Mountain Home, TX—Since she was two years old, giraffes have been my daughter Faith’s favorite animal.
It started when I bought her a gigantic plush giraffe on a road trip and she named it “raff raff” and has continued throughout the last eight years.
We jumped at the opportunity to let her meet giraffes in a safe, naturalistic setting and that is exactly what the wildlife tour at YO Headquarters provides.
Faith was nervous when the giraffe’s gigantic tongue reached out to grab the cookie she held but soon had a huge smile on her face and was as she said, “a bit of an expert” on feeding the animal of her dreams in short order.
“My dream came true,” she said.
You just can’t beat that kind of statement from your children.
“The giraffes are just amazing. They thrill everyone who visits them here in one of two huge pastures where we take our wildlife tours,” said Debbie Hagebusch, Director of Tourism for YO Headquarters.
Texas outdoors lovers know the YO Ranch for its exotic wildlife and Texas-sized mystique.
Steeped in history, the Y.O. Ranch remained the property of the Schreiner Family since 1880 when Captain Charles A. Schreiner began amassing the 566,000 acres of ranch land in the aftermath of the Civil War. From its humble beginnings as a vast ranch land, carrying through five generations, Y.O. Headquarters will continue operating as a premiere destination according to Hagebusch.
In October 2015, Byron and Sandra Sadler and their partners Lacy and Dorothy Harber purchased nearly 5,400 acres of the historical Y.O. Ranch.
A journey through the cedar and live oak thickets on the ranch is unlike virtually any other on the planet. On our first excursion we saw eland, the world’s largest antelope, a herd of gorgeous red sheep and a trio of zebras.
“We really have a lot to offer and it is in a part of the world that has a unique beauty. There is something special about walking outside of a cabin and looking out to the distance and seeing giraffes or Pere’ David’s deer and maybe get a glimpse of an eagle flying overhead,” Hagebusch said.
Since that first trip, I have returned three times, including taking a young boy from our Kingdom Zoo’s “Wild Wishes” program that grants exotic animal encounters to children who have a terminal illness or have lost a parent or sibling. YO Headquarters has welcome our wish kids with open arms.
The giraffe encounter was powerful for the young boy as was seeing a beautiful and rare white buffalo as we took the seven mile trek from the ranch house to the gate on Highway 41.
My most recent excursion involved returning with my wife and daughter and our young friend Demi who has served tirelessly in our ministry. She wanted to meet the giraffes and I needed some more wildlife photos so to YO Headquarters we went.
This time we got to see baby wildebeests born just a day before, view a super rare pair of white sika deer. I have seen thousands of sika and have never even heard of white ones until this trip.
And of course the giraffes were incredible.
Most that have never been to southern Africa don’t realize the Texas Hill Country looks very much like South Africa or Zimbabwe. That is why so much of the African game does well here.
And it is one reason why seeing a giraffe peek its head over the trees from a mile away in the huge enclosure is a special treat and it’s even more special when they come up close and you can see some of God’s most beautiful creations in living color, just a few feet away.
Even as someone who has had many tremendous wildlife encounters it gives me goose bumps every time.