Eye-to-Eye with Giants on California’s Mendocino Coast at B Bryan Preserve

Climb into a canvas covered touring jeep and explore the Savanna-like pastures of B Bryan Preserve. Zebras, giraffe and antelope are abundant on the guided tour. You’ll stand eye-to-eye with Rothschild Giraffes in their specially built barn. From a loft, you’re on eye level with the tallest of all giraffes and the tallest land animal on earth. Their gentle grace is enchanting.

The Animals at B Bryan Preserve

B Bryan Preserve is a 110-acre breeding and conservation preserve for African hoof stock. Founder, Dr. Frank Mello, and his wife, Judy, raise, breed, and study Roan, Sable, and Greater Kudu Antelope. Grevy’s and Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra are also residents of the sanctuary.

The Rothschild Giraffes are stately kings of the preserve. Close to extension in the African wild, B Bryan Preserve’s group of male giraffes are part of breeding programs internationally. All the preserve’s animals are endangered or critically endangered. Poaching and habitat loss are on the rise in Africa, shrinking many wildlife populations.

Zebra B Bryan Preserve

Before climbing into your touring jeep, a movie explaining Rothschild giraffes and their threatened African populations is shown in the visitor center. Your tour of the preserve includes close observation of zebras and antelope and interaction with giraffes. You’ll be led by a knowledgeable tour guide giving details of the animals’ daily lives.

The Tour

Tour tip: Don’t forget your camera, photo ops are everywhere.

Zebras and antelope at the preserve are wild. Close contact and petting are not allowed. However, you will be taken to vantage points where close observation and photography are possible. Each zebra has a different set of stripes – no two are alike. Markings and horn styles vary on each breed of the skittish antelope.

Feeding Giraffe B Bryan Preserve

Giraffe feeding is optional, but not to be missed. The giraffes may be over 16 feet tall, but they are gentle giants. Their dark tongues are soft as velvet and exceptionally nimble. They lean over the fence to tenderly accept small pieces of fruit and veg prepared by their caretakers. You may also offer sticks and twigs. One of giraffe’s favorite foods is bark. They strip away the bark, eat it, and then discard the woody interior. It’s quite a sight.

Giraffe B Bryan Preserve

After feeding giraffes at the fence, you climb up the stairs into a purpose-built barn. The barn is tall enough to allow the 16’ tall giraffes to enter with plenty of headroom. At the top of the stairs a loft overlooks the barn interior. Baskets of branches and twigs are available. A feeling of peace floods you as you gaze into the giraffes’ dark eyes and long dark lashes.

Caring for the Animals

Largely used as giraffe sleeping quarters, the ruminants move into the barn shelter at night. The doors open for them at sunrise. Days are generally warm at the preserve, but night temperatures can drop below what is tolerable for African giraffes.

All the animals are cared for by wildlife professionals and volunteers. Nutrition, habitat and social needs are carefully managed each day. When you visit in spring, babies will be present. Newborn zebras stay close to mother and the herd. Tiny antelope lay invisibly in the grass. Moms keep a vigilant eye, watching for predators. There are no baby giraffes, the herd is entirely male. Their off-spring are residents of zoos and other preserves around the globe.

Tours of the preserve are a wonderful way to see and learn about African animals. To immerse yourself in this special place rent one of the three lake-side, family cabins. From there you can watch sunrise or sunset with giraffe, zebra and antelope.

B Bryan’s Home, Point Arena California

Point Arena Downtown

Point Arena is a tiny town on California’s Mendocino Coast. Point Arena boasts the closest location on the mainland to Hawaii, 2,353 miles (3,787 km).

This laid-back coastal community was once the most active port between San Francisco and Eureka. Steam schooners unloaded cargo and passengers. For the return trip they loaded outbound passengers and redwood lumber from nearby mills. The lumber industry has long been gone from this area. Today, Point Arena’s main economy is hosting visitors looking for an unplug, unwind and occupy nature experience.

Things to do in Point Arena

While the population is small, local food, wine, beer, activities and entertainment are abundant.

  • The Point Arena Theater offers live and broadcast performance and movies. Local pubs stage local and regional musicians.
  • Favorite activities include whale watching, wildlife viewing, fishing, boating, diving, hiking, cycling and camping.
  • Point Arena restaurants and bars celebrate the locally grown and produced wine and craft beers of Mendocino County, America’s Greenest Wine Region.
  • Locally sourced, organic and seasonal food is available everywhere.
  • Point Arena Lighthouse, the tallest on the west coast, still warns seagoing vessels of the rocky, wild coastline. Visit the lighthouse for tours, a museum and guest lodging in the old light keeper’s quarters.
  • A working sheep ranch and wool mill, Casari, hosts tours, demonstrations, festivals, camping and farm stays. The original farmhouse, a vacation rental, sleeps ten. Shop in Casari Mercantile and Farm Stand for organic wool products, local cheeses, vegetables, fruit, flowers, herbs and picnic supplies.
  • Point Arena City Pier, ideal for sunset and storm watching, includes a boat launch. Fish from the pier or just gaze at the surf while picnicking.
Arena Cove B Bryan Preserve

Getting to B Bryan Preserve

Point Arena sits on CA Hwy 1, 15-miles north of Gualala (the Mendocino County line) and 35-miles south of Mendocino. San Francisco is about 135-miles south. Most come by auto, but many hardy cyclists pedal their way here. Take your time on the scenic, slow going as it twists and turns along the coast.

B Bryan Preserve is located at 130 Riverside Drive, Point Arena. That’s 1/8 mile east, off Hwy 1. Tours are 9:30 am or 4:00 pm daily, by reservation only. Reservations can be made online or by calling 707-882-2297. Learn more about the animals, the preserve, the cottage rentals and make reservations at www.bbryanpreserve.com.

For information on things to do in nearby Napa Valley, check out Expedia, a MilesGeek affiliate.

Mary Charlebois
Mary Charlebois

Mary Charlebois is a freelance travel writer/photographer/videographer. Her home is coastal Mendocino County California where she covers nature, food, destinations and profiles of people. Her passion is getting to know ranchers and farmers that produce the many sources for whole, clean and organic food abundant in the region.

Mary plans to expand her travel writer’s beat to Oregon, Washington, NW Canada and southern England in 2017.

She is a Journalist member of International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance, a Lonely Planet Pathfinder and Indie Traveler.

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