To make use of the drive up to Center Parcs we decided that it would be a great idea to have a day trip to Longleat Safari. Longleat Safari is located just down the road from the Center Parcs site and was ideal for a visit, granted we did have to get up rather early as the journey was long and we wanted to get there just after opening, around 10am. We have been to Longleat Safari before on one of their VIP tours which you can purchase online, it was great fun so going back to see it again would be interesting, as it had been a long time since last visiting.
We arrived in good time, coming off the main roundabout and down a long road towards what looks like a checkpoint, nothing sinister here just the ticket booths. We purchased our tickets and went straight through down a long winding road, the views were spectacular, the house looked glorious and the land surrounding it gave you a sense of the ultimate scale that Longleat Estate has. As we drove calmly down these beautifully kept roads, rubber necking was hard to resist as we passed the house, however the car park was almost right next to it so plenty of time to enjoy that later.
First Things First
We needed a plan as Longleat is huge and there are so many areas you can explore. Firstly, the safari entrance which is the main attraction where you drive through and see animals such as the lions and tigers, well that has a last admission of 4pm so plenty of time before that. Knowing this we decided to get a takeaway hot chocolate from the onsite Costa and make are way through to the Jungle Kingdom which is the first gate next to the giant scorpion, don’t worry its not really.
Some friendly otters were around to greet us in the first enclosure, in fact they were just tucking into some yummy dinner and I will spare you the gory details as it wasn’t fish as expected. Next to this enclosure was a sleepy looking Binturong, I didn’t recognise the name but the face was certainly familiar.
As we passed through the area we noticed two people and a keeper sitting down surrounded by meerkats. The most likely explanation is a VIP experience which you can do at an extra cost, maybe one for a later date. The Jungle Kingdom isn’t very big with a few other animals to look at including the most amazing giant ant eater, which had a baby with it, looking at the picture below, see how the baby knows where to put itself to blend into its mother’s fur.
The wonderful thing about Longleat Safari is that almost everywhere is connected so it’s easy to walk to the other side of say the Jungle kingdom and step into monkey temple, which you guessed it, is exactly what we did. Monkey Temple was interesting with most of the monkeys being very small they are free to roam and can be very curious indeed, it’s also worth looking out for the red pandas but don’t be too disappointed if you don’t spot them as they do spend most of the day sleeping.
Connected close by is Penguin Island, this is where you will find lots of Humboldt Penguins swooping in and out of the water. These little creatures are extremely fast and it’s difficult to get a good picture of them. If you can’t get a good snap try walking close up with them, a little area is fenced off where you can be up close and in return the little guys get some nice fish to munch on. Continuing the sea life theme, we stepped through to Ray Bay you can find lots of different rays as well as starfish and seahorses some great snaps to be had in this area too.
On our way back through the Monkey Temple we exited through a gate into a large caged area, we purchased a small cup of nectar and were suddenly met by a swarm of extremely friendly Lorikeets. The colourful birds landed all over us I even had one perched on my head, of course they were only after one thing, the nectar which was gone in seconds, they certainly love the stuff. Exiting through the corresponding gate we entered the Animal Adventure zone.
Within this area you can hold snakes and spiders there was even an armadillo running around at one point, highly hilarious might I add. If snakes and spiders aren’t your favourite you can always go onto the fluffier side on life and hold some rabbits and guinea pigs. Also in this area is the butterfly house, last time I was here I do remember there being more butterflies however I suppose it depends on the time of year however there were still some around. I always find this area is where you can let your inner pro photographer out, many people around me were zooming in checking the lighting and crouching just to get that perfect shot.
Most of these areas are connected, so naturally when you arrive at the end, there is a gift shop much like the other five or so gift shops on the site so I wouldn’t waste too much time here or you may find yourself carrying it all around.
After our adventures around all the animal zones we headed straight for the lake. One of the more popular attractions at the park is the Jungle Cruise its great fun for all ages. We queued up and had our photo taken by a member of staff, at the time I assumed it was like one of those roller coaster ride photographs where they sell you it afterwards. Turns out it was a green screen and we were both screaming at a crocodile, “A” for effort on my part, I think I should consider acting, the picture went up for sale in many forms at the end of the cruise.
The Jungle cruise was great fun we had a tour guide on the boat giving us all the details, the sea lions new some food was on its way hence them following the boat with a keen eye. As we reached the middle of the lake we caught a glimpse at Nico one of the oldest Gorillas in the world, he lives on an island and has all the amenities, including sky TV, however we are told that he doesn’t like watching loose women, well how many guys do.
