Before we go any further, I think it's only fair to warn you, right off the bat, that this is going to be a LONG post filled with photos (totally worth the read though). I took a LOT of pictures on our safari! Like, nearly 300 of them!! Don't worry, I didn't put them all in the post. I picked out my faves to share with you <smile>. That being said, you might want to grab a coffee or a cold drink and a snack, or plan to take an intermission or two when you need it. I won't hold it against you <wink>
Tip: Want to learn more about the animals pictured? It's easy! Just click on the picture, and a new window will open taking you to the Safari West website.
Safari West is a magical place! Although, this African safari is located in Santa Rosa, CA in the heart of California's wine country, you are quickly transported to an African savanna where the sights and sounds of the Serengeti fill the air. How cool is it knowing just north of San Francisco you can experience an African safari?! We can't wait to go back!
When we arrived at Safari West, we were greeted with a smile by our guide for the day, Robert. He also came with a step stool in hand, so we could climb into the safari vehicle without falling flat on
Don and Madison chose the best seat in the house, while I stayed down below, because, you know, someone had to keep Robert company. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!
Robert is warm and friendly, as well as very passionate about the animals and his job. Luckily for us, he loves to share his knowledge, because we very much enjoyed listening and learning from him. Robert's stories about Safari West and the animals, with a few old movies mixed in, were a real treat! Just look at that smile! What's not to love?!
As Robert drove us around the preserve, he explained that Safari West was Founded in 1993 by Peter and Nancy Lang. Later that same year they started offering authentic African safaris. At the time, they had 150 acres of enclosures that allowed naturalists to promote wildlife advocacy and conservation through educational safaris.
Today, Safari West is home to over 900 exotic animals and approximately 90 different species! Instead of enclosures, it is now a natural habitat that has grown to over 400 acres! They are dedicated to their ongoing mission of wildlife preservation through breeding, education, research, and public interaction.
This very curious giraffe wanted to be our guide for the day!
Safari West believes observing the animals up close in their natural habitat gives one a greater appreciation for their beauty and importance in the world. After experiencing this first hand, I couldn't agree more.
It is more than a zoo, folks, and something I hope you get to experience if you are ever in California's wine country. There are so many reasons to plan a trip to Safari West, but I love this one... Look at THIS face! Is that a smile? I think so! Cuteness overload!
Because we visited in the Spring, we were fortunate to witness several mothers nursing their babies, like this sweet little zebra. It was heart warming and left us speechless. Look at that face!
Although, I feel strongly that this beautiful preserve is much more than a zoo, Safari West has earned full accreditation in the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. They are one of only six private facilities in North America to belong to that prestigious organization. Impressive!
At each new animal sighting, Robert would stop so we could take pictures. He took each opportunity to share his knowledge and enthrall us with personal stories about the animals, many of which he called by name!
Is this cape buffalo laughing at us? haha
About halfway through our safari, Robert stopped at the top of a picturesque hill overlooking animals grazing in the preserve enjoying the afternoon sun.
Because we were on the Winos and Rhinos Safari (BEST name ever!), Robert brought out a picnic basket filled to the brim with wine, local cheese, homemade preserves, crackers, chocolates, the list goes on.
It was an amazing spread! Life definitely Tastes Good at Safari West! We could get used to this! So much so, that I was inspired to come home and create my own cheese platter. Be on the lookout for my upcoming post How to Make a Cheese Platter. I could
With my how to post, I'll be sharing more stunning photos from Safari West! Click here to subscribe to Life Tastes Good and you will receive my cheese platter post as well as all of our recipes free in your inbox.
Then we saw this guy and his friends!! Gotta have rhinos on the Winos & Rhinos Safari! This is the Southern White Rhino. They are listed as 'near threatened'. All rhinos face severe threats from human poachers due to the extreme value that has been put on the rhino horn for the perceived medicinal benefits. Sadly, rhino poaching has come to push some species to the brink of extinction.
After enjoying the driving portion of our safari, we took some time to walk around the beautiful grounds. Safari West has luxury tents y'all! Glamping is my kinda camping! Can you imagine spending the night in one of these beautiful tents overlooking the savanna with sounds of the Serengeti to lull you to sleep?! Yes, please!!
Although, we didn't spend the night on this trip, we are definitely planning that on our next visit to San Francisco! Have you ever seen such a gorgeous tent? With tents like these, I may have to move in...
Safari West even has its own cafe and provides ranch style BBQ lunches and dinners. You can dine indoors or on the veranda around the African “Moto” (fire pit), surrounded by vine-covered arbors while you sip a glass of wine or cold brew overlooking the idyllic setting in the gorgeous California sunshine. Ahhhhh....perfection! Seriously, y'all, my family had to drag me out of there! So beautiful!
The setting sun cast a stunning glow across the entire savanna. It was mesmerizing...
Plan ahead! African Safari Adventures are offered daily at specific times throughout the day, but reservations are required. Our guide recommended the morning safari or the late afternoon one for best animal sightings. The morning safari is usually offered at 9am with the late afternoon starting at 4pm.
We very much enjoyed the 4pm safari. The animals were very active and curious and the lighting was beautiful, especially near the end when the sun was setting. It was magical!
The driving portion of the safari is about 2 1/2 hours and there are restrictions for children under 4, so if you have a little one please refer to the Safari West website or give the reservations department a call (800) 616-2695
Safari West also offers specialty safaris like the Winos and Rhinos Safari we enjoyed. These are private safaris that make your excursion even more intimate and personalized. Perfect for groups! Visit the Safari West website for all the details.
They even offer Corporate Adventures. What a super idea for a team building weekend!
Also, check out the FAQ's on the Safari West website as they have lots of great info.
Safari West is located about 75 miles north of San Francisco in California's Wine Country, so you don't have to spend 20 hours on a plane and travel halfway around the world to experience Africa.
You do have to spend some time in the car if you are taking a day trip from San Francisco like we did. It's about an hour and a half drive, but we gave ourselves an extra hour in the event of traffic. If you happen to arrive early, no worries, the grounds are beautiful and there is plenty of wildlife to enjoy while just walking around before your African Safari Adventure.
Be sure to check the website for specific directions in the event the GPS signal drops. I was prepared with printed directions from the website, so we found the entrance easily.
You'll be on the driving portion for about 2 1/2 hours, so be sure everyone visits the restroom before climbing into the safari vehicle. There are no pit stops out on safari, and I'm not sure sneaking behind a bush is a good idea with cape buffalo and wildebeest roaming around.
Additionally, depending on the time of day you venture out on safari, the temperature can vary as wildly as the animals, so be prepared by dressing in layers.
You'll be exposed to the sun's rays while on safari, so be sure to wear sunscreen and bring along a water bottle too.
and my most important tip of all is the easiest - HAVE FUN and enjoy this amazing experience!
Disclosure: I'd like to thank Safari West for their hospitality and inviting us on a complimentary Winos and Rhinos Private Safari while we were visiting San Francisco. No further compensation was provided, and I was under no obligation to write this article. As always, all opinions are my own.
If you are planning a trip to San Francisco, you'll want to check out my article on The Secret to Seeing Yosemite in a Day
For more tips on what to see and do while in the San Francisco area, be sure to visit San Francisco Travel - the place to find out about all things San Francisco.