Safari West: After the Fire…Hope Emerges

In all the years I’ve lived in Sonoma County, I had never been to Safari West. Combination of lack of time, so many things to do and the “it’s right here, I can go any time” thing, I suppose. But the October fires were a shocking close to home reminder that things you think will always be there might not. Although the preserve was right in the path of the Tubbs Fire, owner Peter Lang’s efforts saved the animals and most of the facilities.

To celebrate the survival and raise funds for restoration, the Safari West Wildlife Foundation held a fundraiser open house. It was shocking and sobering to see the devastation along the way – it was the first time I’d been through the Mark West area, most of which was leveled by the flames. Seeing the ruins along the way made the virtually untouched preserve that much more amazing.

Originally scheduled for one afternoon, the event sold out and a second afternoon was added. Usual visits include a truck tour, the open house was walking only, so we did not see some of the far-flung animals that you would with the truck, although there was a herd of wildebeest that galloped by in one of the distant pastures.

Probably since the usual tours are guided, there aren’t placards saying what the various animals are on the enclosures. At first I missed this a bit, but then I mostly let go of needing to know what things were and just enjoyed seeing them. There were docents available if you wanted more information, but the self-guided go where you want when you want was actually pretty nice. There were some animals that handlers had outside of the cages as well, so you could get a closer look and even pet some of them!

The giraffes of course were awesome. Although… giraffe tongue. Yikes! But my favorite thing was the birds. So many! So beautiful! And I’d been thinking “animals” so not really expecting any birds at all. The variety of sizes and shapes and COLORS! and there’s a big aviary that we got to go inside, which was super cool. All the birds’ movements and activities and interactions were so fun to watch. The flamingoes were particularly voluble. I guess I’ve never been that close to that many flamingoes!

The weather was beautiful and it was a lovely way to spend the afternoon! I’m not big on the whole resolutions thing, but as you consider the new year, put something you’ve always been meaning to do but have never gotten around to on the calendar. You just never know.

more pictures

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