Who is Gary Clarke?

Topeka Zoo guru Gary Clarke, the Zoo’s director emeritus, is an accomplished author and a seasoned safari guide whose passionate personal and professional journey is the catalyst for our Camp Cowabunga. Known for his wit and humor, Clarke has conducted 140 photo safaris connecting people from Topeka and around the world with animals and one another for memorable moments.

Gary-ClarkeNow in Phase I, Clarke and Camp Cowabunga will create a safari sojourn in our own backyard, a transformative “travel” experience for all ages blending educational, enrichment and entertainment opportunities.

Gary Clarke is a master teacher. He embraces a lifelong approach to learning for children of all ages. He is an expert on Africa and the animals. He uses his own unique brand of silliness to make such a foreign land accessible. He lives the “do it now” lifestyle for which he is famous. Looking at life through Gary Clarke’s vision is just better and more fun.

He does not tell people about Africa … or show them pictures. He helps them experience all that there is.

Gary Clarke has agreed to help create Camp Cowabunga at the Topeka Zoo, and we want to help create Camp Cowabunga for the Topeka Zoo as a tribute to the safari experience through Gary Clarke’s eyes.

In Gary’s words, “I admit that Africa seduced me. Nonetheless I succumbed. To me Africa was not a destination but a destiny, a raging passion, a fire within that was rekindled with each safari.” For those that shared the safari experience with him, they know this to be true. Camp Cowabunga is the opportunity for that passion and fire within to be shared with people who won’t get the opportunity to experience Africa with Gary like so many others did.

His unique vision and enthusiasm is vital to seeing this groundbreaking Safari of the Imagination through. We want people to visit the Topeka Zoo and come out with a piece of the safari experience all safarists hold near and dear. Let’s face it. Safari is an opportunity most people will never have. What a gift we can give children and adults who will never get to the continent.

We hope you want to be a part of this project as we make Gary Clarke’s imagination a reality at Your Topeka Zoo!  Learn how to donate here.

The Poetic Plea of GKC

For me and for you
And our Topeka Zoo
And the campaign, I declare
For Camp Cowabunga/Dung Beetle Square
(such a lovely affair)
Pauh-leeze do
As much as you can
As soon as you can
So I might yet scan
A future view
Of this dream come true
Before I leave you
For that Great Zoo in the sky
On my last safari, by and by.

Asante (Swahili for Thank You)

Gary K. Clarke
President for Life, Cowabunga Safaris
Director Emeritus, World Famous Topeka Zoo