Animals. Animals. Animals.
Safari West
Neil Wiley

If you like exotic animals, I recommend driving up to Santa Rosa for an overnight stay at Safari West. This wildlife preserve is home to over five-hundred individuals, and over one-hundred species of mammals, birds, and reptiles. The mammals are native to Africa and Madagascar. They represent omnivores, herbivores, and carnivores. You’ll also see almost a hundred species of birds from all over the world.

In some ways, Safari West is like a zoo. Most of the creatures are unafraid of humans, and some are downright friendly, but they are behind fences. Monkeys, a serval cat, porcupine, and fox are in rather small cages. Larger animals, such as giraffes, rhinos, and cheetahs, are in much larger enclosures. Herbivores, such as antelopes, cape buffaloes, wildebeests, and zebras, are in more natural settings of many acres. Most, but not all, birds are kept in aviaries, but unlike zoos, a guide can walk you through the main aviary. More common birds, such as guinea fowls and Canada geese, wander freely over the grounds.

The most important offering at Safari West is the safari tour. Small groups of up to eleven people ride in an open vehicle especially designed for wildlife viewing. A knowledgeable and friendly guide gives you lots of information and insights on a tour of the main grounds and the back county that can last up to two hours. For the tour, overnight guests pay $68 for an adult or teen, $30 for a child.

Speaking of overnight, sleeping in a luxury tent cabin is a special experience. It is reminiscent of an African safari camp, with some important differences. These cabins are much more comfortable, with 24-hour-a-day electricity and water, a short walk to the restaurant, and no need for mosquito nets.

After dark, you’ll believe you are in Africa. The night sounds are interesting but noisy. You hear cackles, bays, hoots, bellows, screams, hollers, crows, chirps, and “gallops” you’ve never heard before. The diversity and high density of animal life, especially large birds, makes for a continuing cacophony.

There are quieter times, too. One of the nicest sounds I heard on a casual walk was the purring of a cheetah. It went well with the laughter of children.

We enjoyed a free continental breakfast. It was okay, but you may find dinners a bit pricey. We brought our own sandwiches and snacks.

I’ve been on safari in Kenya, and this gives you some of Africa’s flavor with more convenience and less cost. Some might call this the Disneyland version of Africa, but if you love to see animals in a somewhat more natural environment, you’ll enjoy Safari West.

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