It’s Not Africa, But the Next Best Thing
For those who have always wanted the experience of an African safari, whether sleeping in tent cabins, getting photo opportunities, or seeing wild animals, there is a place near Santa Rosa, California, that has all that and more. It is like going to the Serengeti without the long airplane trip, the travel inconveniences, and the cost.
The Safari Tour
Safari West is a unique place near Santa Rosa, in California. Overnight camping facilities and a guided tour suggest being on the African plains. The tour begins walking among the enclosures containing small mammals and an aviary compound filled with exotic birds. Large turtles move across the grass, flamingos wade in their pond, playful lemurs romp on their island, and several cheetah, carefully penned in, dash to and fro, prancing and posing for the camera.
Then it is time to board the safari vehicle, a sturdy truck with a high seat over the driver and several tiered ones lower down, so that everyone has a great view. Locked fences are used to separate the animals into compatible groupings. The guide stops the truck often, shuts off the motor and describes which animals are nearby, something of their behavior, habits, and peculiarities. When halted near the giraffe, their long necks immediately lean over into the vehicle. It seems the giraffe have found the seat belts to be tasty.
Fairly new additions to the preserve are two white rhinos. A special walled compound was built for them and they are massive and fascinating to see. The preserve contains ostrich, Cape buffalo, Watusi cattle, eland, Grant’s gazelles, impala, kudu, wildebeest, and zebra as well as many others. The tour could have taken place on the plains of Africa.
As the sun sets, the ride ends, and the soft light colors the preserve with a golden glow. A buffet dinner is included in the overnight rate and consists of salad, grilled meat, and sides, along with dessert.
After the meal, a catfish feeding is held at the pond, followed by a marshmallow roast at the firepit. Flashlights are provided so that campers can find their way back to their tent as limited lighting is used at the Preserve.
The Tents at Safari West
Scattered throughout the grounds, but separated from the animal enclosures, are platform tents. The accommodations are very similar to those on the African plains. There is an outside deck, spacious bedroom area with one or two beds, several camp chairs and table, bedside lighting, and an attached full bathroom with shower, sink and flush toilet.
An electric blanket provides welcome warmth if the night is cool, and it is possible to lie in bed listening to the night animal sounds and bird calls. For early risers, there is the choice of an early morning viewing of the animals.
Breakfast is served from 8 to 9 a.m. with a selection of menu items.
History of Safari West
The owner, Peter Lang, lives on the premises and, along with his wife, has a passion for what they are doing. They are true animal and nature lovers who began Safari West in 1979 with the idea to protect and raise exotic animals. Since then, they have become members of the American Zoo and Aquarium organization and as such are able to breed and trade with other zoos. They made a conscious choice to have no predators on the preserve, thus there are no lions, leopards, alligators, or hyenas for example. But there are still plenty of animals to observe in the wild and the enclosures.
On site is a gift shop with many African handicrafts, clothing, and trinkets. All of the employees seem to genuinely enjoy their work at Safari West and go above and beyond to assist guests with any needs, queries or concerns.
Safari West is a fun, educational, romantic, charming, and relaxing place to visit. It is also close to Calistoga and wine country so can easily be visited in conjunction with a trip there.