The swank Botswana-canvas tent cabins at this 400-acre African wildlife preserve north of Santa Rosa overlook the living areas of giraffes, antelopes, flamingos, and other animals. Staying here overnight is an enchanting way to commune with Safari West's menagerie before embarking on a half-day safari the next morning to see them close up.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Some of the animals can be noisy well into the night—we're talking about you, pink flamingos and cranes. For silence and solitude, request a hillside tent cabin away from the din or bring earplugs, which are usually also available at the gift shop.
With hardwood floors, rattan and natural-wood furniture, high–thread count sheets, Wi-Fi, and electric blankets and space heaters, you're hardly roughing it, but it's fun to pretend. The beds are comfortable—some tent cabins have bunk beds kids love—and there's nothing quite like sipping wine on your outdoor deck watching and hearing the animals (well, most of them) settle down for the night.
For noncampers, there's a two-bedroom cottage that sleeps up to six.
Each tent has a private bathroom with a flush toilet and hot and cold running water. The bathrooms are hardly deluxe, but they're sufficient.
No real lobby here. Check-in takes place at the preserve's office.
There's no spa, but the Romance on the Savannah package includes an in-tent Swedish massage. You can also order a 60- or 90-minute massage à la carte.
The Savannah Café serves the breakfast—scrambled eggs, freshly squeezed orange juice, breads and pastries, yogurt, cereal, and the like—that's included in the tent-cabin rate. To get into the spirit of your overnight stay, join in the ritual dinner barbecue, with appetizers, soups, salads, and smoked tri-tip, beef brisket, or smoked chicken with the house-made sauce. The café also serves lunch.
Traveling by car is the most convenient way to get to Safari West, which is 12 miles north of downtown Santa Rosa, 7 miles east of U.S. 101. There is no public bus service to the preserve.
To soak in the Safari West atmosphere, it's best to stay on-site and enjoy the barbecue, but here are a few of the nearby options for dinner (or lunch after your safari): low-key Franchetti's (18-minute drive), in a business park, serves soups, sandwiches, pasta dishes, and wood-fired pizzas; Bird & The Bottle (20-minute drive), a "modern tavern," specializes in global comfort food; and Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar (20-minute drive), whose chefs bake Neapolitan-style pies—also super-fine double-fried chicken with sweet-and-sour sauce—paired with local wines.
The cleverly named libations at Bird & The Bottle (18-minute drive) include Shiso Pretty (vodka, St. George Spiced Pear liqueur, Shiso drinking vinegar) and Macho Pisco (Encanto Pisco, Averna, blood-orange drinking vinegar). Beer lovers head to Russian River Brewing (9-minute), home of Pliny the Elder and other beloved brews.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Guests enjoying a night on the "Sonoma Serengeti" experience the great outdoors under absolutely no duress. The bedding is nicer than at some hotels, the bathrooms are private, and you'll likely feel transported, if not to Africa, then at least to a place unlike home. Even in summer, the prices are reasonable, and online specials often pop up throughout the year.