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Owen’s First Birthday Safari Party!

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safari party

Please excuse me while I crawl into a cupboard and cry my face off because my sweet little miracle baby is already a year old!

Well, almost.

He’ll be a year old in less than a week, but we celebrated his birthday over labor day weekend so anyone who wanted to travel would have that extra day to get home if they needed it.

My husband chose the safari party theme, gave me a budget, and away I went planning, preparing, and pinning like cray-zay. I had so much fun, and I was absolutely thrilled with the results. Everyone at the party inflated my ego like whoa, complimenting me on the food, decor, and basically paying me off for all of my hard work.

It was awesome.

So I thought today I could pay it forward by giving you all of the deets and the links to the places and things I used to make this safari party all I wanted it to be and more. We had somewhere between 40-45 people at the party, and we had the perfect amount of food with zero leftovers.

I will add all of the recipes on one card at the end of the post so you can save the recipes to Ziplist or print them all at once so you will have everything for your very own safari party all in one place.


First things first, you can’t have a party without a great invitation. I designed Owen’s in Photoshop by downloading a free African tree brush pack and a free animal font as well as a safari-esqe font. I then had them printed for a great price and shipped to me within a reasonable time. I ordered orange envelopes to match, and they were practically perfect in every way!

I say practically perfect because I’m a bobo and completely forgot to add what time the party started, and we also had a bit of a mishap with the first batch of printing due to a printer’s error.


Luckily one of our cousins pointed out the time mistake very quickly (but too late to get them reprinted), and I was able to Facebook everybody on our invite list and give them the time. Overnightprints also was very professional about my issues, and they reprinted them without any problems and reshipped them to me for free.

Owen's 1st Birthday Safari Party

Next up was planning the menu. As you know, I have some serious back issues so I tried to plan things that were quick, easy, and delicious. I also made myself a strict timeline so I could make and freeze some of the food ahead of time in order to just throw them in the oven the day of the party.

It was super smart, but my back still hurt for daaaaaaaaayz afterwards.

The menu was completely safari themed, and I had such a blast putting everything together.

Owen's 1st Birthday Safari Party-22

The snake sandwich sliders slithered their way into the stomachs of my guests, and they were an absolute smash.

The recipe is a cinch and you may have even seen them called funeral sandwiches at some point because the original recipe blew up Pinterest several years ago. I’ve made them a ton, and they are always the first thing to go at a gathering.

Owen's 1st Birthday Safari Party-37

The next biggest hit were the meatballs which I adapted from this recipe from Gimme Some Oven as well as this one from The Crockpot Ladies.

These things were incredible!!! I probably ate about 457 of them before I ever served them to my guests. They were more like Asian meatballs rather than Afrian, but whatevs. They were the bomb diggity.

Owen's 1st Birthday Safari Party-29

Next up was Simba’s lion veggie tray. People were so impressed by it , but it really couldn’t have been simpler. Some people even commented that they didn’t want to eat it because it was a work of art.

I can’t take credit for it though! I found the idea on Pinterest.

Owen's 1st Birthday Safari Party-32

The “guano” funfetti dip was my husband’s idea, and I thought it was disgustingly hilarious. Y’all know what guano is, right? #googleit

With our over abundance of blueberries, I couldn’t resist, and it ended up being pretty good.

I originally got the idea from this recipe on Eat Yourself Skinny, but I used homemade whipped cream and vanilla yogurt instead of plain. I also served it with full-fat and iced animal crackers because, why not?

Although it was pretty tasty, I probably wouldn’t make it again unless I did everything from scratch. I’m not sure if it was the chemicals or the baking soda in the boxed caked mix, but it made your mouth tingle and got so thick that it made you feel like you were eating cold, raw cake batter.

Sort of ick.

Owen's 1st Birthday Safari Party-34

Next up were the “elephant ears” or savory palmiers which are a recipe from Ina Garten on the Food Network. These were made with puff pastry, pesto, sundried tomatoes, and goat cheese. This recipe was one that I made in advance, cut, froze, then baked on the morning of the party.

Now that I think about it, we did have some of these left, but they were quickly eaten up by my parents later that night as we all sat on the couch exhausted after the day’s festivities.


