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Safari West: The most authentic safari experience outside of Africa

Updated on July 28, 2016
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Patty Burness specializes in culinary & wine tourism & luxury travel. Get up close & personal with the best of her worldwide adventures.

Giraffes at play
Giraffes at play | Source

The nearest thing to the perfect African safari is right in Northern California, yet many people don’t know it exists. That’s right. Safari West is the most authentic wildlife experience outside of Africa. This 400 acre preserve is just an hour north of San Francisco, in the wine country between Santa Rosa and Calistoga.


The real Serengeti is a region in Northeastern Africa, extending from Tanzania to Kenya with miles of savannah. It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO recognizes its mission of conservation and its focus on local resources and culture.The expansive plains are home to a famous migration that occurs annually. In Africa, the animals (zebras, gazelles and wildebeests) move to watering holes all the while being followed by their predators. And when it's not time for the migrations, elephants, giraffes and others graze on the plains.

As you pull into Safari West, you are immediately transported – giraffes extend their long necks hoping for a friendly pet and safari jeeps are lined up ready to take you deep inside a Northern California preserve. Opened to the public in 1993, Safari West boasts over 400 exotic mammals and birds representing animals from every corner of the African continent. It’s a rare opportunity to experience some of the world’s most incredible animals as you travel through their natural habitat.

Up close and personal with the zebras
Up close and personal with the zebras | Source

Conservation Efforts

Safari West is dedicated to conservation and wildlife preservation. Its efforts include breeding some endangered bird species, conducting research, and educating all those who are interested in their mission. It is fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). AZA is a true leader in animal conservation and welfare worldwide.The most exciting aspect of the facility is bringing the public to share in an extraordinary environment where they can learn about the exotic animals from Africa – from Addax Antelopes to Chapman’s Zebras – who call Safari West home.

Their conservation efforts underscore their commitment to the environment, exotic animals and energy and water consumption. The owners, Nancy and Peter Lang, have established the Safari West Foundation. Through the scholarships they award, they work to create a whole new generation of people committed to wildlife and the environment.

Off on safari
Off on safari | Source

See the animals

Climb aboard a real open-air safari jeep – actually a retrofitted old power wagon that had been used in the Korean War. No matter, it looks like the real thing. The vehicles even accommodate people up top (in seats on the roof!) for ideal viewing. During a two hour journey over dirt roads, uneven terrain and beautifully landscaped areas, watsui cattle pose for pictures, bongos (antelopes from the Congo) and gazelles wander by and even zebras will let you get up close and personal. Don’t forget the ostrich, Nubian ibex, and Blue Wildebeests. There are literally animals most everywhere you turn, but you do have to look closely because they are well camouflaged in their native surroundings. All the while, your knowledgeable tour guide recounts the personal histories of the animals.

Watusi cattle strike a pose
Watusi cattle strike a pose | Source

After the safari ride, take a walking tour through an aviary filled with beautiful pheasants, black neck swans, African spoonbills and magnificent parrots. Ring-tailed lemurs play on their own special island.

Take an insider tour and get up close and personal
Take an insider tour and get up close and personal | Source

Cheetah Preservation

On to the cheetahs in their lair where they purr and stride up and down on a bed of straw. Cheetahs here have a special role in conservation efforts worldwide. A leading conservationist who dedicates her life to saving the cheetah, Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, partners with Safari West in their critical work and educating visitors.

Delilah watches over all
Delilah watches over all | Source
Stunning parrots
Stunning parrots | Source

Education Efforts

Through their efforts to preserve and conserve exotic animals from Africa, Safari West not only invites in the public, but also students (more than 10,000) and teachers from local schools and universities. Educators from all over the Bay Area conduct field trips in this unparalleled setting. The educational experience at Safari West is aligned with the Science standards adopted by the CA Board of Education and brings the excitement of these beloved animals within reach of many.


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