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SPECIAL TRAVEL ISSUE | GAME SHOW

Out of Africa

March 18, 2001

If a real African safari isn't an option, you can still have a game park experience without leaving Southern California at actress Tippi Hedren's Shambala Preserve in Soledad Canyon, where the wild animals are just outside your safari tent.

Hedren, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" and "Marnie," created the 72-acre game park in 1983 as a haven for abandoned, abused and unwanted exotic animals. Her menagerie, which includes lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, servals, mountain lions and an elephant, is about 40 minutes north of Los Angeles.

The Shambala mini-safari puts up no more than two guests at a time in the preserve's designer tent, known as the Malaika Marquee. Visitors arrive in the afternoon for their private safari, documented by a staff photographer, and then are offered cocktails and a catered dinner on the veranda of their tent. Hedren joins her guests for after-dinner coffee and drinks before escorting them on a midnight walk to view the animals in their nocturnal splendor. But the best part for visitors, says Hedren, is lying in the king-size feather bed as the big cats and elephant sound off all around them.

Even the bamboo shower is an adventure. "It has a window that looks out at the tiger, who's only 15 feet away," she says. "Of course, he can also watch you." All this comes with a hefty price tag--$2,500 per couple--but animal lovers can take heart: It's a partly tax-deductible donation to Hedren's nonprofit Roar Foundation, which raises money to house and feed the animals.

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Shambala Preserve, 6867 Soledad Canyon Road, Acton, (661) 268-0380, www.shambala.org. Guests must be 18 or older; $2,500 per couple, includes dinner, breakfast and beverages. Also, three-hour afternoon tours are offered one weekend per month, $35 per person.

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