I love elephants and so do my kids. So a trip to the Two Tails Ranch, an elephant rescue in Williston, Florida, was right up our alley. Two Tails Ranch is a 100 acre elephant rescue run by Patricia Zerbini and her family. They give tours of the ranch by appointment.
The tour starts with Patricia coming out, introducing herself, telling you a little about the elephants that they have at the facility at the time, and answering any questions that you might have. She will keep going until the group runs out of questions and there didn’t seem to be any question that stumped her. She was able to answer questions about each elephant’s personality, how they stick together in families, what (and how much) they eat (spoiler alert: it’s a lot), and questions about their anatomy. After the question-and-answer period ran its course, she brought out an easel and some paints for Luke, one of the male elephants, to paint a picture. This was really fun to watch and everyone in the family enjoyed it.
After this, anyone who has purchased the up-close photo-op will take their pictures, so be prepared to wait for a bit. This is the perfect time to grab a snack either from the snack bar or from your car if you brought one along. for the kids. Please note you are not allowed to bring snacks on the tour, so they must be eaten before the tour continues. The next stop on the tour is to meet two other elephants. If you purchased the hand-feeding experience, they’ll have you come up and feed them carrots. We do recommend spending the extra $5 per person for the hand feeding experience, as it is fun for the kids to get up close to the elephants and feed them. Trust me, your kids will be disappointed if they don’t get to feed the elephants, especially since they will have to watch a lot of other people feed them. On our tour, most of the group had purchased this experience.
After the elephants have been fed, you go on to see some of the other animals on the ranch. They have several tortoises, a camel, a family of lemurs, and a zebra, as well as an emu, an ostrich, a donkey and a zebu bull. Patricia knows about these animals as well, providing a lot of information about not only the animals and how they need to be cared for, but about how they are treated as pets (and the commitment that people are making in adopting these animals).
Throughout the tour, Patricia provides a lot of information. She is a little gruff – this isn’t the first time she’s heard your question – but she gives a complete answer and explains everything well. It is also fascinating to watch her with the elephants. During the tour, she explains the social structure and how she is at the top. Watching her with them, it is clear that this is true. She gives commands to the elephants and they respond. When it was time to feed them, she was able to position them next to each other without any issues.
After the tour, you can ride an elephant (for an additional charge), if the weather cooperates. You are also free to explore part of the grounds, going back to some of the animals – like the tortoises and get a longer look at them. The lemur family provided a great deal of entertainment to some children who were in our group. There is also a small museum, where you can see an elephant skull, mammoth tusk, and other artifacts. There is also a gift shop where you can buy, among other things, paintings done by the elephants.
All the proceeds from the sales of tickets, of food, and of souvenirs, go back to taking care of the animals. It is very clear, when listening to her talk, that Patricia cares deeply about the elephants that she is caring for, and for elephants in general. She warned us that elephants may be extinct within 5-10 years and you could tell how much this hurt her.
While our group was small – around twenty – Twin Tales Ranch says they can take groups of up to 100. Be warned that a large group will take longer as the experiences within the tour can take some time. With a large group of people, it may also be harder to see, as most of the tour is walking around a small area.
This quiet little gem is well worth a trip. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and even better, everyone learned something new including the adults.
Two Tails Ranch Location:
18655 NE 81st Street, Williston, FL 32696
Phone number: (352) 528-6585