My husband’s aunt Tracey was back in town, and having previously visited ostriches, parrots, and gibbons with her, I knew she’d be up for a trip to Canzelle Alpacas in Carpinteria. You have to reserve a spot on a one-hour tour—no walk-ins—and tickets cost $30 ($25 for seniors and children). If you want to linger afterward, you can also reserve a table on the balcony of the building pictured below for a BYO picnic ($38 for a four-top, $68 for an eight-top).
Our tour had 18 people, and there can evidently be at least two more (because a couple of folks arrived so late they had to wait for the next one). After we had all signed a waiver and admired the shelves of alpaca “fiber,” our guide gathered us in a circle for a five-minute talk about how the farm came to be, some general info about alpacas, and how to behave around them. In a first, I wouldn’t have minded if the talk had gone on longer.
She led us to a paddock with 10 or so females and we got right to petting them. They’re adorable, probably more so because everything but their heads was recently shorn. They look like a cross between a poodle and horse, perhaps with a dash of giraffe. (Or sock puppets?) Their coats are as soft as plush toys.
I wasn’t taking notes, so I may have misremembered some of this, but at one point the farm had around 300 alpacas, raising them for their fiber; the 2008 recession forced the owner to “give some away.” (The scare quotes are all mine.) And now there are around three dozen, with tourism as the point.
The guide was available to answer questions, and while she could be a tad brusque (maybe she’s just more at ease with animals than humans), she was great with the kids. We learned that alpacas are very sociable animals whose main defenses are to spit or run, but they can also kick, so we were instructed to approach from the side, where their eyes are, and not from behind. While they’re prone to nibbling at clothes, they only have bottom teeth, which means they can be discouraged before doing much damage.
The alpacas mainly mill around, agree to pose for photos, eat, and maybe shoo away the cat.
But we had to leave the buckets behind when proceeding to a pasture with another herd of females. They get pesky if they see a bucket, so you hide carrots in your hand or a pocket. The younger kids were encouraged to hose off the animals, which both kids and animals enjoyed.
The guide said there are sixty or so animals on the farm, including the llama below and Archie the Filipino water buffalo, who was rescued from a traveling petting zoo. (He got a full-size carrot from each of us.) We also saw peacocks and chickens, but not the sheep, horses, and dogs promised on the website. Too bad—the dogs sound interesting.
The tour ended with a visit to a sink for washing hands, followed by the gift shop. An hour was just right: I was entertained by the experience, and I was also ready to go—but not without first saying goodbye to this cutie.
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