By Amy Sue
Do you have an animal lover in your family? I’ve got one, and she gets extraordinarily excited about any chance to interact with fuzzy, prickly, slimy and/or furry creatures. If we’re on a hiking trail and someone has a dog, she will invariably greet the dog with a wide-eyed grin and exclamations before noticing the dog is attached to a person. This love for animals has lead to a far-and-wide search for places in Northern California where one can interact with animals.
Did you know there’s a place in the beautiful little town of Point Arena (near Alamere Falls) where you can kiss a giraffe? You don’t even need a step ladder. All you need is a sweet potato stick and B. Bryan Preserve.
Frank and Judy started their preserve with antelope and a passion for protecting endangered and critically endangered animals. What started as a hobby quickly evolved to over 60 animals, including zebras, kudu, antelope and of course the giraffes. To tour around their preserve (and get a kiss from the big guys), you MUST make an appointment. This is not a drive-up big zoo, but a private preserve that offers small group tours in big safari land rovers.
Thankfully, they had an opening the day when we found ourselves in Point Arena. The tour starts in the barn, where you learn how this couple ended up in California with giraffes. It’s a great story! Kids (and adults) can also learn to tell zebra species apart. Wait until you see the Mickey Mouse ears! You can also meet Elvis, a fairly cranky but fabulous zebra.
After the history, we piled into the open-air rovers and met with the antelope and zebra herds. They roam around their fields, for the most part oblivious to the tours, though I swear one of the antelope winked at me when I lifted my camera.
And then, the best part – the giraffes! These gangly gentlemen are pros at tourist management. They come moseying out of their barns or across their paddock when you line up at the gate to have a chat. Our group practically oozed reluctance once finally faced with the giraffes. Even my daughter, who desperately wanted to kiss one of their 20-foot tall spots, became hesitant when offered a sweet potato wedge and given instruction on how to hold it. Guess where you put it? IN YOUR MOUTH.
If you place a sweet potato wedge in your mouth at B. Bryan Preserve, a giraffe will swoop down immediately and give you a kiss (to steal your potato). I almost choked on my potato when it was my turn. I hadn’t even lifted it all the way to my mouth yet when this incredibly long purple-black tongue tried to wrap around my face. It’s kinda hard to scream with a potato in your mouth. I learned that this trip. The kids laughed uproariously then got in line with their own potatoes.
Kiss a giraffe? Check.
Directions: B. Bryan Preserve is at 130 Riverside Drive in Point Arena, California, about four hours southwest of Redding (near Fort Bragg).
Cost: Tours are $35/adult and $20 for kids ten and under. The tour is about an hour, and includes giraffe kissing. You can also stay the night here in one of their three cottages. We stayed elsewhere on our trip, but the cottages look very inviting.
Amy Sue is a mom of two adventurous and sometimes wild and wily children. Read about all of her adventures at thegypsymamas.com