What a great day trip from Pheonix! We made the easy hour and a half drive from Peoria to Camp Verde. Our first stop on this cool desert morning was Montezuma Castle National Monument to give M a living history lesson. Here she could marvel at the pueblo ruin that was home to the Sinagua (sin meaning "without", agua meaning "water") people, maybe a bit enviously of those visiting pre 1951 when visitors were allowed access by climbing a series of ladders up the limestone cliffs. Now we view the ruins from the well kept 1/3 mile loop accessed through a wonderful visitors center full of useful information. Off to the right a bit we saw bees buzzing around, upon closer zoom inspection, we saw it was actually a hive and large pieces of honeycomb were dwelling in the cliffside. Little treasures. Eleven miles from here you can walk another 1/3 mile trail to view Montezumas Well, which we decided to stop at if we had time later in the day. We had to get on the road if we were going to make our animal safari tour at Out of Africa wildlife park.
Also located in Camp Verde, Az, this place allows you to be relatively up close and personal with the animals. You can see that the animals here are spoiled, with plenty of land, food, activities, and love. Upon arrival we caught the tram to the first animal show. Do yourself a favor and don't walk to the top. This trail is long and while M would have no problem walking down, the Arizona heat would have made for a miserable trek up. There seem to be several animal shows throughout the day and we were glad to sit in the shade for a bit during a morning one. The trainers and staff are thoroughly knowledgeable of all animals and handled them well. M and the other kids were allowed to pet a few which was a surprising treat. We left a bit early to grab lunch and head over to the tiger splash show. An amusing show where the trainers attempt to get the tigers to play and splash in the pool with them. Not at all what the name implies right? I kid. Other than the sun beating down, M really loved seeing the tigers splash and have a good time. You can tell the staff really enjoys working with them. Finally it was time for our safari tour. They loaded us up on safari trucks and we headed out. The tour would allow us to be "behind the scenes" and a little more up close and personal with some of the animals. while also learning a bit more about the ones we would not get so close with. My dreams of tiger cuddling have yet to be fulfilled, although I have cuddled a baby lion. Meg was our tour guide and she was exceptional. Talk about informed, this girl knew everything. Not only did she know her stuff, but the animals had an obvious connection with her. As our tour ended they brought us back to the front and we were off to our next adventure. The ziplines! Sadly no photos of the zipline were allowed, but you could purchase them in the office after. We chose not to as it wasn't our first zipline and while fun, I'm not sure we would zipline there again.
Heading out into the evening, grateful for the heat to be lessening, we drove up to Montezuma Well. We hiked to the top of the well and had the option to descend for a closer look. The shady trail was a welcoming site from the exposed lookout point, so we headed down. The water here is a constant 74 degree temperature. The people who made their homes here knew how valuable it's resource was. We followed the trail to the end where the ruins of the swallet are. The water flows through over 150 ft of limestone before reemerging into an irrigation ditch on the other side. We watched the light play and change color as the sunset. It was time to make the drive back to Peoria, another beautiful memory in the books.. or rather on the blog.