One of Northern California’s best kept secret adventures – Safari West!
WHAT is Safari West?
Safari West is a wildlife sanctuary and conservation breeding facility that was started by a man named Peter Lang in the 1980’s. Located in the heart of wine country California you can find all these incredible animals enjoying their days in the sunshine. There are over 1000+ animals on the property and they are treated like royalty! Other than giraffes and rhinos and zebras, oh my. There are also cheetahs, wildebeests, cape buffalo, antelope, flamingos, hogs, lemurs, monkeys, various types of birds… and more… I was in heaven! Unfortunately, they do not have any elephants, but this is probably for the best. You can come and visit from the Bay Area for just a day tour, or you can come with friends or family and stay the night in what they call “glamping.” You can stay right above the giraffe enclosure and enjoy a glass of wine with them as the sun goes down! Safari West has more personal tour options as well where you get to hand-feed and pet some of the animals, they also have a restaurant, bar, snack shop, and gift shop there!
WHERE is Safari West?
Safari West is located in the Mayacamas Mountains, also known as Wine Country in Sonoma County, California. This is close to smaller towns like Calistoga, Sonoma, Napa, Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Petaluma, and more. The closest big city that Safari West is near is San Francisco, and the second closest is Sacramento! If you are flying into San Francisco you will need to get a rental car and drive about an hour and a half north! Hopefully, your rental car will have GPS so you can just type in the address. This can be such a beautiful drive as you get to go over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the city, but it can also be terrible if you hit it during rush hour (6 am-9 am & 3 pm-6 pm PST). Lots of people commute in and out of the city for work during the week and you do NOT want to be stuck in it, trust me. If you are coming from Sacramento you are also going to need a rental car and your drive will take around 3 hours. Click here to see Safari West on a map!
WHAT TO DO at Safari West?
- Go on a Safari – You get to go on about a 30 minute walking tour to see the lemurs and enter the bird aviary first. Here we made friends with one bird who likes to follow the guests around and see if they have any treats. A peck on the hand here and there and he was on his way. After the walking tour we got to get in this big safari truck and head out on the property! The first stop was giraffes and thankfully we got to be on top for this! Sadly, no giraffes came up to us but the guide said that if they felt like saying hi they sometimes will walk over and sniff the guests! Sit up top for this!! We had so much fun on the tour even though we did not get to pet any of the animals. Seeing them in their natural habitat and thriving was so rewarding and special! We also got to cruise along the most beautiful acreage that had luscious trees and a few ponds also! Such a fun experience! See below for more photos of our ride for the day and the animals!
- Behind the Scenes Tour – As we were on the walking tour our guide happened to mention that you could also do a more personal and intimate tour with the animals called the “behind the scenes” tour. On this tour you can hand feed some of the animals depending on health and other conditions, as they are still animals and we must respect them. If I get the chance to go back not only am I staying the night and drinking wine with a giraffe view, I am doing the behind the scenes tour so I can feed some furry friends! Click here to plan your more intimate behind the scenes tour now!
WHERE TO STAY for Safari West?
- Glamp with the Giraffes – Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better.. they do! You can stay the night with these cute giraffes! Located around the property they have these awesome tents imported from Botswana and customized to meet your needs! There are 30 of them and each one has its own private deck for you to see the views and enjoy a glass of wine. They also have bathrooms and hardwood floors in them just so you get the idea of what kind of tents these are. They looked so luxurious and I was just dying to stay in one! Click here to plan your “glamping” trip to Safari West with your friends or family!
- Stay in Wine Country – There are tons of cute towns near Safari West in Sonoma County that you can also stay the night in as well. Places such as Calistoga, Healdsburg, St. Helena, and the little towns around Safari West are bound to be a little more on the expensive side due to their location and views. You will most likely find a good deal with Airbnb where you can stay in wine country the night before or after your safari. Some options that may be a little cheaper would include Santa Rosa, Napa, Sonoma, and the bigger outer cities! I would still recommend an Airbnb if you are staying in these areas, or you may be able to find a good price for a hotel! Check out hotels.com for the best deals on hotels in the area.
WHAT TO EAT at Safari West?
- Dine at the Safari – Safari West has its own restaurant on the sanctuary grounds! At first my mom had told me that she made reservations here and I was skeptical of it because who knew what kind of food they would serve, would it be gross eating around the animals? Do they serve beer? Priorities. Well, it turned out to be such a nice lunch! My expectations were blown out of the water. They have a separate area for you to dine at that is still in sight of the bird aviary and the giraffes, but not close enough so you could smell them! There was a buffet style lunch with people there to serve you. The food looked fresh, warm, and appetizing! I had fruit salad, corn and tomato salad, a pulled pork slider, mac and cheese, and there were more options that that! Then inside there was a separate bar where you could purchase sodas, beer, wine, or a mixed drink of your choice. After getting a beer we sat down at the wooden tables that were covered with shade because of the heat! Not only do they have this buffet option, they also have a little snack shack that sells refreshments, chips, candy, hummus and crackers, etc. Click here to make your reservation to dine at Safari West!
- Dine Nearby – If you head into the towns of Calistoga, Fulton, Santa Rosa, St Helena, etc. You will find many dining options. There will be things ranging from the mom and pop restaurant to subways and fast food. If you are planning a later safari, you could always do wine tasting with lunch at any of the multiple vineyards nearby! Click here to see some nearby vineyards on a map!
- Pack a lunch – If you are going to Safari West for the day and trying to save money then packing a lunch for your excursion is also an option! Pack up some sandwiches, chips, and drinks and bring them on the truck with you during the tour! You can also just purchase snacks at the snack shack on site and bring them on the tour if you are running late on time!
Things you should take from this post: GO TO SAFARI WEST! It was such an amazing experience and to have it so close to folks who live in the Bay Area it is a shame not to! I already want to go back and do the behind-the-scenes tour and stay the night! I hope that this information helps you plan your visit and please feel free to comment below!