Calistoga Natural Attractions: Safari West
At Safari West passengers will remain inside the vehicle at all times. Zebras may be cute, but their kick packs a lethal wallop. Tall fences run up and down the hills, dividing populations. At each gate, the naturalist gets out to open, drive through and shut the gate behind him (or her) as the tour progresses from the entrance up into the hills.
Your outing can be as little as two and a half hours or more than three, depending on how long people want to observe the animals. Setting up a good photograph can be time-consuming, especially with animals like zebras who often rest in the sun-dappled shade of the valley oaks.
There’s no set itinerary. One of the first things you might see is a herd of Kenya impalas or roan antelopes or gems bok, the ones that have a distinctive black-gray coloration that makes them look like they’ve been standing shoulder-deep in dark, muddy water. In a nearby field, a red lechwe and a water buck, cousins, more or less, that are both about two years old, are batting heads in mock battle, the water buck with his hapless “kick me here” bull’s-eye marking on his hindquarters.
For all the similarities with an African experience, there is one major exception: photography. Many’s the safari-goer who snaps away, only to get home and see large blobs where a baboon or even a lion was supposed to show up. In the open bush, it’s very hard to get close to the wild animals. Here, there’s only so far they can run. But the business is weather-dependent; frigid cold or driving rain prohibits a comfortable safari. All excursions are by reservation only.
Actually, all the animals are not out all the time. In an enormous pen near the entrance gate, the giraffes, Tripod and other animals, including Forrest, an adax who was named after Forrest Gump for the way he walked before his legs were straightened. Colorful guinea fowl roam freely. At the back of the pen is a large barn built from trees that died on the property. “The giraffes sleep in there. And they go in there when it rains,” says Roberts. “I mean, one drop and boom, they’re in the barn.”
Nearby is the aviary, home to the small rust-breasted geese, whistling tree ducks, scarlet ibis and other winged creatures. A delightful pair of rough-furred lemurs, friendly white-and-black creatures, have their own domicile, as does Prickers, an African crested porcupine who loves to be petted under the chin. She likes it so much, she immediately licks a visitor’s hand with her rough pink tongue.
Try doing that in Africa.
Safari west is located just 10 minutes from Golden Haven Hot Springs. For more information on Safari West, click here