By the tail end of our trip, I was dreading hopping on a plane and coming back to reality. It's not that reality is bad… it's just that the trip was that good. Remember the glory days of field trips during elementary school? Technically it was still a school day with teachers and supervision, but there were also bus rides, cool destinations and the best part, you weren't sitting in class learning in a conventional manner. Filming ITLIST: California was an adult field trip and I was sad when it came time to pack up and head back to school. Luckily the journey wasn't over JUST yet...
I think it's important to note that I loved school, but I also loved field trips.
The last leg of this production took place in Sonoma's Safari West, a place that had me pinching myself to double-check that I wasn't dreaming. There were SO many animal encounters – right when we pulled up we saw a crew of lemurs chilling out on a tree, then while walking to our cabin we came across flamingos showing off in the pond nearby, and when my gaze went upwards to look at the sun starting to set behind the mountains we were treated to a family of giraffes grazing away. Now you understand why I had to pinch myself.
The following day our field trip was coming to its grand finale, and a grand finale it was. We went on a "wino and rhino" safari adventure" - not only was I sipping on delicious local wines from the Sonoma region, I was also on a freakin' African safari in California surrounded by glorious animals! My favourite animal moment of the day was when a giraffe became affectionate and gave me more than I bargained for, wrapping his tongue around my arm and even tugging at my shirt.
At Safari West they encourage animals to mate and procreate in an effort to aid in conservation, so they keep a male and female rhino in the same area to increase chances of a little flirting. Makes sense, right? But get this - the male rhino shows very little interest in the gal even though he has her all to himself, the male is only interested in the female when another male comes into the mix, creating the allure of a chase. If she's with him, alone, the allure is gone and the male doesn't attempt to make babies... Typical.
It was a day filled with giggles, new friends, sunshine and learning about conservation and the ways we can help give these animals a better chance at fighting extinction. These animals are beautiful creatures who deserve to live in their natural habitat – but if they can't, then Safari West is a wonderful home away from home.