Last year, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, D and I boarded a naval war ship (USS Iowa), walking around to burn off excess calories from eating too much food during the holidays.
This year, on a picturesque ranch in Malibu with rolling hills, we hopped aboard an open-air jeep with tiered seats to see and feed exotic animals like yaks, llamsas, alpacas, zebras, bulls, bison, and more.
Between the USS Iowa and Malibu Wine Safari, it was interesting walking aboard history on the USS Iowa, but we loved the animals and peaceful serenity of Saddleback Ranch much better.
We discovered the yaks, alpacas and llamas were the friendliest and hungriest, jockeying for position to eat lettuce from our hands. The bulls and zebras, at least the day we visited, were not hungry.
The llamas had funny names like Dali Lama and Michelle O’Lama, and two Tibetan Yaks went by Yakkity Yak and Don’t Talk Back, and the most famous of all, Stanley the giraffe, was in the movie The Hangover III.
A few days after our visit, D and I were reading the story of Daniel and the lions den in the bible and D suddenly started talking about the animals from the safari.
“Have you ever seen Stanley on tv?” D asked me. “The giraffe with the giant neck. He’s seven years old, but he’s pretty big.”
“No, I haven’t seen him on tv. Did you like him?”
“The bull snorted and made grunting noises,” D went on. “I was like ‘oh, my gosh’….he was scary. I was trying not to be afraid, but I lost my grip.”
“I was a little scared myself.”
“There was a zebra [actually two]. JC said to be careful because they might bite… You remember JC?”
“Yeah, he was our tour guide.”
“Mike was our driver. Yaks are sort of like alpacas. They spit.”
JC told us about tv shows (The Bachelor and The Biggest Loser) that have shot episodes on the ranch, celebrity visitors (Kobe Bryant, Kim Kardashian), and the history of the ranch and winery.
The short version: the patriarch of the Semler family, Ron, purchased exotic animals to educate his three oldest children on wildlife, and in 2013, his son, Dakota, gave his dad’s idea of a wine safari a go.
Based on the steady stream of information from D, it was clear he loved seeing the animals, and he absorbed most of what the tour guide was saying.
Sometimes, it can be like prying information from a criminal when I ask about his day at school. So our conversation about the safari was like lava spewing from a volcano.
I loved it!
For two city guys, we both enjoyed riding through hillsides with rows of grapevines and stunning views of majestic mountains.
The tour ended in a grassy area for a wine tasting (lemonade for kids), coupled with crackers and cheese, with a beautiful view of the Conejo Valley.
Our tour group didn’t talk much to each other. One family was from Korea, and another from Massachusetts, but I think we were all blown away by the beauty of the pastoral setting.
Afterwards, D and I drove up Mullholland Highway to Malibu Creek Park, for a short hike and lunch. It was a beautiful continuation of our trip to Malibu Wines Safari.
MALIBU WINE SAFARI:
Family Safari- Available weekdays–$55 per person, includes two different wines for adults 21+ and lemonade for little ones, who must be at least 7 years old.
Explorer Safari-Offered 7 days a week–$65 per person, includes 6 different wines on scenic spots on the ranch and feeding and interacting with exotic animals.
Giraffe Lunch Safari-Available by appointment, exclusively on weekdays. $155 per person, includes 6 different wines and a catered lunch. Feeding and interacting with exotic animals and Stanley the Giraffe.