Discover Africa on the Sonoma Serengeti - Safari West is Home to Over 800 Exotic AnimalsSafari West is an authentic African Safari experience that allows guests an opportunity to see animals from all over Africa, rather than from one specific region. Nestled on 400 acres in the heart of California’s wine country, Safari West is home to over 800 exotic mammals and birds many of which are critically endangered. Not a zoo, not a drive-through park, it’s a wildlife preserve where the whole family can experience some of nature’s most beautiful animals in a natural habitat. Safari West has 14 safari vehicles (including a handicap accessible tour vehicle), 30 tents and 1 cottage.
Safari West is much more than a wildlife preserve, they raise awareness of their exotic animals and promote understanding through in-person contact. They offer intimate and professionally guided three hour safari tours. Most people’s only experience with a zebra, rhino, cheetah, giant tortoise or giraffe has only been on TV, Safari West provides an opportunity to see these majestic animals in a naturalistic habitat. A member of the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) they have an emphasis on breeding.
Founded in 1993 by Peter and Nancy Lang, the creative vision of Safari West belongs to Peter. While growing up in Southern California, Peter was surrounded by exotic wildlife.
When he was 13 years old a film company asked Peter to raise lion cubs, he cared for them from Easter through summer vacation for years, even taking them on the bus to go to the beach in Los Angeles. Peter’s father, Otto Lang was a ski pioneer and film and television director who exposed Peter to magnificent animals while working on shows such as; Daktari, Flipper, and Sea Hunt. “I was always hanging around the trainers and the animals and I guess I just never grew up,’’ Said Peter. In 1978 Peter discovered his passion for African hoofstock when he developed “the last working cattle ranch in Beverly Hills’’. He procured three African eland, the largest of the African antelope to eat shrubs so that grass would grow. Peter has also designed his own line of exquisite furniture, a myriad of pieces can be found throughout the Safari West property.
My family and I arrived the evening before our tour, checked in with the friendly staff and were personally escorted by a porter to our tent in an open cab jeep, all luggage in tow. Once we settled in we walked down the hill just in time for a delicious dinner at the Savannah Cafe. Appetizers at 6:30 consisted of various cheeses, fruits and tasty meatballs. Dinner at 7:00 was buffet style BBQ cuisine (cooked over an African style fire pit by Chef Robert Clifton) included; creamy mushroom soup, grilled chicken and ribs, mac and cheese, caesar salad, roasted asparagus and potatoes and a yummy vanilla cupcake for dessert. A very nice selection of beer and wines to choose from, we selected a bottle of Zinfandel that paired well with the rustic cuisine. A highlight to this meal was an amazing handmade wall of carved elephants in their “elephant room”. Each panel of this wall was exquisitely crafted from approx 20-25 individual railroad ties.
After the dinner they leave the fire pit burning and put out marshmallows and sticks so you can roast to your hearts content. We casually walked around the property catching glimpses of several different types of birds and animals including what I was sure were turkeys. Dozens of these friendly “turkeys” everywhere with beautiful blue heads looked like they were part a notorious “turkey” gang. We later found out that they were in fact not turkeys but helmeted guinea fowl. As the sun was nearly down, we decided it was time to head back to our tent and wind down for the evening.
We awoke to the many exotic sounds of Africa in our authentic handmade tent imported from Africa that was built on a high stilted wooden platform. Safari West’s tents are not those that you might be familiar with, these luxury tents are come complete with hardwood floors, plush comfortable beds, private bathrooms complete with tiled floors, copper basins and showers as well as a private deck that overlooks their lake, brilliant tall trees or their dozen or so giraffes. Yes, giraffes right in your backyard! We packed our bags and headed back down the hill to buy some breakfast only to learn that they offered a lovely continental breakfast to all of the tent guests as part of the stay. Boiled eggs, pastries, fresh fruit, toast, hot oatmeal and hot coffee and teas awaited us. Perfect fuel for our upcoming tour. After breakfast we went to check out and strolled through the gift shop that had everything except the kitchen sink, although I am not sure it could have been there somewhere. After checking out we were driven up to our tent, the porter helped to collect the bags and we were taken right to our car.
We met our very knowledgeable guide, Paolo Solari at the one of the large trees near the entry. Paolo gave us a run down on what we were to expect throughout the tour; 45 minute walking tour, 10 minute break and then 1.5 - 2 hours of the driving tour. We saw over 55 different species of birds, and Paolo knew about each and every one of them. A few cheetahs, some large tortoises, huge porcupines, at least 3 types of monkeys AND a brand new monkey baby who was only a few weeks old. It was so adorable and we were fortunate enough to get some great photos of the mama and baby and her trying to get him/her to be more independent.
Time to load up into our rugged, open-air safari vehicle (a 1950’s Dodge Power Wagon ) to start the driving portion of the tour. Each vehicle can hold approx 20 or so guests with a maximum of 4-5 up up on top (the best and most fun place to sit). We came across; 2 species of giraffe’s including a baby, over 18 species of antelope (including the 2nd smallest in the world a Blue Duiker to 2nd largest called the Common Eland), 3 very curious and flirty female ostrich’s, cape buffalo, a dozen or so zebra’s with 2 babies, 3 white rhino’s which interestingly enough are gray and many, many, many more. It would be nearly impossible to list all of the animals that we saw on the tour (Paolo could for sure) but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. We ended the tour with even more photos, tipped our guide and said our goodbyes. ? ?My family and I had such an amazing time at Safari West, you arrive not really knowing what to expect and leave feeling like you just had an once-in-a-lifetime experience. We plan to come back every year to watch the animals grow and see what new, hopefully next year BABY RHINO’S!
Safari West 3115 Porter Creek Rd Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Phone (707) 579-2551 Fax (707) 579-8777 www.safariwest.com