SANTA ROSA — A ride on the wild side awaits you in the 400-acre Sonoma Serengeti 12 miles north of Santa Rosa.
It is here at Safari West — one of only six accredited private zoological facilities in the United States — you can watch herds of zebras roam, listen to the serenade of wildebeests, see cheetahs on the prowl and have giraffes making eye-to-eye contact with you as you sit on the second level of an open safari vehicle.
Safari West boasts of nearly 900 animals and over 90 species heralding from Africa.
Safari West is the creation of Peter and Nancy Lang. They chose the Sonoma Valley for their unique adventure given its forests and grasslands are similar to parts of Africa and the weather is ideal.
Peter Lang is the son of Otto Lang who once directed TV shows such as “Daktari”, “Flipper”, and “Sea World”. Nancy Lang was once the curator of the avian collection at the San Francisco Zoo.
Safari West offers regularly scheduled two hour tours daily of the 400 acres that takes you across rugged back country to take in the animals. And thanks to the open layout you never see the same combination of animals on one trip to another.
Safari West is open year round. The safari is least expensive when it is booked between now and the end of May. During the week costs are $93 for adults, $86 for seniors (62 and older) and teens (13-17) and $45 for children, who must be four years or older. The Saturday and Sunday charge jumps to $103 for adults, $95 for seniors and teens and stays at $45 for children.
Safari West earned the No. 4 spot on the USA Today listing of the top 10 safari parks in the country. It has a lot to do with the setting, the attention given to the animals, and the experiences available. It doesn’t hurt that it is the fabled Sonoma Valley.
The tour is a wildlife photographer’s dream and resonates with young and old. But perhaps more intriguing than a spin around the Sonoma Serengeti with a well-versed guide at the wheels of the safari vehicle is the ability to spend the night in a tent cabin.
Keep in mind this is not the tents you book in Curry Village or whatever lawyers these days are dictating what the popular destination in the Yosemite Valley is called this week.
This is full-scale glamping where nature meets modern luxury. While the walls (and ceiling) are made of heavy canvas, there are hardwood floors, comfortable beds and luxurious accommodations. There are even bathrooms.
There are no TVs and such but then again who needs the distraction? You will be serenaded by the wild things as you drift off to sleep.
And be prepared for darkness. Thanks to the location of the tents and the surrounding hills you can savor stargazing that is impressive from the convenience of your tent’s private balcony.
The overnight rate is fairly reasonable. The 30 plus tents start at $250 and go up from there. For those that aren’t thrilled by canvas there are two cottages available that rent for $350 a night. Overnight guests can book breakfast and/or dinner plus campfire chats.
If you want to take the two-hour safari definitely book in advance. Departure times are 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. in December; then drops to only Friday through Sunday at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. in January and February. Daily times for other months are listed their website at safariwest.com.