Safari West is out of Africa — in fact it’s 7,689 miles from the Sahara Desert. It’s time to button up your bush jacket and head to wild and exotic wine country in Santa Rosa, California.
The word safari conjures up images of a great migration of wildebeest across an African veldt. But with this week’s listen up we follow the sound of human migration from Zimbabwe to South Africa via steam engine.
Shosholoza, a traditional African folk song, originated when male members of the Ndebele tribe migrated across the border to labor in South Africa’s exploitive gold and diamond mines during the mid-1800’s. “Shosholoza” roughly translates to “make way for the next man” and today the song is recognized worldwide as a call for solidarity in times of struggle — be it the fight against apartheid or a South African rugby match. In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela recalled singing the song throughout his incarceration because “singing it made the work lighter.” Performed here by the celebrated Soweto Gospel Choir, Shosholoza is featured on the group’s African Spirit release which received the Grammy for Best Traditional World Music Album in 2007.
When time or budget precludes an African safari, seek adventure in the Mayacama Mountains of Santa Rosa, California. Safari West, an accredited privately-owned 400-acre wildlife preserve dedicated to wildlife conservation and education, has more than 900 animals (80 species) roaming its “Sonoma Serengeti.”
Hopping onto the upper deck of the open-air 1953 Dodge Power Wagon, we surveyed the rolling hills, the trees dripping with moss, and the threatening skies. Wearing a pith helmet would have been taking the theme too far, but layers of sweaters, multi-pocketed vests, and hats kept us warm and dry for the three-hour excursion — occasional spurts of rain and splashing through puddles only made the journey more authentic. Our safari karma was excellent as giraffes ambled up to the jeep, stubborn addax blocked our path and the elegant common eland rested within arm’s length. Our guide, Robert, was an energetic font of information, describing the animals with enthusiasm and possessing an uncanny ability to answer any question quickly and thoroughly. He gave us time to observe, not just see the animals – a chance to consider the currency of Watusi cattle horns, to wonder about the evolution of dimorphic sable, or question why southern white rhinoceros curl their tails. The walking portion of the tour took us past cages of swinging monkeys as well as the confines of cheetah and other wild cats, pacing, watching, and occasionally hissing. Led by a Demoiselle crane who craves the company of humans, the aviary tour featured a colorful array including guinea fowl, egrets and ibis, creating a not-so-still life reminiscent of a Dutch painting.
Safari West doesn’t replace the desire to visit the African continent to experience the beauty of its people, flora and fauna. Watching and learning about the world’s vanishing creatures at Safari West will whet your appetite for further and farther exploration. One thing is for sure: the fun and thrill of looking directly into the eyes of a brutish cape buffalo while rocking and rolling through the mud, gears grinding, surrounded by wildebeest, makes Safari West the most unusual and coolest adventure in wine country.
You’ll need to book your tickets for the tour a couple of days in advance (particularly in the busy summer season) and tented cabins are available for overnight stays. Pricing and more information are available at safariwest.com.
In October 2015, Taschen published the 50th Anniversary edition of The End of the Game, Peter Beard’s seminal illustrated journal of Africa. The book, originally published in 1965 and revised and reissued in 1977, includes historical photographs and essays contextualized by this esteemed photographer’s own images, collages, drawings and writings. The End of the Game tells the early 20th century story of explorers, missionaries, fortune seekers, and big game hunters who forever changed the African continent in the name of “progress,” and ultimately leads the reader/viewer to harrowing images of man’s destruction of the elephant and hippopotamus populations in the national parks of Kenya and Uganda during the 1960’s and ‘70’s. The End of the Game is an unusual and fascinating study of man’s desire to conquer the wild which asks and answers the question, “But to what end?”
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