SANTA ROSA, CA – Safari West is OPEN and there are two adorable baby giraffes to see, Ollie and Mollie. Ollie, who was named by those who participated in an online survey, was born in February and Mollie, the newest arrival, was born in March. While visiting a few days ago, I was struck by how much there is to see and learn at Safari West.
As I arrived at Safari West to catch up with Nate Woodward, Naturalist & Tour Guide, multiple families with little ones as well as couples both local and on vacation were arriving to check in for their scheduled 4 o’clock Safari Tour. Their excitement was palpable, I could hear birds from around the world making their presence known and something I was not expecting was also occurring on the grounds, a dinner service was being prepared and it smelled delicious. Less than a 20-minute drive from downtown Santa Rosa, Safari West seems like a completely different world. It is often compared to Botswana, Africa even being dubbed the “Sonoma Serengeti” and yet, it is right at home within all the numerous attractions that Sonoma County has to offer.
Currently, Safari West offers five guided Safari Tours daily with advance registration. Visitors ride in a custom open-air jeep with a chance sit in the coveted top seats that provide guests a bird’s eye view of their 400-acre wildlife retreat. COVID precautions are in effect and executed with care including a wipe down of all surfaces with disinfectant between tours and when a switch is orchestrated of the top seat to allow everyone a chance to take in the view. Plastic barriers are secured between groups or families which can easily be removed if a group consists of just one family. And, of course, masks are required.
The availability of these Safari Tours and overnight stays have been made possible at 25% of their original capacity with Sonoma County’s move into the Red Tier for COVID Restrictions. Interestingly, their inventive online series “Zoomfari,” a private behind the scenes experience which may include visits to the giraffe barn, warthog pen, Amani Oasis aviary, and more are still extremely popular.
On the Safari Tour animals from Africa are everywhere. Of course, the giraffes are a towering delight. They saunter right up to your jeep to say “hello” alongside the Kudu who share their habitat. In all, there are 14 giraffes including one grown male bull. Here’s where you may spot the baby giraffes coming in and out of their barn already more than 6’ tall. As the tour continues towards the base of The Hill, a 100-acre area that boasts seven species of animals, you will first encounter three Southern White Rhinoceroses. Once on the Hill’s trail there are often packs of animals roaming and resting in the shade including Cape Buffalo, Zebra, Bontebok and Roan Antelope. We were even treated to witnessing Grant Gazelle and their amazing leaping ability.
It is here that I started to realize the scope of Safari West is so much more than a trip to the zoo. The goals of conservation, education and exploration all anchor the facility and are intertwined on the tour. I learned that there are currently three guides who have traveled to Africa and brought back expert guiding skills to share, everything you see on the grounds was probably built on the premises with natural materials, full vet services are available and during the most recent fires many of the staff stayed at the facility to care for and protect the animals. I am looking forward to returning to learn more, enjoy the walking tour to spend more time observing the lemurs, numerous birds & cheetahs as well as take in the adventure of an overnight stay.
Overnight reservations can be made for one of their thirty luxurious accommodations that look nothing like the tent my family drags out when camping at the beach. Their tents are imported from Botswana and customized on the property, complete with a private viewing deck, en-suite bathroom, polished hardwood floors and from what I am told the beds are so comfortable that guests often ask where they can purchase one after a stay. An add-on dinner option can also be reserved for either 5 or 7 pm and this option is available for all of the Safari Tours as well. It is essential to make reservations well in advance and while the weekends are the most popular, you may be able to score a week day reservation for either a tour or an overnight stay with approximately a two-week lead time.
Safari West makes for a wonderful local adventure for the whole family during these still uncertain times. You can be sure that the staff at Safari West will take great care of you while providing insights on how we can all take better care of the world and wildlife all around us.
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