D.J. turned eight last week, so last week I went along with his family and two of his friends on an excursion Saturday. We went to Safari West and took their tour, through the forests and plains in a part of Sonoma County populated with zebras, giraffes, and more species of antelope than I can even remember, much less name.
For lunch before the tour, we had Suzanne with us, along with Aiden and Kylie. They got to see the macaws and giraffes and a few other animals that live close to the patio where we ate. Aiden and Kylie loved the giraffe that stuck its head over the fence to take grass out of their hands, although Aiden didnít much care for the animalís sticky tongue and wanted his hand washed.
The little ones are probably too young to go bouncing around in a jeep for three hours, so Suzanne got custody of them while the rest of us headed out into the wild. Kylie was in love with the giraffe and took a long time telling it goodbye. She might still be saying, ďBye bye, giraffe.Ē I know she was still saying it later that night after we got home.
The jeeps we rode in were actually service vehicles originally built fifty years ago for use by the military in Korea. No new ones have been made since 1968, but there isnít anything built today that can stand up to the same kind of rough use and rugged terrain. It was a bumpy ride, and probably more so for Tammy and the three kids, who rode on top. David and I were content to sit under cover on the benches below.
The three eight-year-olds were inquisitive and rambunctious. Well, the two boys were a little more on the rowdy side; the little girl was much quieter, but tolerant of their behavior. All three of them seemed to think it was their job to shoot their hands in the air and ask questions of our tour guide any time he paused in his narration. Sometimes they were so eager to participate that they asked him something he had already answered, but he indulged their enthusiasm with amused restraint.
Our guide stopped the truck every time a new and different animal appeared. They all roamed freely in the fields and hills, or at least as freely as was safe. The most dangerous animal we saw uncaged was the group of cape buffalo sharing a shady grove with a pack of zebras. We were told not to attract their attention, and Iím pretty sure nobody had a notion to become prey.
The guide was very informative about all the animals. Everyone at Safari West showed great concern about their welfare, not only the individuals on the property but their cousins in the wild. Several of the species represented here are now extinct in the wild, or gravely endangered. Some canít be repopulated and now only exist in habitats like Safari West.
After the riding part of the tour we walked through the aviary and met several kinds of exotic birds. Behind a fence we were introduced to D.J.ís favorite animal, the cheetah. He could hardly contain his excitement at seeing one up close. In fact, there were three of the altogether, one fierce one who was kept by itself, and two sisters who roamed the enclosed area together.