Does your family make a Grand Summer List? The kids started the tradition in our house a few years ago, where you sit down the first day of summer vacation (or the night before the last day of school if you’re super excited) and list all the things you’d like to see, do and/or accomplish over the summer. Want to learn Spanish? Put it on the list. Search for a bald eagle? On the list. Kiss a giraffe? Wait, what? This item featured prominently on Ally’s list for the summer. I tried reasoning with her: “Babe, they’re 20 feet tall. How in the world do you plan to kiss them, if you can find one? How about we kiss puppies? I bet we can even find a ferret.”
Did you know there’s a place in Northern California, in the beautiful little town of Point Arena (near the stunning Alamere Falls – note how everything comes back to waterfalls with me!) 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 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 for the following day when we found ourselves in Point Arena, California. 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 zebra who is still quite handsome.
After the history, we piled into the open air rovers and met with the antelope and zebra herd. 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 Ally, 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 three hours north of San Francisco or three and a half hours northwest from Sacramento.
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.