Travel Review: Overnight Stay & VIP Tour at B Bryan Preserve
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I had my eye on Safari West for years but I learned the minimum age is 4 unless you do a private tour which sets you back $1,100-$1,300 depending on the time of year (side note: this is for up to 12 people so, if you went with friends, definitely becomes more affordable). Then I stumbled upon B Bryan Preserve in Mendocino and found their private tour for $250 (for up to 8 people). Then, I learned you could stay on-site and, next thing I know, we had a weekend in Mendocino planned!
What to Expect (Seeing the Animals)
B Bryan Preserve is home to giraffes, a few types of zebras, a Cape Buffalo, antelope and kudu. Each species is in its own area with the exception of a trio of zebras that roam the property. Each type of tour below requires pre-booking (on their website).
If you happen to be in the area and wanted to check out the animals, B Bryan Preserve does offer a daily 10am Car Safari for $25 per vehicle. You’ll need about 30 minutes to go through and it ends with visiting and feeding the friendly giraffes. You are not permitted to get out of your car at any other point in the tour.
For those wanting something more up close, they also offer a Guided Tour in one of their vintage Land Rovers at 4pm daily (3:30pm in winter) for $35 per adult and $20 per child (10 & under, including infants). These are public tours so you may be with others, however, they do require masks and have a plastic divider so you would only be on the same side of the vehicle as members from your group.
The third option is the VIP Tour which my family did. It costs $250 and can accommodate up to 8 people from your group. Since we have young kids, we opted for this one so we could go at our own pace. My oldest daughter (age 7) was very engaged and asked lots of questions but the younger two did get restless a few times so it was nice to not be disturbing someone else’s experience. We met at 10am and were greeted by our guide, Eunice. She took us around to each animal in a Land Rover and gave us tons of info about each species. The giraffe experience was, by far, the highlight as we got to feed them sliced yams which made for some great photo ops!
What to Expect (Staying Overnight)
There are four cabins which you can stay in on premise: Zebra Cottage (2 adults + 1 child), Chapel Cottage (4 people), Bridge Cottage (4 people) and the Carriage House (3 people w/ option for 4). We stayed in the Bridge Cottage as it had one separate bedroom with two twin bedrooms plus a loft with a Queen bed. We did pay a small subsidy and brought our travel crib for our 2 year old. The units have small kitchens and three of them have private hot tubs overlooking the pond.
You should not expect a hotel experience here – there is no front desk, no room service and no amenities aside from what is at your cabin. When we pulled in, we did a self check-in, went to our cabin and then walked into town to get dinner (5-10 minute walk). The next day, we interacted with Eunice (guide on our tour) and also saw one other guest in the evening. In a way, during COVID times, it is actually quite refreshing to have such isolation when staying somewhere else!
Things to Keep in Mind
Point Arena is a sleepy little town that shuts down around 7pm. Please keep this in mind when thinking about meals! We got into town around 5:30pm or so on a Friday, dropped out stuff off and walked into town only to find stuff getting ready to close or backlogged from orders (a few places said 45 min wait for takeout). Instead, we opted to grab nibbles from the Arena Market & Cafe and had a little picnic back at the cabin. At the same time, we also grabbed some yogurt and fruit for an easy breakfast the next morning.
If you like pizza, definitely plan ahead for Point Arena Pizza. We tried to order Friday night but between bad cell service on Highway 1 and a long wait, it didn’t work out. We proactively ordered early on Saturday and were able to indulge in this treat.
Mendocino will offer a lot more options in terms of shopping and dining but it is almost an hour away. For larger grocery stores and chains like Starbucks, the closet spot will be Fort Bragg (slightly over an hour).
What Else to Do in the Area
The Mendocino Coast is absolutely breathtaking and because everything is a little more remote, it never felt super crowded when compared to places closer to the San Francisco Bay Area. Use the time getting to and from B Bryan Preserve to explore as well as taking little day trips. Some ideas:
- Fort Ross State Historic Park – we visited this spot on our way up to Mendocino. It is a large space and it was not at all busy when we visited on a Friday afternoon. Between the gorgeous bluffs overlooking the ocean (no fences, so need to keep small children close) and the actual fort, we spent over an hour here. $8 per car entry (or consider the California State Park pass).
- Stewart’s Point – a nice spot to stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat. Stewart’s Point Market (and Twofish Bakery) offers everything you need including freshly baked pastries. Definitely worth grabbing something to enjoy outside on the picnic tables or to take up the coast to enjoy at one of the many beaches.
- Point Arena Lighthouse – while the lighthouse itself is currently closed due to COVID, you can still explore and learn more about the Pacific Coast’s tallest lighthouse. $5 per person requested (or $25 per vehicle).
- Glass Beach (Fort Bragg) – this area of ocean was used as the city’s dump until the late 1960s. While the trash was cleaned up, the remnants of glass remain and wash ashore as colorful sea glass (smooth, not sharp). I was expecting a whole beach of sea glass but only ended up finding it in a smaller cove. There is a lot at the end of Elm Street that links to the Noyo Headlands Coastal Trail. If you follow Google Maps on your phone, it should take you to the right spot.
- Van Damme State Marine Conservation Area (Little River) – we only drove by but, man, this was a gorgeous spot with a beautiful cove perfect for kayaking. We have already made a wish list for next time and Little River is at the top! Check out Kayak Mendocino for tours in this area.
What to Pack
The Mendocino Coast is definitely windy and chilly but you can get some nice weather throughout the day. Here’s what I recommend packing for a stay at B Bryan Preserve and checking out the local region:
- A light jacket/windbreaker and/or sweatshirt
- Casual clothes – the area is quite laidback, a nicer outfit if you plan to do dinner out in Mendocino proper
- Footwear: a comfy, supportive shoe for walking/exploring and on the safari plus some flip flops or water shoes if you head to the beach
- Toothbrushes & toothpaste
- Any other toiletries you would need overnight
- Camera/Phone & chargers – so many great photo ops!
- Basic food supplies since there is no room service and the options in town are limited: drinks, snacks, breakfast items, etc
- If you have a baby or toddler, plan to bring your own pack ‘n play or crib
Notes on COVID precautions in the Region
We were pleasantly surprised with mask wearing and social distance protocols in the region. The only place where the masks seemed to disappear was at Glass Beach. There is a sandier beach where it just seemed crowded so we ventured off to one side, found a small cove and that is actually where we found the sea glass!
B Bryan Preserve is a fantastic place to distance as the place is so small and there are really no common spaces. You have exclusive use of the cabin and hot tub, if applicable. Masks are required for guests ages 2+. On the tour, frequent hand sanitizer and distance from the guide ensured everyone’s safety.
I have had a few friends ask if B Bryan Preserve is suitable for remote schooling. While we didn’t personally do this, it would definitely be doable. There is wi-fi available (had no issues with bandwidth) and the cabins have various set-ups to meet different family’s needs. My only caution is that you are limited to your cabin and patio since there are some zebras that roam free and there are considerations around the giraffes. So, if you have a kid who needs to get up and run, this likely wouldn’t be the best solution. If your kid is happy to read a book, watch TV and play games inside the cabin, you probably will have better luck.
How to Book
Book directly with B Bryan Preserve on their website for the cabins and the tours. Remember, there is a two night minimum for overnight stays to avoid a surcharge.