The best kept secret in South Carolina is Doc Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari. The 50-acre nature preserve is nestled about 15 miles from Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach. The “Wild Encounters” tours are hosted three to five days a week featuring a day tour and a night safari option. The Level 21 team had an exciting opportunity to experience both the day and night tour. The adventure was an amazing, life changing experience. We have devised the top five reasons why you visit the Myrtle Beach Safari.
- Conserve the Wildlife. A portion of the revenue proceeds for the Wild Encounters tours help support the non-profit organization, the Rare Species Fund (www.rarespeciesfund.org). This group was “established to provide funding to critical on the ground international wildlife conservation programs, thereby complementing the educational messages and field research of T.I.G.E.R.S. The Fund receives it financing base through a percentage of revenues taken in by T.I.G.E.R.S, the generosity of donations from exhibit guests, and the general public. The Rare Species Fund actively supports the African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZAB) in its efforts to improve African zoo collection management, captive animal husbandry, and public educational messages. On a Continent where millions of wildebeest make an annual migration of several hundred miles, covering a huge swath of two countries, accompanied by zebra and other plains game, as well as many rare and endangered predators, almost 99 per cent of all African youth will never see any of these animals in their natural habitat. The RSF is doing its part to help educate the citizens of this continent to appreciate the wealth of their wildlife diversity and the threats to its continued existence in Africa.”
- Meet Doc Antler and his wonderful extended family. Mahamayavi Bhagavan, affectionately known as “Doc,” is the founder and director of The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.) Doc also founded a grassroots organization entitled “The Rare Species Fund” that supports wildlife conservation projects around the world. Doc’s 500 documentary and film credits include Ace Ventura, Dr. Doolittle, and Mighty Joe Young. He is also consulted as a wildlife animal expert for numerous shows featured on The Discovery Channel, CNN, and the National Geographic channel.
Dr. Robert Johnson is one of the tour guides, who has more than 20 years of experience working with big cats and many other species. Rob has a PhD in animal behavior and is an adjunct professor of biology at Coastal Carolina University. He has led safaris and conducted wildlife conservation work for the past 15 years throughout southern and central Africa as the Director of International Operations for the Rare Species Fund.
In addition to Doc and Rob, the facility is operated as a family owned business. Therefore, many of the staff members are related, directly and indirectly. Doc has been living on the nature preserve for 25 years. He stated that his “daughter was born at the facility and my son was born a couple years earlier at another zoo that we were working at. My other daughter lives here and helps take care of the place, and I have four grandkids who are all working here, as well. Two adult grandchildren and the younger ones that help out around the place. My mom lives here and watches over the books and helps takes care of things on the facility, as well. And we have the staff, many of whom came here 20, 25 years ago and stayed this whole time. So, this has created for us people that had made this their entire life. So about 15 of us are intricate family that all been together throughout the years and have made it so that we have opportunities to share this experience and people who care about it personally every day. Seven of the other staff members are new.”
- See a Liger. Yes, I said “Liger,” and no, this is not a typographical error. A liger is a crossbreed of a lion father and tiger mama. Living up to his name, Hercules is a massive cat that weighs 922 pounds and stands over 11 feet when upright. Hercules is listed as the largest living cat in the Guinness Book of World Records. There are only a handful of ligers in the world, and you have a once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing one up close and personal. But, do not get too close, Hercules consumes anywhere between 20 to 30 pounds of meat daily. You do not want to a surprise snack for Hercules. Just kidding!
- Interact with live animals. You will get an opportunity to meet 34-year-old Bubbles “weighing in at about 9,000 pounds.” She is the “most interactive African elephant in North America.” Bubbles is super sweet and very affectionate. Some of the Level 21 staff members were treated to a unique “crown chakra cleansing” by Bubbles using her trunk to suck their actual heads. Bubbles gave me a special hug with her trunk. It was a transcendent experience!
During the Wild Encounter Night tour, we roasted marshmallows and hot dogs with the chimpanzees. These primates are considered an endangered species, because they once inhabited 25 countries throughout tropical Africa. Now they are “extinct in five of those countries and endangered in five others for a total global population of 170,000.”
You may also get an affectionate hug from another endangered species called a gibbon! These lesser apes are smaller in stature than the chimpanzees. However, according to the Myrtle Beach Safari website, gibbons “travel through the rainforest trees of southeast Asia, with long arms and wide shoulders to make her the fastest of all mammals that live in the trees – some gibbons move as fast as 35 miles an hour, swinging from limb to limbs that are up to 50 feet away! Interestingly, female gibbons take the lead as the dominant member of the primate couple, followed by her offspring and, finally, the male.”
See Ramses the Cheetah in action, as he runs up to 60 miles per hour. Of course, I cannot forget Stripes and the bundles of joy. You will have an amazing experience as you get to cuddle with the baby tiger cubs and wolf pups. “In the wild, there are only about 2,500 Bengal tigers around the world; that’s less than half of the tiger population 10 years ago. Our wolf pups, just like domestic puppies, love to play, chase each other and roll around. So be prepared to smile!”
- Become a real party animal. Did you know that Bubbles was featured in Janet Jackson’s video “Together Again?” Or that Britney Spears performed onstage in a cage at the MTV Music Awards with one of Doc’s tigers? The animals that reside at the Myrtle Beach Safari are considered celebrity animal ambassadors. They have been featured in numerous films, videos, and documentaries. Some of the furry ambassadors were featured in the film, “Dr. Doolittle.” As a fun fact, according to www.imdb.com, “comedian Eddie Murphy is so scared of furry animals he never came into contact with them while filming Dr. Doolittle (1998)…During the first film Murphy reportedly shot his scenes on one movie set and then had technical experts add a menagerie later – using a blue screen to allow the actor to be superimposed on the screen.” During the Wild Encounters tour, you will be able to become a real party animal and have a ball with these furry celebrities! Share a hot dog with a Siberian Tiger or cozy up with an owl; the possibilities are limitless. Who knows? You may be partying with a human celebrity, as well. Beyonce, Odell Beckham, Jr, and Floyd Mayweather, just to name a few, have visited the Myrtle Beach Safari. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised to encounter comedian sensation, Lil Duvall, during our tour.
In addition to these top five reasons to visit the Myrtle Beach Safari, you should go to hear the wise advice that Doc dispenses for this world. He said that as “mankind walked out of Africa, in recent history, 50,000 to 70,000 years ago, we walked out without nowhere to go and nothing to eat. We often were able to follow the big cats and see what the big cats were catching and gently walk up to the lion’s prey to take a small portion to feed ourselves. Then we followed the elephants to locate a good spot for a daily water supply source. We are intricately married to the wildlife for our civilization to move on.” Unfortunately, humans have adopted a selfish approach that has resulted in the poaching or endangering animals for our own gain. Doc also stated that the two biggest lessons that he learned over time is, “one is to be useful, easeful, and peaceful. Anything that allows that will make you have a better life. The other lesson is ‘say less.’ When you say more, that leads to gossip. Gossip is not God’s words. When we talk too much, we often say negative things and not positive things. Say less and observe more. We want our guests to take a deep breath and not be on the phone and see the beauty of nature.”