Pile your family into an open-air vehicle and driving around the great outdoors with a glass of good wine in your hand, looking at breathtaking vistas alongside zebras, giraffes and camels. No plane tickets to Africa required, this blissful family outing happens to be right up the coast at Malibu Wine Safari.
You can safari in Malibu? Absolutely. The Malibu Wine Safari has been running fabulous wine safaris for years on the vast and gorgeous Semler Wine Estate and property located just off Mulholland Highway. It was kind of an insider’s secret until being thrust into the limelight when featured on Keeping Up With The Kardashians. The good news is Malibu Wine Safari’s new found fame has only made it better, as now they’ve expanded to include six different types of safaris including a Family Safari. Now you can take your kids to enjoy a jeep trek to see exotic animals and stunning scenery as you sip fabulous local wines.
photo: Dana K. via Yelp
The Family Safari was created to allow families to experience the fun of a their usual safaris with considerably less wine included (though there are plenty of tastings for the adults in the crew). It’s a fully family friendly adventure for ages 7 & up, whether or not you have your own reality show.
Upon your arrival to the property, check in with the cheerful staff and browse around the very cute gift store. Be sure to slather sunscreen on your kiddos and don’t forget sunglasses and hats. The vehicles are open topped and you’ll feel the full force of the California sunshine throughout the ride. Of course in a pinch, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are all available for purchase at the store.
Note: The bathroom situation is rather rustic. Porta-potties provide that necessary service at the moment but, permanent bathroom facilities will be constructed as the business continues to expand. So try to get the kids to go before you go!
With safaris offered Monday through Friday, you and your family will ride in a real African-style open-air vehicle and explore the beauty of Saddlerock Ranch and all the interesting creatures inhabiting it. This isn’t your average wine tasting in a quiet, kid-free winery, and you won’t hear any whine-ing from your troops. THey’re too busy getting up close and personal with zebras, alpacas, camels, emu, hundred-year old macaws, and “Casper the Friendly Goat” to even notice what you’re up to.
“Stanley the Giraffe,” who’s got a resume longer than most human actors, isn’t featured on the Family Safari, although you can snap photos and wave at him as you pass by. Stanley’s agent confirms that Stanley has a very busy schedule indeed but he’s always delighted to see his fans.
Visit a family of water buffalo rescued from Catalina Island and say hello to Buffy, Buffalo Burger and their darling baby Shia Le Buffalo. Look for the more than 120 horses boarded on the property, including the magnificent white horse featured in Lord of the Rings. You really can’t visit Malibu without at least one celebrity sighting!
The whole family will get a kick out of riding through the mountains. Don’t forget your seat belts; some of those hills are steep. You’ll be awed by the jagged rock formations and enjoy having a look at the quirky art sculptures along the trail like the “Door to Everywhere” and “Framed,” the big yellow frame perched on a cliff overlooking the valley below. There’s a lake and a vintage car collection to play I Spy with along the way and of course, there’s the gorgeous grapevines. The Semler family has been growing grapes on the property for decades and welcomed their first vintage in 2000.
Ah, yes, the wine. About halfway through, your trusty guide will stop at a lovely shady knoll and set up a wonderful snack assortment for you and yours. Grown ups may sample two different Saddleback wines and the kids can enjoy icy cold lemonade. How’s the wine? Both are very well made and taste of the bright California sunshine. The Sauvignon Blanc in particular is a winner with fresh aromas of white flowers and cut grass on the nose and a burst of zippy pineapple on the palate. The high acid makes it especially refreshing on a hot day.
Crackers and an assortment of tapenades will tempt your taste buds as you relax near the grapevines under the huge old oak tree. A brook babbles nearby and the kids are free to run and play on the grassy fields. It’s a little moment of paradise. You’ll feel like you are a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
The safari finishes up back where you started and you have the option of purchasing any favorite wines. Since you’re in Malibu, you might as well make a day of it and enjoy an early dinner at the beach or tucked in the canyon. A family safari adventure is now checked off the family bucket list, with an ease you never could have imagined.
The safari starts a short jaunt up the coast, just 20 miles from Los Angeles with plenty of free parking on the premises. The cost is $55 per person, and family tours are available on weekdays only (to avoid the more rowdy and hard drinking weekend crowds) for kids ages 7 & up. If you have questions, you can contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Malibu Wine Safari
32111 Mulholland Highway
—written and photographed by Elizabeth Kate