The Five Greatest Animal Encounters Near Myrtle Beach

When you think of Myrtle Beach, you think sand, surf and Ferris wheels. Animal preserves and zoos aren’t the first things that come to mind. Even a passing interest in animals, wildlife and endangered species should draw you to this tourist mecca, though. You could even make it a point to visit Myrtle Beach just for the animals.

Here are five key excursions in and around Myrtle Beach where you can find the inner animal in you, learn a thing or two and bring back a stuffed animal souvenir to remind you of your animalized experience.

T.I.G.E.R.S.

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The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species is 17 miles south of Barefoot Landing and consists of a huge 50-acre animal preserve filled with leopards, tigers and wolves. Oh my. (Also, orangutans, chimpanzees and many more.) These animals aren’t behind sad cages a lot of the time. “Uncaged and close up,” T.I.G.E.R.S. promises.

As part of the Wild Encounters Tour, you’ll experience more than 60 big cats, apes, wolves and Bubbles the African Elephant. You can feed Bubbles, watch tigers run at full speed, and even meet a Liger, which is a very large leopard/tiger hybrid.

Inside the Barefoot Landing complex itself is an auxiliary T.I.G.E.R.S. exhibit called Preservation Station, where you can have a photo taken with a tiger cub or small ape. If you hit Preservation Station first and purchase a photo, you can get a $50 discount for the Wild Encounters Tour.

Waccatee Zoological Farm

Fifteen minutes from Myrtle Beach, this “Beast Kept Secret” has 100 species of animals across 50 acres. You’ll experience roaming buffalo and zebra, big cats, and Chico the chimp, who watches T.V. Many of the animals can be hand-fed.

The Waccatee Zoological Farm experience is is quite inexpensive and runs every day of the year, so check it out the next time you’re in Myrtle Beach.

Brookgreen Gardens

The Native Wildlife Zoo is one part of the giant Brookgreen Gardens cultural center, and as the name suggests, contains only animals native to South Carolina.

Home to wild snakes and alligators, this preserve also contains many species of birds, including bald eagles. You’ll also see foxes, river otters, and white-tailed deer. All of the animals here were either raised in captivity or are disabled enough to not be able to survive in the wild.

Carolina Safari Jeep Tours

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Load up in a large jeep and tour many parts of South Carolina’s history and wildlife on the Carolina Safari Jeep Tour. One particular section has a birds and alligator exhibit, where you can see gators up close. The rest of the tour takes you through the history of South Carolina, its geology and geography. If you’re fine with a bumpy ride and are willing to learn a thing or two, this one’s for you.

Ripley’s Aquarium

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Ripley’s has a massive, multi-level aquarium at Myrtle Beach, with exhibits that rotate in and out frequently. On the upper level, you’ll find the SLIME exhibit, containing eels, snails and mudpuppies. The Rio Amazon contains freshwater aquatic life native to the rainforest, including poisonous dart frogs, catfish and piranha. The Friendship Flats area allows you to touch those cool triangle-shaped beasts called rays.

On the lower level, Rainbow Rock is where you’ll find clownfish and the Regal Blue Tang like in Finding Nemo®. The Dangerous Reef is a tunnel and is the most popular exhibit at Ripley’s Aquarium. It contains moray eels, sandtiger sharks, sandbar sharks and nurse sharks, and the nature of the exhibit means you can almost touch them. The Discovery Center allows you to learn about and touch the wildlife, the Living Gallery contains the octopus and jellyfish, and Ray Bay contains stingrays and more sharks.

So Many Animals

Bluegreen has a terrific Myrtle Beach offer going right now, where you’ll get to stay at the fabulous Harbour Lights™ resort for a week. You’ll be free to explore any of the animal habitats, zoos or aquariums you please.

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Photo credit: Starfish by David Shankbone, CC-BY-2.0.
Photo credit: The Wild Life of Tigers by The Documentary Films Team, CC-BY-2.0.