We’ve rounded up the best UK safari parks to take the kids to this summer (because watching monkeys destroy your windscreen wipers is a rite of passage for a six-year-old).
From conservation reserves to luxury parks with accommodation that will have you waking up right next to the lions (less scary than it sounds, we promise), here are the top six to visit all over the country.
Your pack won’t believe they’re in England at the country’s number one and most beautiful drive-through safari park, Longleat. Watch from the safety of your vehicle as lions roam free, tigers stalk and monkeys swing from trees – or your car – in the grounds of this grand stately home.
Unfortunately due to COVID-19, the stunning house remains closed but once it reopens, you’ll be able to wander the sweeping corridors and grand rooms of Longleat House again, taking in the stunning Elizabethan architecture and the views of the Capability Brown landscaped grounds surrounding it.
For the time being, there’s still plenty to do and see, from the walkthrough Jungle Kingdom to the Monkey Temple, Koala Creek to the mindboggling Hedge Maze. Just make sure you book beforehand.
Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 7NW
Now is the perfect time to book a visit to Bedfordshire’s Woburn as Dakota, one of the safari park’s lionesses, has just given birth to a litter of adorable cubs. It’s not just lions to spot but some of the animal kingdom’s finest species, from tigers to rhinos, lemurs to bongos.
You can only visit in your own car – probably best with the amount of danger roaming free – but once you’re in, there’s plenty to see, from the Road Safari to the Foot Safari and Leisure Areas of the park, keeper talks and a family-friendly restaurant serving up panoramic views of the Penguin World pool.
Woburn Safari Park, Woburn Park, Bedfordshire MK43 0TU
This Aspinall Family owned safari experience is like no other in the UK. Not only is it a beautiful reserve park set in 600 lush acres of land with 90 species and 766 animals roaming free, but it’s also a hotel, so you can literally wake up in the spectacular treetop hotel or have breakfast with a group of giraffes.
The park is first and foremost an internationally renowned animal conservation charity, helping to breed and protect some of the planet’s endangered animals. Book in for one of their exciting but educational Keeper for a Day experiences to find out all about some of the animal kingdom’s most impressive and beautiful species.
For animal lovers who want to bed down for the night, there are plenty of options, from the aforementioned treetop hotel to glamping and the Lion Lodges where you can stay in Manhattan loft-style buildings with floor to ceiling windows backing on to the natural and spacious habitat of the park’s lion pride. Terrifying and thrilling all at once.
Two of children’s favourite things are in one place at the award-winning West Midland Safari Park – animals and a theme park.
Make your way (in the car, of course) through the African Plains spotting the park’s herd of southern white rhino, elegant giraffe, zebra, ellipsen waterbuck and the swamp-loving red lechwe. Or feel like you’re in the midst of Asia with the world’s rarest deer, the Philippine spotted deer and the endangered barasingha.
There’s also tigers, cheetahs and everyone’s favourite, the majestic elephant, as well as plenty of rides to keep little thrill seekers of all ages happy.
West Midland Safari Park. Bewdley, Worcs, DY12 1LF
If you’re based in the North West, a trip to Knowsley Safari, not too far from Liverpool, is a must for anyone intrigued by the animal kingdom.
Take a walk on the wild side, quite literally, as much of the park is accessibly on foot, from the meerkats to the giraffes and even a tiger trail.
But it’s the Safari Drive where you’ll see the best action, in Britain’s longest safari experience – a whole 550 acres full. Spot animals from around the world from rhinos to wildebeest, forest buffalo to camels and bison. You’ll even come face to face (well apart from your car) with the park’s pride of beautiful lions.
For the less adventurous, there are amusement rides and rowing boats available for hire on the picturesque Mizzy Lake.
Knowsley Safari, Prescot, Merseyside L34 4AN
The drab Scottish weather doesn’t mean you can’t spot a few exotic animals on your summer holiday, just head to Blair Drummond’s action packed park with over 350 animals on site.
Meet Scotland’s only giraffes, experience the monkey drive-thru, take a boat trip to Chimp Island or explore the new dinosaur exhibit (not real of course) in the stunning grounds of the Stirling safari park.
Expect to see some of the giants, from elephants to lions, wallabies to zebras and more familiar creatures like ponies, sheep and llamas. Cute.
Blair Drummond Safari & Adventure Park, Stirling FK9 4UR