Best New Way to Learn: Adult Safari Camp! 

This year, we launched a brand-new Safari Camp experience for adults only, and it was a hit! In July and August, our Adult Campers came face-to-face with animal ambassadors, ventured behind the scenes, and learned from our experts about conservation efforts at the Zoo and around the world. We offered two unique camp experiences: Monkey Business and ZOOvivors. We could tell you all about it, but why not hear it directly from the perspective of a camper?

Zoo Crew Volunteer Jason taking a selfie with an animal ambassador

Meet Jason, a Zoo Crew Volunteer and one of our first adult campers of the season. He signed up for both Adult Camp programs during his summer“staycation” to learn more about the Zoo and the conservation programs we support.“What surprised me the most about the program was the wealth of information and how it was presented,'” said Jason.“Walking back into camp was a little unsettling because you were unsure what to expect. All I had were visions of camp as a kid. I was curious how those would fit into an adult setting and somehow [the Zoo] managed to do it successfully.”

In between meeting animal ambassadors, learning about the Zoo’s conservation initiatives, and talking to Zoo Keepers, campers played games, built bamboo forts, and used animal training practices to train each other new behaviors.

“I thought some of the activities were going to be too ‘kiddy’, but they were both fun and informative,” said Jason. “It was not enough to just listen to how the animals are trained at the Zoo, but we experienced a training session ourselves by learning and listening for the positive reinforcement that indicated we were doing what the trainer intended… Likewise, building tents in the adaptability challenge was equal parts challenging and exciting as you discovered new ways to adapt.”

But Adult Camp wasn’t all fun and games—with each activity, animal encounter, and hike, conservation was at the heart of it all.

“The conservation came across loud and clear,” Jason said. The behind-the-scenes activities really opened my eyes on how the Virginia Zoo is educating the public in the care of our animals and how these efforts help the species as a whole.

In fact, many of our campers picked up some great new conservation habits along the way. “The program has made a significant impact on my approach to conservation. Many of the animal ambassadors we met led to discussions about the human impact on the planet. As a result, I am mindful that the products I use are sourced from sustainable palm oil. I have reduced, or in some cases, eliminated single-use plastics in my life – no more shampoo or body soap bottles for me.  I follow species conservation efforts both at home and abroad and contribute where I can.

Still on the fence about joining us for Adult Camp next year? Take some advice from Jason: “Anyone interested in conservation or has a love of animals or a love for our planet should attend the Virginia Zoo’s  Safari Camp,” said Jason.

“Heck, even if you have a slight interest or you just want to have fun, then attend. It is a great way to learn why we need to conserve and how to begin right at home. The camp also helps us understand why zoos are important and what goes into the care and protection of these species locally and worldwide.” 

Adult Camps resume in Spring 2020. Stay tuned!