my daughter on a day trip to Lake Tobias Wildlife Park in Halifax, Pa. Neither he or I were familiar with the park, but it came highly recommended by a co-worker of his.

I had been searching for a large petting zoo within commuting distance to take my daughter to, and this park just northeast of Harrisburg, Pa., seemed to fit the bill.

The park offered “safari tours” through 150 acres of mostly grassland, home to herds of animals from around the world. The tour took place on topless school buses painted to look like safari jeeps, and it lasted nearly an hour. I wasn’t sure how my 16-month-old would fare on the trek, but I decided to give it a try early in the day, so we would have the maximum potential for a successful outing — meaning before she got hungry, tired, hot, etc.

The safari proved to be the highlight of the day. The weather was perfect, we had an outgoing and knowledgeable tour guide, many animals were in view, some within petting distance, and the kids loved riding on the sawed-off bus. I suspect my daughter was particularly excited about riding minus the confines of her child seat.  

After the tour and a reasonably priced lunch purchased at the park, we checked out the petting zoo, getting up close with a variety of creatures ranging from African pygmy goats to llamas and alpacas. Again, both of the children in our family enjoyed greeting the animals, petting them, and feeding some of them crackers that were purchased on-site to share with the wild critters.

Unfortunately, my little one was distressed by a goat who nibbled on her shirt, but she quickly got over her angst when we moved away from him and set our sites on the other friendly creatures.

She was understandably not as impressed with the regular zoo-type atmosphere where we got to see ostriches, peacocks, lions, Bengal tigers, monkeys and other animals from a distance. However, we were able to move along quickly enough to prevent her from becoming overly fussy.  

We ended the day with a visit to the recently opened Reptiles and Exotics building. My daughter was still happy to look at the large snakes, alligators and other “creepy” animals behind glass.

Zoo employees offered guests the opportunity to touch an alligator and a python, but I did not allow her to get close enough to touch them. As much as I love animals, I am not a fan of reptiles, but I put on a brave face and walked through the building with my family and sat through the 15-minute show that is offered several times daily.

It is safe to say that we will be going back to Lake Tobias. It was a great, reasonably-priced family outing for the adults and the kids, and is a place children of all ages can learn from and enjoy.

For more information about Lake Tobias Wildlife Park, go to or call 717-362-9126.

First-time mother Amy Dulebohn is a page designer at The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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