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California Weekend Getaway: On safari right here at home

December 29, 2010|By Cary Ordway
(Cary Ordway/California…)

There are sounds of the jungle just outside your tent's thin canvas walls — the incessant birds, the occasional shriek by creatures unknown, the rustling of trees. You're frozen in place under your warm blankets, not anxious to stick your head out of the tent door because you don't know what might lunge at you from the darkness. It sure would be good to have that bear gun cocked and loaded — but of course, you don't.

One reason you don't is that the owners of Safari West really frown on guests bringing guns along on their weekend getaways to this unique outpost just a few miles outside of Santa Rosa. The other reason is that none of the wildlife you hear during your overnight stay is going to get you. All the really dangerous animals are fenced off or caged.

By day, Safari West is a beehive of activity with numerous day visitors and tours, especially on weekends. By night, Safari West turns to black with absolutely no outside lighting to spoil the illusion you are in Africa. Guests are advised to bring flashlights if they plan to walk the grounds after dark. But the creature sounds make it clear you are not alone and we're guessing most people just hunker down after dark.

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The accommodations do lend themselves to just that. They're cozy and inviting and when we say tents, we really mean tent cabins that are tent walls erected over a solid foundation that comes complete with an indoor bathroom and shower. The big beds are warm and luxurious and the layout inside the cabins is really quite comfortable. No television or radio, but there are hardwood floors, a few shelves and benches and reading lights. What else do you need when you are on safari?

Checking in at the main gate around 9 p.m., we were greeted by a person who seemed like the only living soul on the premises. He quickly and helpfully packed our belongings onto his Jeep and drove us to our tent cabin, one of a few dozen spread throughout the property. He loaned us flashlights, which came in handy for an exceedingly brief walk around the grounds before settling in for a night in the wild. The sounds were constant and came mainly, we were told, from a particular type of bird.

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