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Best Places To View Wildlife Near Los Angeles

lions cage preserve 610
(credit: shutterstock)

Without a doubt, Southern California is endowed with an abundance of wildlife, both exotic and indigenous to this part of the Golden State. From dessert landscapes to life saving preserves, wildlife can also be seen in well kept parks and natural habitats, attracting visitors from Los Angeles for the chance to catch a glimpse of a diverse number of critters and the picturesque environments in which they currently roam. Consider the following five places to catch glimpses of wildlife.

Panda cub Hua Mei gazes at onlookers 12 February 2
(credit: Tom Kurtz/AFP/Getty Images)

San Diego Zoo Safari Park
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road
Escondido, CA 92027
(760) 747-8702

No need to join an African safari to get a feel for what it's like to survey the open spaces on the Dark Continent where so many wild animals roam. Indeed, Northern San Diego County's Zoo Safari Park gives an authentic taste for what these animals located on the other side of the world are all about. All kinds of outings are available at this expansive outpost, including the Cart Safari, which lets you ride along while spotting such enchanting beasts as giraffes and rhinos, who enjoy the natural setting; or the Ultimate Safari, which comes with a personal guide who will take you to see the critters of your choice.

(credit: shutterstock)

Wildlife Waystation
14831 Little Tujunga Canyon Road
Angeles National Forest, CA 91342
(818) 899-5201

North of the San Fernando Valley in the Angeles National Forest, this 160-acre animal sanctuary was set up to rescue, rehabilitate and relocate all kinds of beautiful beasts, up to and including lions, tigers and bears. These critters, which have numbered more than 75,000 over the years and also include hyenas, foxes, leopards and reptiles, are found in the area and from around the globe. The animals are taken in at this outpost, which is said to be "one of the only licensed facilities of its kind in the United States."

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
(760) 367-5500

This Southern California desert locale near Palm Springs is a prominent bird watching sanctuary where golden eagles and Gambel's quail can easily be seen against this barren wonderland where roadrunners also roam. At night, a number of critters come out to play, including big horn sheep, black-tailed jack rabbits, and a host of snakes. During the day, lizards and squirrels enjoy the sunlight. If you're looking forward to spying on the reptiles, insects and some of the rodents, skip the winter months for your visit as these residents will be in hibernation until the spring.

Related: SoCal's Best Animal Rescue Groups

Shambala Preserve
(credit: J.C./Yelp)

Shambala Preserve
6867 Soledad Canyon Road
Acton, CA 93510
(661) 268-0380

California Fish and Game and a number of other official organizations - such as a number of humane societies - take advantage of Tippi Hedren-run Shambhala, a safe house for various beasts who have been taken away from circuses and even private residences in and around the Southland. Supported by the Roar Foundation, this preserve has set out to "educate the public about the dangers of private ownership of exotic animals." Visitors are invited to stop by this home to some 50 different kinds of big cats one weekend every month. Those who take advantage are told to keep their distance and are not allowed to hang over the fences built to keep the animals safe and secure. Those who make it to this amazing place must be more than 18 years old or older to visit and need to make reservations before visiting this outstanding sanctuary.

Sea Turtle 1Aquarium of the Pacific
(credit: Aquarium of the Pacific)

Aquarium Of The Pacific
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 590-3100

Marine life that typically thrives in the waters of the world are thoroughly enjoyed at this world-class outpost located in Long Beach, just a short jaunt from the Pacific. Animal encounters that have been made perfectly safe for visitors include the chance to get up close and personal with sharks, seals, sea otters, and penguins, among many other species. Meanwhile, those with open water certification or better can even dive into an Aquarium of the Pacific exhibit where you'll literally swim with the fishes -- in a good way, of course.

Related: Best Pet Rescue Shelters in Los Angeles

Los Angeles freelance travel writer Jane Lasky, contributes to publications such as Travel + Leisure, Vogue and Esquire. Her weekly sojourning column ran in 40 newspapers for 20 years. Jane is anything but an accidental tourist and always travels with her pillow. Check out her articles on

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