In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the zebra sleeps toniiiiiight…
What, that’s not how the song goes? Oh well. Unfortunately, I encountered no lions while on safari two weeks ago to belt out such accurate lyrics with authority. But hey there were rhinos about to jump each other’s bones (no, really…we intervened just in the nick of time).
Oh wait, you didn’t know I went on safari earlier this month? I neglected to tell you? Well, no, truth be told, I didn’t jet off to Africa yet (not until mid-March at least). Rather, did you know California has an authentic safari park? No? It was news to me, too, until recently.
I was working on a magazine story for Alaska Airlines about wineless getaways in Napa and Sonoma Counties, and it was only then that I heard about Safari West up in Santa Rosa, which is about as close you’ll get to visiting a game park in the United States. The owner himself is a riveting man and jack of many trades, having collected animals long before opening the park 20 years ago and even crafting much of the furniture you’ll find in the lodge and cabins himself. Many of the guides have worked in Africa at some point, meaning they know their stuff and you might just walk away from the whole experience a little more knowledgeable than when you arrived.
Truth be told, SVV and I feared it might be a bit cheesy, but that was far from the truth. I really did feel like I was in South Africa, as the park boasted more than 500 animals of 80 different species. Many were welcome to roam the 400-acre park freely, and others were penned in (large) fields. We were only bummed we didn’t allow more time for the trip, as there are also cabins and tents where you can sleep and awake to animals just outside your door.
(If ever I had a fear of ostriches, it was confirmed upon meeting her. Just look at that withering glare!)
I learned a lot that afternoon like the fact that this guy? Is a CAPE not water buffalo. Call him anything other than his true breed, and…well…I don’t want to be around to see how he reacts. (It’s pretty similar to how I react every time someone—particularly PR people—spell my name KristEN when they were competent enough to spell it properly, with an “i,” in the e-mail address just a line above.)
Perhaps the saddest part of the day was when we arrived at the wildebeest field. Far over mingling with the kudu was a lone adolescent wildebeest who had cockily challenged the dominant member of the breed and lost. I envision the remaining wildebeest, the clique, the followers if you will, glaring over at him singing “na-na-na-boo-boo.” Tell me that’s not what this picture says to you.
My absolute favorite animal at the park, though, was this little gal without a doubt. She’s an African watusi who wobbles to one side because her horns are so heavy they cause her to tilt. And her name is—wait for it—Ilene. Appropriate, no?
After the vehicle part of the tour, you’re led by foot to the pens where the cheetahs and warthogs reside, as well as to the aviary. Shockingly enough, the most stunning bird I saw was this flamboyant blue crowned pigeon (can you even believe it??) who was a fan of ruffling his feathers, cooing loudly and attempting to flirt with his neighbor the blue duiker (the world’s smallest breed of antelope).
They said no touching the animals. Well, what do you do, when a 20-foot-tall giraffe approached your vehicle in search of a nuzzle? How can you possibly deny that face?
Is anyone else familiar with that, er, popular 80’s tune, “Joshua Giraffe?” Because I’d be lying if I said that song wasn’t stuck in my head for days afterward. Hey, don’t judge; I grew up with a sister six years my junior. While all my peers were going to New Kids on the Block concert, we were stuck at home listening to Raffi and singing along to “Wee Sing Campfire Songs.”
*All photos taken with a Canon T1i and Canon XSi, 17-85mm lens or 10-20mm lens (wide-angle shots), housed in a LowePro SlingShot and Brenthaven slingback. (Yes, we’re finally a two-DSLR, two-camera bag family! We have arrived!)
**For more Photo Friday fun, visit Delicious Baby.