The Vision Quest Ranch in Salinas, California, isn’t your typical hotel. There’s no lobby or restaurant, the neighbors are loud, and some of them can be a bit, well…stinky at times, but that’s all part of its appeal. The Ranch is home to more than 100 exotic animals including lions, monkeys, hyenas, camels, ostriches and elephants which share the property with eight canvas-walled guest bungalows. At night, you might hear the occasional lion’s roar and in the morning, breakfast is delivered to your room by one of the resident elephants.
Vision Quest is run by Wild Things, an animal sanctuary and education center which welcomes visitors for tours and animal interactions. Wild Things offers daily tours, elephant meet-and-greets, feeding time presentations, and animal walking experiences for those who want to get up close with the elephants, monkeys and jungle cats that live onsite. For elephant lovers, there are some unique experiences as well, including the “Pachyderm Package” that includes two hours of hands-on time with the elephants, and “Butch’s Bedtime”, which is exclusive to guests of the B&B.
Located about two hours south of San Francisco, not far from Carmel and Monterey, the Vision Quest Ranch is set just off a paved two-lane road surrounded by farmland and vineyards. After checking in at the Wild Things main office, my husband and I headed to the B&B area, a short drive down a quiet side street, through the gate, and past the five-acre elephant playground to our bungalow.
Bungalows in the bush
The bungalows are all perched on wooden stilts in the tall grass; aside from the paved road through the property and the parking spaces near each tent, the setting is a pretty close match to what you find at a safari camp in Africa.
Each bungalow has a private bathroom with hot running water, electricity and heat, a coffee maker, robes, mini-fridge, TV and DVD player. The bungalows sleep two to four people and are each themed after a different jungle animal with matching decor.
Our bungalow, number eight, was called the Zebra Zone, and the soft king size bed was decked out in zebra-print bedding. The deck had a clear view of the enclosed elephant area, but additional viewing decks are placed near the fence for those guests in bungalows without a view.
Around 4pm every day, a selection of animals come to visit the guests while they watch from the bungalow decks. Afterwards, we headed to the barn to take part in the “Butchie’s Bedtime” package. First three of the ranch’s elephants were brought into the stalls where they sleep each night and the two of us watched as they ate a large portion of hay. Then it was our turn to feed the animals their bedtime snacks. For about fifteen minutes, we fed the elephants bread and fruit, petting their rough trunks as they chomped noisily on the treats. It was the highlight of the stay, but it wasn’t the last time we’d see the elephants.
After a restful sleep in the tented bungalow, which stayed toasty warm despite the cold night, we woke and got ready for our room service delivery. Each morning, the elephants make the rounds, bringing guests a basket filled with bagels, pastries, coffee, and juice, and the only tip they ask for in return is a few more handfuls of fruit. Once again we got to feed an elephant, marveling at the dexterity of its trunk as it carefully plucked apples and oranges from our hands.
A stay at the Vision Quest Ranch isn’t exactly the same as a safari trip to Africa, but it’s the closest thing to it on this continent. Part open-air zoo, part petting farm, part luxury bed and breakfast, it’s a unique walk….or sleep…. on the wild side.
Need to know
Check-in is at 3pm; check out is 12:30pm.
Included in the stay is a visit with one of the animals each evening (different animals are brought to the guest cabins each night for a short visit), a 1pm tour of the property, and breakfast delivered by an elephant in the morning. Other tours and experiences, like the Butchie’s Bedtime experience, are available for an additional fee.
Pets are not allowed in the bungalows but the B&B does have onsite dog boarding. There is no smoking anywhere on the grounds. Children four and older are welcome.
Rates range from $175-$265 per night.
Review and photos by Katie Hammel. I was a guest of Vision Quest Ranch but all opinions are my own.