We approached the end of the lake and caught site of some hippopotamus although we could only see I small part of them sticking out the water. Lucky for us we managed to see the gorillas being fed, witnessing a scurry of young males tussling for the last bit of food, sort of like at the supermarket when they reduce everything down at the end of the day. We made our way back to the mainland being given the chance to feed the sea lions along the way. Available to purchase are some small pieces of fish this gets you a great opportunity for some more snaps with the camera, they certainly enjoyed following the boat back, apparently this happens on every trip so they are very well fed.
Back on dry land we decided to grab a panini from the café and have an explore around the grounds. You can buy tickets to the house although having been once before I can’t see how it would have changed, so we decided to give it a miss. Despite not going inside the house you are able to walk around it and Longleat Safari has some spectacular gardens to visit. Stroll through the orangery or relax in front of Longleat house amongst all the beautiful plants, if you take one thing from a visit to Longleat take a stroll, often these areas get overlooked and they are worth experiencing.
After we had enjoyed a spot of lunch in front of the house we headed on through to the Safari Drive Through. This area is the cherry on top of the Longleat cake, Lions, Tigers and Wolves to name a few, it is a bit of a drive to get to the main gate so don’t give up just keep driving as it does start to look like you’re in some quiet village in Wiltshire. At the gate, you will be greeted with a drive through CD of Kate Humble, it’s worth listening too but as we don’t have a CD player in the car we weren’t able to…never mind.
The first area you get to is the African safari, at this point you can get out and walk around, we walked along the road past some rather cute looking goats. Coming past the obvious gift shop we entered the wallaby area they were hopping around and didn’t much enjoy our company staying away from the path but with a curious eye, I’m sure they have no problem with us being there as they are very used to it by now. After making our way around the path we exited and just along the road entered the lemur park, these friendly creatures were curled up together or hanging from trees. No matter how normal these guys looked all I could picture was king Julian from the Madagascar movies, look him up if you don’t know.
After strolling around the smaller animal parks, we decided to go large and say hello to the giraffes. This is a fantastic opportunity to see them up close, there was even a little baby, and when I say little I mean double the height of the average human. We saw another VIP in a zebra patterned land rover getting up close but either way we were happy with view.
Excited about the rest of the tour we hopped back in the car and headed off down the road, passing the giraffes and zebras as we went. Along the road you will spot different areas where animals area, for example before the monkeys you pass tapirs, flamingos and vultures. The monkeys are particularly naughty and have a reputation for destroying cars, last time we were here one made off with my rear wiper so this time round I happily took the bypass route. If you want to go through then I would suggest taking the safari bus tour or not hanging around whilst your inside….to give them credit they can be very funny with their antics.
After passing through the monkeys or taking the bypass…. your choice, you will drive into the big game area, this area is home to the ostriches, camels and rhinos with a separate area on the left for Anne the elephant who was picked up after years of abuse by a circus. It’s worthy note at this point despite Longleat being a wildlife park, everything that they do is for the welfare of the creatures they keep and the ones in the wild.
After the big game area, we drove into an area which involved lots of deer, you can purchase some food and feed them, they will come right up to the car, just follow someone who purchased food and your guaranteed a show. This area is simple giving you a sense of calm before the storm, that’s right next up are the big cats. Starting off with the tigers.
This part of our safari became very intense when one naughty tiger planned on escaping. Its almost something you tend to forget but these creature’s are so clever, you only have to watch David Attenborough on BBC to know they are smart. As we all lined up to exit the area where the tiger was one tiger started patrolling the gate luckily the rangers were on hand to entice him back in and show him it wasn’t going to happen.
Our big cat adventure continued with the Lions being, much more docile cats all these guys wanted to do was sit in the sunshine washing themselves, hey that’s fine by me. I got some great pictures as they are always staying still, I think one of the Lion pictures was the first one I ever instagrammed Well like I said the lions are great to see and remember to get some good snaps, from this point it was straight into the cheetahs. These guys are like the lions they love a bit of sunshine but slightly harder to spot, don’t expect them to be running at full pelt chasing down wild antelope, still a wonderful experience seeing them up close.
The wolves were next, this one was a strange one for us as we had gone on a VIP tour years ago and seen the wolves being fed a whole horse, it wasn’t alive of course but it was an amazing experience, their eyes swelled up and they all just went completely crazy. Coincidentally we didn’t see any wolves in this section I’m not sure where they were hiding but I don’t think anyone else could spot them as everyone just drove straight through.
This was the last section on the our Longleat Safari adventure in fact this blog post has gone on long enough if anyone is still there thank you for reading, you may not believe it but I left a lot out, there are also mazes and caves and shops and even a train ride, but maybe I will have to save that till next time. Hopefully we will get to go on a VIP tour again and I will have the chance to share that with you also, but for now it’s see you later.
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