Half term- the joy of having to plan some family friendly fun, whilst juggling a hectic job is what dreams are made of – surely?
If like me, you prefer to focus on quality rather than quantity when it comes to school holiday activities, then you can’t go far wrong with a visit to Longleat Safari Park. Amrit and I both work, and our jobs are pretty demanding, so we can only take the odd day off during the school breaks, and as ‘luck’ would have it, Leya (our eldest) gets two weeks off for the Spring half term. Owing to this fact, we usually save our days off for the second week, as most places are noticeably quieter then.
As a family we’re quite late to the party with this place – but for reasons elaborated on in previous posts, the Safari experience is something I could not have coped with until very recently.
On arrival at the park, with two very excited young girls in tow, we were greeted by a really friendly, smiling member of staff, who did not care that we couldn’t find our email confirmation. She was more than happy to look our details up, which I wasn’t expecting, having read some unflattering reviews about the staff there. There was no queue to speak of and we drove straight in. We decided to do the drive through first, and this was a brilliant idea (for which I will take all the credit) , as the weather took a turn later on in the afternoon.
Once you are in the park, you can do the drive through as often as you like.
To be perfectly honest, I was more excited than I let on, but Amrit had decided that this was going to a sub-standard experience as we weren’t in Africa (cue eye-rolling from moi). His disappointment quickly faded when we were next to a group of majestic looking Giraffes and Zebras in the first enclosure, and the excitement only grew as an ostrich made its way over to our car and proceeded to peck the window with some serious determination! The drive through enclosures in the first part of the safari were open and large, allowing for great views of the beautiful animals. I had read online that the monkey enclosure could be by-passed, and I have to say my husband was very keen to go with that option. Unfortunately for him, he was outnumbered 3-1 in the vote and we headed in, despite the warning signs about the potential vehicle damage these little guys could do. It was so worth the risk! The monkeys were small, playful and cute, with one jumping up on the hood of the car, to shrieks of joy from the girls, and giving us a cheeky display. Once he was bored by the wipers he swiftly moved on to another car, but not before I had the chance to look into those gorgeous brown eyes.
The vibe of the Safari changes somewhat once you enter Big Cat territory. Things get serious. Each enclosure has a lock-in section, which has to be fully secure before the gate to the cats slides open.
The animals are beautiful, and powerful, and as long as you’re sensible and follow the rules, it is an enjoyable experience for all. We were lucky enough to see the King of the big cats show some of his savage nature when he took a piece of meat from a group of lionesses and sat down calmly to devour it in peace, undisturbed by the cats who obviously knew better than to challenge him.
once we had completed the drive through, we parked in the car park next to the main square. I was really impressed by the variety of food, drinks and snacks on offer, and was glad to see that they served sugar free slushies. We had some delicious fresh hot doughnuts, before taking a walk through Koala Creek and coming face to face with its cute inhabitants relaxing in the eucalyptus trees. The girls and I got to hold a stunning Royal Python in the animal handling centre and we had lunch at the pizzeria (after a good hand wash of course). We had a lovely time on the Jungle Safari, which is a boat ride on the lake. The lake is home to a lovely group of sea lions who relish the attention and the fish! We took a train ride, and the girls spent some time in the play area, which much to their delight, had zip wires, trampolines and slides galore! A quick visit to the old fashioned sweet shop before the downpour started, meant that we had a cup full of pick and mix to enjoy back at the hotel that evening.
We made it back round to the main entrance just in time to have one last drive through the enclosures, although many of the animals had retreated to sheltered areas in order to protect themselves from the rain. We didn’t mind this so much as the experience had been so brilliant the first time around. I would definitely recommend a day out here, and will be visiting again when I have the chance.
TIP: Buy your tickets at https://tickets.picniq.co.uk/longleat/ to get 20% off (correct at time of post), as the full admission prices can be pretty steep for a family.
Let me know what you thought of it 🙂