To say that 2020 has been a weird year would be an understatement. However, there are always a few bright spots in every challenging time. We’d planned on an Alaska cruise this summer, but since that wasn’t happening, we decided to pivot to some local travel choices. One of those was our recent safari trip with our family. Usually, you have to pack up and travel to Africa for a trip like this, but of course that wasn’t happening with the travel restrictions.
Fortunately, a friend tipped us off to a privately-owned wildlife preserve nestled in the wine country of California. It’s a little place located in Santa Rosa called Safari West. What a fab-u-lous place! It turned out to be one of our BEST vacations ever. You can find them at SafariWest.com.
Safari AND Glamping
One thing I really enjoyed was the glamping aspect of our stay. Here’s exactly how I feel about camping!
Dirt and bugs and roughing it are definitely not my style, so I was very pleased to see that they offered a terrific glamping-style solution. They are technically huge canvas tents, but they have hardwood floors, real bathrooms, and full-sized beds! Now that I can get on board with. Here’s my daughter-in-law showing off our tent. I think they had about 30 of them scattered all around the property. We had a nice view of the giraffe paddock off our shady patio.
It was a pretty neat place to stay and it was very comfortable, although we got a little chilly because we left the tent flaps down the first night. But they had electric blankets and space heaters and that helped a lot. It was also pretty NOISY at night. You’re in a natural setting so we had expected that.
We were kind of between the flamingo pond and the duck and geese ponds, and they were, um pretty chatty. Really chatty! All night long. But that’s OK, we didn’t mind.
At least we weren’t by the lemurs. These guys were REALLY noisy at times.
We loved that we could spend as much time as we wanted looking around at a lot of the smaller animals, like the monkeys, the cheetahs, the porcupines, and the lemurs. We got some great photos and videos. All of us really LOVE animals and it was cool for us to have a chance to get up close and personal with them. For an extra charge, you can indulge in some of the extra behind the scenes tour where you can help feed the animals and spend some extra time with them, but we were happy with the time we had.
They also have a terrific aviary. Loved these scarlet Ibises and cranes nesting in the trees.
Look at these too-cute baby monkeys playing. The little guy is named Huckleberry and the larger one is his brother Max.
The Actual Safari
On the second day, we had our actual safari tour. This is where you pile into a huge land rover-type vehicle and go out onto the property with a guide to see the large animals. We are adventurous types, so of course we wanted sit up top. It’s about an hour-long tour and we just loved it.
Note that they did take all the right hygiene precautions – masks, social distancing, and clear partitions between families in the vehicles. They even have to be careful around the animals. The primates, cheetahs, and I think the giraffes are susceptible to it.
Here’s a little video of the flamingos from our tour. As you can see – NOISY.
One thing we really enjoyed was the food at the park. They have a nice little in-house restaurant and the food was amazing. A complimentary full breakfast is included with your room – fresh fruit, yogurt, eggs, cereal, your choice of breads, pretty much whatever you’d like. We also booked lunch and dinner with them at an extra cost and we were so happy we did – it was WONDERFUL.
Look at this lovely patio with this beautiful custom fireplace. They served us fresh fruit and cheese, the best smoked chicken and brisket we’ve ever had and delicious baked mac & cheese followed by rich brownies topped with ice cream. It was a delightful meal and they even serve a variety of California wines, although we’re more soda drinkers. And the staff was just as nice and helpful as they can be.
We felt very lucky to be able to be there. During the awful California wildfires this summer and Fall, things were looking very scary. They’ve had several fires before and one even burned a small portion of the property a couple of years ago. The property owner Peter Lang stayed behind to protect the animals and help put the fire out while his own home burned to the ground.
This time, the fires got to within about 10-15 miles of the property and they were making plans for emergency evacuation of the animals, but somehow the firefighters managed to keep the fires back, bless them! We were watching their Facebook page for daily updates and praying for the safety of the animals. It’s not easy to quickly evacuate large animals like giraffes and rhinos, especially through twisty and narrow mountain roads. I have no idea how they would’ve managed it, but thankfully they didn’t have to. Although I heard that like 7 major wineries in the area were lost – so sad.
But it was such a wonderful trip. We’d love to go back there some time. If you get a chance to visit there, I’d definitely do it. It would be a unique vacation to remember.