Unassuming. Intimate. Incredible. Those words barely begin to describe Safari West.

(Click on any of the photos to see them in a larger format.)

We went up on Friday to spend the night in a canvas tent cabin and then join a Girl Scout tour in the morning. Located just above Santa Rosa (it was a grueling trip thanks to horrible traffic), Safari West is nestled in the foothills just off a two-lane highway.

We arrived just before dark and were escorted to our incredible tent cabin that had an expansive view of the giraffes, antelopes and tons of birds. All wandering around freely in their huge habitat. We put on the layers (it was cold!) and grabbed dinner in the mess tent with the other guests. Then we hunkered down in our electric blanketed bed, did some writing and reading while Katie knitted (I was reading out loud – The BFG by Roald Dahl).

That night, we were serenaded by a cacophony of animal and bird sounds. It was incredible to hear all the noises – especially from the birds – as they echoed around the valley. Supposedly, one of the birds is the sound they used in Jurassic Park for the raptors. We heard it. It was bone-chilling.

The next day we got up really early and checked out the property before everyone else got there. We loved watching the Serval and the Lemurs. We were also intrigued by all the birds.

At 9:30, we hooked up with the Girl Scouts and headed out our tour. We went on a three-hour jeep ride through the entire ranch spotting animals all along the way. Our tour guide, Leslie, was amazing. She knew so much and told us great things about the animals, conservancy efforts, and more.

She recommended two shows for further study:
1. Guns, Germs and Steel – which was how she explained why Zebras have never been domesticated, and,
2. David Attenborough’s Life of Birds – which she cited when talking about why Turkey Vultures (and Kiwis) are the only birds with a real sense of smell.

After the tour, Katie and I spent some more time just hanging out with the animals. Katie wandered over to the giraffes and talked with Tuscon, the big bull giraffe. Then she flirted with Dozer, the hand-raised giraffe who just had to get a little taste of Katie before we left. She’s lucky Dozer didn’t get her hat!

We highly, HIGHLY, recommend putting this on your list of to-dos. Make sure to spend the night, it’s totally worth it. You can pack in your own food (our recommendation) and feel like you are in a modern-day Jurassic Park.

Home School POV:
Katie really likes the little Schmidt animals and I have to say, Safari West has some of the best we’ve seen. Katie’s home school assignment is to put them into an accurate “diorama” with the right plants and terrain. A fun way to bring the lesson home.