The remainder of the menu was just some basics: deviled eggs, fried “ostrich” from our favorite chicken joint, chocolate covered pretzel rods that looked like tiger, zebra, leopard, and giraffe tails, a fruit tray, and “hippos” in a blanket that I made several days in advance, froze, then reheated on the day of the party.

Owen's 1st Birthday Safari Party-1

At the “watering hole” I served a green apple jungle juice and ice water with bamboo paper straws and zebra and leopard print straws. The green apple jungle juice was sweet and tart with just enough added fizz. We didn’t have too many kids there so if you plan to have a larger group, I would suggest doubling the recipe.

Owen's 1st Birthday Safari Party-12-2

For the adults I had a Safari sangria that was completely swoonworthy. I soaked kiwis, watermelon, grapes, strawberries, peaches and plums overnight in half a bottle of Smirnoff Sorbet Light mango passionfruit vodka then added that to the rest of the drink, and dear heavens I could swim in that stuff all day long.

Owen's 1st Birthday Safari Party-12

Last but not least were the cupcakes! I was so happy with them. First off, the cupcake stand is nothing but cardboard boxes wrapped in dollar store wrapping paper, stacked, and taped together with duct tape. I also hot glued a ribbon around the bottoms of each box.

I got the cupcake toppers (along with the majority of the decorations) from this website and the cupcake wrappers from Walmart.

I made one double batch of my go-to chocolate lover’s cupcakes (cake only) using Jessica’s recipe from How Sweet Eats, and I also made one large batch of vanilla from The Little Kitchen. In total I ended up with about 65 cupcakes.

I made the cupcakes on Thursday, stored them in cupcake containers and frosted them with chocolate and vanilla buttercream on Friday night. So all I had to do on Saturday morning was give the vanilla cupcakes a chocolate drizzle, arrange them on the stand, and add the toppers.

Owen's 1st Birthday Safari Party-26-2

Owen had a gluten-free, grain-free, refined sugar-free smash cake with coconut whipped cream frosting, but I’m going to have to give you the recipe later b/c I left it back in NC and I’m at home in Charleston at the moment.

Since Owen has been feeding himself from the beginning, he didn’t really go too crazy over his cake. He didn’t really smash anything, but we’re going to give him the real deal (probably using Jessica’s funfetti cupcakes this time) on his actual birthday so maybe he’ll tear that one apart instead.

Owen's 1st Birthday Safari Party-91

Owen got a ton of wonderful gifts, but his absolute favorite was the giant teddy bear that is bigger than I am. This teddy bear was given to him by his great aunt who has given one of these to each of the great grandchildren in the family.

Owen can’t get enough, and he likes to bite the bear’s nose.

safari party

Well, I think that’s it! I know it’s a ton of information, but I’m hoping this post will help a mom like me who wants to throw an amazing safari party without having to scour the internet for every single little detail.

You can just book mark this page and have all the links, recipes, and ideas stored in one place and make things a little bit easier for yourself.

Owen’s First Birthday Safari Party!

5 from 1 vote
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Author: Amber


Snake Sandwich Sliders:

  • 4 packages King's Hawaiian Rolls sliced in half
  • 2.5 lbs thinly sliced Black Forest ham stacked and cut into quarters
  • 2 lbs sliced provolone or Swiss cheese stacked and cut into quarters
  • 3 sticks butter melted
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp spicy deli or dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 black olives
  • 1 small slice red bell pepper

For the African Meatballs:

  • 4 lbs ground beef
  • 1 small sweet onion minced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tsp fresh or ground ginger
  • 3 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 18 oz jars pineapple preserves
  • 2 7 oz jars hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp fresh or ground ginger
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce or to taste
  • toasted sesame seeds and fresh cilantro for garnish

For Simba's Lion Veggie Tray:

  • 1 batch or package sweet potato boiled peanut, or store bought hummus
  • 1 bunch celery sliced into sticks
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced into strips
  • 1 orange bell pepper sliced into strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper sliced into strips
  • 1 package baby carrots
  • 6 black olive rings
  • 1 small cherry tomato or cherry pepper
  • 6 bell pepper strips

For the Guano Funfetti Cake Batter Dip:

  • 1 box Funfetti cake mix
  • 1 8 oz carton heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 2 tbsp pure cane or coconut sugar

For the Green Apple Jungle Juice:

