A Wildlife Safari - In the heart of the California's Wine Country
While Sonoma County in Northern California is known for its Wine Region, few people know about its other attraction - Safari West. Home to over 400 exotic African mammals and birds from all over the world - many of which are endangered or extinct in the wild, this amazing place is open for visitors year-round.
Founded by Peter and Nancy Lang in 1989, this 400-acre preserve was originally a breeding facility for wild and endangered animals. In 1992 it opened up for educational school tours and then in 1993 they decided to open it up for the general public to enjoy. The preserve now also offers overnight accomodations.
Our trip to Safari West
A couple of weeks ago, our family of four decided to check it out on a beautiful Saturday morning. We were fortunate to get reservations (a must if you go) for the safari. As soon as we entered the preserve, we felt like we were in the plains of Africa. Surrounded by giraffe, screaming lemurs and a very industrious looking hornbill, we waited for our tour to begin. The 2.5-hour tour comprises of about 2 hours in an open-air jeep and the rest a stroll to see the cheetahs and an amazing aviary (where birds live).
Seated on the roof of the open-air jeep, we set off with our extremely proficient and friendly driver/guide, Helene. Out first stop was the giraffes where to our delight one of them decided that a tear in the green cloth roof of our jeep looked like grass and started to munch on it - while drooling on the people sitting below (yuk!). After that, we drove deep into the wilderness, rocking up and down the hilly terrain. We saw herds of zebras, antelopes, billy goats balanced on steep hillsides, some scary looking african cape buffalo and lots of other animals. The tour was very leisurely, with time to take lots of pictures and ask questions about each species of animal. Helene also told us a lot about each one of the animals we saw.
After our jeep tour and a quick lemonade/hot chocolate break, we went for our walking tour, where we saw the beautiful cheetahs, large porcupines and the amazing aviary, that houses beautiful and exotic birds including small rust-breasted geese, whistling tree ducks and the scarlet ibis.
Not wanting to leave after such a fun day, we decided to check into a "Tent Camp" and spend the night at the reserve.The "Tent Camp', turned out to be a cabin with hardwood floors, two luxurious queen beds (with heated blankets), and best of all patios, with views of the animals (mostly giraffe).
For dinner, we went to the clubhouse for a delicious safari-style buffet dinner. Since the clubhouse only had communal tables (large tables) we had fun mingling with some other guests also from the bay area. After dinner, we borrowed some books from the small library and settled into our comfortable warm beds for the night.
In the morning we awakened to the sounds of screaming lemurs and saw the giraffes gliding across, from out tent. After a filling continental breakfast (included with the room), and a mandatory trip to the gift shop, we set off for our lonnnnnnng journey home - exactly an hour away.
What a perfect weekend getaway! We would love to hear from our readers who have been to Safari West. Don't forget to add your contribution below.
For more information on Safari West check our their website at www.safariwest.com.
Enjoy this fascinating video taken last August, capturing the birth of a baby giraffe at Safari West.