NOTE: This blog was written and scheduled to post before the Kincade fire began. We are praying with intense fervor that Safari West in Santa Rosa and all the animals here are safe from threatening fire. Please pray for this magical place and all of it’s precious animals.
Do you want to go on an African safari, but just don’t have the time or money? Check out this amazing place in Sonoma County called Safari West!
Safari West began in the late 1980s when Peter Lang purchased 400 rolling acres in the Mayacamas Mountains near Santa Rosa, California. With 900 animals, from cheetahs to lemurs, wildebeeste to giraffes, there is always something interesting to see on their 3 hour long safaris.
This experience features two parts: a walking tour and then a ride aboard safari vehicles through the massive property to search for and view the animals. Your knowledgeable guide will share facts and tell stories about the animals as well as search out some of the more elusive species for you to see. Pricing varies from $45-100 depending on age and time of year, but trust me – you will not be disappointed! Book well in advance as this is a popular place.
Daniel booked this experience for us to celebrate my birthday last spring. Lucky me! It was a wet and cold day in April, but the animals didn’t care and we were so excited to be there. We started our adventure with the walking tour through their lower gardens led by a fact-filled guide. He had studied and done research in Africa and his stories were fascinating!
After the walkabout, we boarded the safari vehicles to explore the back 400 acres in search of the larger animals. Spring in Northern California can be cold and windy, so dress warm! They provided blankets for us to cuddle up with as we toured the property.
Safari West has a focus on conservation and education and offers several different experiences from school groups to keeper for the day to overnight experiences. They house and raise threatened species, educate, and nurture, in hopes that these animals will be valued and appreciated for many years to come.
This kudu was so funny! He had one horn that drifted off to the side.
I had never seen a Cape Buffalo before and here we are, gazing at a whole family of them! There were many more, roaming freely about this ‘Sonoma Serengeti.’
Roaming through the rolling green hills dappled by oak trees transported us to another place. Around every turn, we saw a new critter or learned more about the animals that Safari West nurtures.
The safari tour was informative and fun and adventurous! When we returned to our starting point, it was time to check into our home for the night. Safari West offers tent cabins for travelers who want a longer experience. These luxurious tent cabins were imported from Botswana and each offers a private viewing deck, en suite bathroom, polished wood floors, electric blanket to keep you warm and cozy during those cool nights, and of course….the wildlife sounds of the Sonoma Serengeti!
The tents are decorated with traditional African arts and crafts and the furniture is hand-crafted by the owner from local woods found on the property. We were enchanted by the decor and felt as though we had been transformed right out of Northern California to Africa. These cabins don’t come cheap, pricing is $300-400 per night depending on season and cabin type, but it was the highlight of our experience there. We spent the night listening to all the unfamiliar animal sounds, imagining we were far, far away in the wilds of Africa. You just can’t put a price on that kind of feeling. And for sure, it’s a much cheaper option than an Africa safari IN Africa!
Safari West offers a dinner option for overnight guests, an experience inspired by the legendary South African Braai (pronounced “bry,” in case you were wondering). A mainstay of South African tradition, the braai has expanded to become part of the cultural life of many neighboring nations, too.
While braai can be described as a close cousin of our own American barbecue tradition, it is also much more. It’s an excuse to get together, catch up with some old friends and make a few new ones. Christmas, birthday parties, bridal showers, or any old Thursday, there’s no wrong time to braai!
The food was delicious, plentiful, and we ate so much that we had to turn away dessert! The highlight of the dining room is this incredible wall carving. This piece of art was created from several discarded railroad ties, that’s how big it is! Each was carved individually and shipped across the ocean to Safari West to be reassembled. This was truly an awe inspiring piece and the photos don’t do it justice. If you go to Safari West and aren’t planning on having a meal there, ask if you can see this carved mural in the dining room – it’s definitely worth a look.
We enjoyed our meal and set out for another walk through the lower gardens as dusk was falling. Wandering down to the cheetah enclosure we weren’t expecting to see much, if anything, but in the quiet, we heard what sounded like a low purring sound. What? We approached the enclosure and spotted the female cheetah walking toward us, purring full volume! We absolutely couldn’t believe it! Who has ever heard a cheetah PURR! I’m sure some people have, but we sure hadn’t, and I’ll admit, I had tears in my eyes as we stood barely six feet from this wondrous animal in all her purring glory. A magical, once in a lifetime experience, for sure.
The night was dark and cool, filled with animal calls that we’d never heard before. Daniel and I snuggled close together under the warm blanket and soaked in every moment. The next morning we woke to a bright sunny day and went for a dawn walk before our breakfast.
These porcupines were so hilarious to watch! They chased each other around their enclosure, in and out of their tunnels, we couldn’t stop laughing at their antics. It was a wonderful way to start the day.
The giraffe enclosure was right across from our cabin and we wandered down for a quick visit after the provided continental breakfast before it was time to leave for home. This beauty came over to say hello to us. Isn’t she pretty?
If you want to go to Africa but can’t afford the real thing – or even if you can – Safari West is an amazing place to spend a day or two. Check it out!
Have you ever been to Safari West? Leave us comments below and don’t forget to share, like, and follow our blog! Thanks for reading!