  • 1 packet unsweetened green apple Koolaid
  • 1/2 cup monk fruit in the raw
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 46 oz can pineapple juice
  • 12 oz frozen lemonade concentrate thawed
  • 3 liters of ginger ale

For the Safari Sangria:

  • 1 peach sliced
  • 1 plum sliced
  • 2 kiwis peeled & sliced
  • 1 cup strawberries quartered
  • 1 cup green grapes
  • 1 cup purple grapes
  • 1/2 bottle Smirnoff Sorbet Light Mango Passionfruit vodka
  • 1 magnum bottle 1.5 liters Yellowtail Pinot Grigio
  • 1 bottle Yellowtail Moscato
  • 1 33 oz container guava nectar
  • 3-4 cans Sprite zero


For the Snake Sandwich Sliders:

  • In a small bowl whisk together the butter, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire, onion powder, and poppy seeds until well combined. Set aside.
  • Place the bottoms of the rolls on a large baking sheet(s) lined with parchment NOTE: IT'S FINE IF THE SANDWICHES TOUCH.
  • Add one small slice of provolone to each bottom, then add two slices of ham on top of the cheese, follow up with another small slice of provolone, then sandwich each slider with the tops of the rolls.
  • Liberally brush the brown sugar mustard on top of each slider, cover with tin foil, then refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours, but 24 hours is best. Refrigerate the brown sugar mixture in a sealed container.
  • To serve, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees (F).
  • Re-melt the brown sugar mixture, remove the foil, then liberally brush the tops of each roll again. Pour any remaining sauce over the tops of the rolls, recover with the foil, then bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until they are golden brown.
  • Using one of the rolls from the corner of a package, secure two black olives with toothpicks for the snake's eyes and add one slice of red pepper for the tongue.
  • Place the remaining sliders behind the snake's head in a slithering shape and serve.

For the African Meatballs:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine beef, onion, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix together until well combined. NOTE: DO NOT OVER WORK THE MEAT OR THEY'LL GET TOUGH.
  • Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, shape the mixture into 60-65 balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through. Allow to cool completely.
  • Put baking sheets directly into the freezer and freeze the meatballs for 2 hours then transfer to large freezer bags until party day.
  • On the day of the party, add meatballs to a large crockpot, whisk together pineapple preserves, hoisin sauce, ginger, and sriracha then pour over the meatballs. Cook on low for 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro right before serving.

For Simba's lion veggie tray:

  • Spoon the hummus into the middle of a large serving platter and smooth into a circle.
  • Starting from the outside edges of the platter and working in, arrange the celery in a large circle, followed by the bell pepper, and finally the baby carrots.
  • Use two whole olive rings for the eyes, a cherry pepper or tomato for the nose, and sliced olive rings for the mouth and whiskers.

For the Guano Funfetti Cake Batter Dip:

  • Add blueberries and sugar to a large heat safe bowl and microwave for 4 minutes or until hot and bubbly and sugar is dissolved. Cool completely.
  • Pour whipping cream into the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir in the cake mix until there are no lumps left then fold in the yogurt.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl, top with half of the blueberry mixture, and serve with animal crackers of choice.

For the Green Apple Jungle Juice:

  • Add kool aid packet and monk fruit to a large pitcher, top with water, and stir until monk fruit is dissolved.
  • Add pineapple juice and lemonade concentrate and stir.
  • Right before serving, pour in gingerale.

For the Safari Sangria:

  • Add the fruit and vodka to a large plastic container and refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally.
  • In a large drink dispenser, combine wine, guava nectar, and sprite and stir.
  • Stir in fruit and half of the vodka (or more if you want it super strong) and serve.
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Love y'all!

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  • MIa
    September 4, 2014

    I want to be like you when I grow up and have kids. That all looks so amazing!

    • amber
      September 4, 2014

      Thanks, girl! Hope married life is treating you well!

  • Hannah
    September 4, 2014

    WOW!!!! Why did I have to miss out on this…

    • amber
      September 4, 2014

      I wish you were there! Maybe next time. Hope all is well with you!

  • Bren
    September 18, 2014

    This is really adorable! Great job 🙂

    • Amber
      September 18, 2014

      Thanks so much, Bren! I appreciate it!