Glamping at Sonoma’s Safari West Wildlife Preserve

Nicknamed the Sonoma Serengeti, Safari West wildlife preserve is located on 400-acres in Sonoma wine country. As if a visit to one of Northern California’s top wine regions wasn’t enough of a draw, Safari West takes things up another notch, offering guests the chance to sleep in luxury tents alongside exotic wildlife.

Luxury tent at Safari West

From cheetahs and giraffes, to zebras and ring-tailed lemurs, close to a thousand animals call Safari West home. The property has a history unlike other traditional Sonoma hotels; it was founded as a private ranch for breeding and species propagation. After becoming a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums In 1992, the property began offering safari tours, and in the late nineties added thirty canvas tents on the edge of the wildlife park and in the surrounding hillsides.

Imported from Botswana and customized at the property, every tent boasts a viewing deck, full bathroom with running hot and cold water, electricity, portable heater, ceiling fan, and hardwood floors. Tents are spacious and are available with a variety of bed configurations ranging from a king bed, to a pair of double beds, to a family tent with a king and set of double bunk beds. Nearly all of the furniture in the tents was made on property using salvaged wood.

Inside a tent at Safari West in Sonoma County wine country

I stayed in tent 2, overlooking the Flamingo Terrace. It was a warm spring evening, so there was no need to fire up the portable heater; I did however make good use of the electric blanket on the bed. I’d recommend a warm set of pajamas and pair of flip flops or slippers, especially if you plan on staying during the cooler winter months.

The bathroom was slightly chillier than the rest of the tent because of the vented ceiling, but the water was hot! The flamingos and an assortment of animals made an enjoyable ruckus after the sunset, but did not keep me up or wake me during the night. That said, guests should expect to be up and moving early in the morning. This isn’t a place you stay with the intention of sleeping in.

Earplugs are provided in every room. If you are a light sleeper and have concerns, tents located on the hillside, further away from the animals’ quarters, may offer a quieter experience.

Restaurant at Safari West in Sonoma County wine country

Continental breakfast is included with every stay. Along with oatmeal and scrambled eggs, expect an assortment of fresh fruit, yogurt, and pastries. Hot coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are available around the clock.

Dinner is offered nightly in the Savannah Café for an additional cost. Reservations are required. Served buffet-style, the night of my stay there was something for every taste. Along with smoked chicken and ribs, there was Caesar salad, fresh fruit, roasted red potatoes and zucchini, as well as macaroni and cheese. Fruit cobbler with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream was offered for dessert, but I opted to save room for s’mores. The camping favorite is offered after dinner, seasonally and weather permitting.

Some guests use Safari West just like they would other Sonoma County hotels, spending most of their days off property at the more than 400 wineries in the area, then simply returning to sleep. But a safari tour is the best way to get a true sense of the breadth of the property and the sheer number of animals that call it home.

Baby rhino at Safari West in Sonoma County wine country

Lasting about three hours, most of the safari tour takes place on an open air truck that slowly rolls in an out of stretches of grasslands studded with wildlife including buffalo, ostrich, and antelope. It’s also the only way to see some of the preserves more famous animals like Eesha, a southern white rhino, and her son, Otto. Born in April 2023, Otto is the first rhinoceros ever born at Safari West and in Sonoma County.

Safari West tours are offered throughout the day, but can fill quickly. It’s best to book a tour when you reserve your tent to avoid disappointment.

Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport is only 10 miles from the property; San Francisco International Airport is about a 90-mile drive.

Rates for a tent that sleeps two people start $330. Go to Hotels.com or Expedia to compare rates. There is Wi-Fi, but the signal is weak, and cell service is spotty. It’s a good place to enjoy being disconnected. Parking is included in the nightly rate.  No smoking is allowed in or around the tents. Lodging is closed in January and February, but tours are offered year round.

Review and photos by San Francisco Bay Area travel writer and television correspondent Dana Rebmann. Her stay was organized by Safari West, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.

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