TRAVEL // Getting a Taste of the Serengeti with Safari West

Most people are surprised to hear that about an hour north of San Francisco lays a sprawling animal safari. Yep. An actual African safari where you can explore the sprawling 400 acres in a double decker jeep. Nestled in the heart of wine country, Safari West is a hidden gem. Not only can you glamp overnight on the grounds, surrounded by nature and animals, you can also take a guided tour and see over 900 animals. Crazy!

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When booking our tour, I did it about two weeks in advance and by that time, all the afternoon tours were already full. While I hated the idea of waking up at the crack of dawn on a weekend to make the 9am reservation, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Turns out, animals are much more active for the 9am tour versus the 1pm tour. Much like us, they get pretty tired by the afternoon and are more inactive, if not hiding during their naps.

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We left San Francisco at around 7:30am to leave ample time in case we got lost. The ride actually ended up being rather quick– it took us a little over an hour from the city. We stopped by this fun little coffee shop on the way ’cause I definitely needed a pick-me-up. Fortunately, we were able to find Safari West easily, and parking is ample.

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You can also choose to enjoy their BBQ pits and have lunch before or after your tour! The little picnic area is super cute and smelled soooo good.

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I would highly recommend sitting on top! Both A and I are afraid of heights, but sitting on top isn’t scary at all. It feels much more like a safari when you sit on the top because you get a 360 view and feel much more immersed in nature with the animals. It’s almost like you’re in the wild, haha!

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And off we went!

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Love, love, love the giraffes. They are seriously adorable.

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What’s great about Safari West is that the animals seem much happier than they do at a zoo. They have huge fields to roam and look rather content. They get pretty close to you, but the rule is “they can touch you, but you can’t touch them.” It was definitely tempting to try and pet them when they got very close.

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Our tour guide was extremely knowledgable and seemed very passionate about animals. He also happens to be a wildlife photographer, and it was awesome to hear his stories of his experiences in Africa as well as the 10 years he’s been at Safari West. All the tour guides seem genuinely excited about what they do, and that enthusiasm is definitely contagious.

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Surprise!

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One thing I was a little bummed about is that a lot of people in our jeep wanted to sit on top. Our tour guide said we would switch halfway, but we literally ended up switching about 15-20 minutes before the tour was over. The driving part of the tour lasted about 3 hours. You can do the math…

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Mean mugging.

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After the driving part of the tour, it’s the walking tour. The walking tour is more of a guided “roam”. The tour guide takes you to explore the aviary and also where all the monkeys are. You can go at your own pace and follow the tour guide, or break off on your own. The aviary part is a little more structured because they can’t just leave the door open, but you can explore pretty freely once you’re inside. This portion lasted about 45 minutes, but you can definitely make it shorter if you’d like.

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I was immediately captivated by the stunning plumage of this bird. It’s like it had a natural ombre dye job! That’s so hot right now.

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Flamingos!!

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Overall, I would highly recommend the tour! The whole thing took about 4 hours, but can probably take about 3 hours if you spend less time with the monkeys and at the aviary. To reserve a tour, go here. Below is a little summary of tips that I mentioned above as well as a mini itinerary if you’re planning on spending the day in Santa Rosa, like I did!

When going to Safari West, here are a few things to remember: 
– Eat before you get there. It’s a long tour. If you’re easily carsick, don’t eat too much because the ride can get bumpy
– Wear comfortable shoes. You’re climbing in and out of a jeep and walking around in sand and grass.
– Try to book the early tour (it’s worth waking up early!)
– Sit on top!
– Ask a lot of questions ’cause the tour guides have a wealth of knowledge!
– If you decide to glamp, bring earplugs. Some people in a tour had stayed in the tents overnight and said the screecher birds lived up to their names.

For A’s birthday, we kept this to a day trip. We did some fun things and would recommend them if you’re heading to Santa Rosa!

Morning:
– Picked up coffee at Bad Ass Coffee
– Morning tour at Safari West

Lunch/Afternoon:
– Beers and appetizers at Russian River Brewing Co: Famous for their Pliny beer. We got the 20 beer sampler!
– Stroll around downtown Santa Rosa. Check out Savory Spice Shop!

Dinner:
– Dinner at Sweet T’s BBQ. It’s a slightly more upscale BBQ restaurant, and the food is pretty good. They have a patio that’s ideal for enjoying your BBQ on a sunny summer day like we did! Here is a snapshot of what we ate.

Would love to hear what you think of Safari West if you go!

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