I’d never heard of the Port Lympne Safari Park until I saw an advert on the London Underground for it when I was going to work one day.
Our grandsons love animals and the advert had me intrigued so when I got home I looked them up.
The Safari Park of Port Lympne and its sister park Howletts are run as a conservation charity and owned and run by the Aspinall Foundation. The Aspinal Foundations founder, John Aspinall, dreamt of reintroducing gorillas bred at Howletts and Port Lympne back to the wild almost as soon as he started collecting and breeding them in the early 1970s.
I loved the fact that they aren’t just another zoo or safari park and that they are actively engaged in conversation and especially re-introducing animals into their native habitats. Over the past few years they have released back to the wild a range of animals including 8 black rhinos, 49 Javan langurs, 9 Javan gibbon, 11 European bison and over 60 western lowland gorillas back to their natural habitat.
There are three strands to their work:
• To halt the extinction of endangered species in the wild by reintroducing animals and developing sustainable conservation activities; providing economic benefits to local communities and helping manage wilderness areas.
• Provide the most natural environment possible for animals in both animal parks, and be world leaders in our animal husbandry and breeding programmes.
• Increase public understanding of animal welfare and how we can all act to protect animals in their natural environments.
As well as the live animals there is also a great dinosaur park. There are 3 acres of natural woodland, where you can find amazing facts and information about the prehistoric world. The kids can dig for fossils and dinosaurs are quite realistic.
Accommodation at Port Lympne
We have now visited Port Lympne twice with our grandsons and daughter and son in law, one in July last year and again in April this year.
On both occasions we have stayed in the Park overnight and they have an impressive range of accommodation to choose from.
When we visited in July we stayed in one of the safari tents at Bear Lodge which overlooks the bear paddock and South American Experience.
The tents sleep up to 8 people and have a log burner, a small kitchen area and a separate shower and toilet at the back of the tent. The kids loved the tent, especially the cabin style bed. Although it was July it was quite chilly in the evening and we were glad of the log burner which made it nice and cosy.
For our visit in April we thought the tents might be a bit too chilly, so we chose the Treehouse Hotel. The glass fronted treehouses, although when you look at the pictures you’ll probably agree they look like very posh treehouses, sleep 4 people and have a large living area with open plan kitchen, two double bedrooms and a bathroom.
The Treehouses have amazing balconies at the front which overlook the Rhino and Cheetah paddocks and they sit high above the trees, so you get amazing views right across the Park.
If you stay in one of the Treehouses you get the use of a golf buggy to get around the Park and you can even use it after the Park has closed. We loved exploring the Park after all the day visitors had gone home as it was so peaceful.
The boys loved racing around the dinosaur park after all the day visitors had gone home as we seemed to have the whole dinosaur forest to ourselves, so it made it feel like a real adventure.
There are quite a few other accommodation options at the Park, I really want to stay in Tiger Lodge; maybe next time.
Eating at Port Lympne
There is plenty of choice of what and where to eat. On both visits we have eaten breakfast in the Bear Lodge restaurant. They offer a broad selection of cooked breakfast and the boys love the pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast.
Bear Lodge also does lunch and dinner, there’s an Italian restaurant called Babydolls, named after on one the gorillas. The restaurant serves Italian dishes and Pizza. There’s a more formal restaurant in the Port Lympne Hotel.
There is also a café near Base Camp that sells hot food and sandwiches. The food is o.k, but I did think it was slightly overpriced and if you are going for the day I would suggest taking a picnic for lunch.
Safari Experience at Port Lympne
Port Lympne has over 600 acres. The African Experience is 100 acres with African animals including zebras, antelopes, water buffalo and giraffes wandering freely. In all they have over 760 animals and 90 different species including Spectacled Bears, Tigers, Rhinos, Painted Dogs, Gorillas, Giraffes, Water Buffalo, to name but a few.
The Park is laid out in such as way that you can walk around part of it on foot where you can see the big cats and primates such as Tiger, Gorillas. Mine and the boys favourite part is the Safari experience where you get to the see the animals roam freely.
There are regular safari trucks that visitors can board at “Base Camp” which take you around the Asian and African Experiences where you will see the animals.
However, on both occasions that we have visited we have booked one of the private Safari experiences. With these you are driven around the Reserve in a smaller vehicle, up to 10 people, and you have your own personal Ranger as a guide.
The private safari is much more personal and allows you to get much closer to the animals as you can also go off road, which we did on our July visit. Unfortunately, when we visited in April the ground was too wet to go off road, so we had to stay on the tracks.
The Rangers are very knowledgable and passionate about their work and love talking about the animals and really encouraged the kids to ask questions., With our grandsons there are no shortage of questions.
One of the other advantages of the private safaris is that you get to see some of the animals up close. The highlight of our visits to Port Lympne have been feeding the Rhino and Giraffes which you wouldn’t get the opportunity to do on the normal safari trucks.
There are only certain older animals that you get the opportunity to feed as they try and keep human contact with most of the animals to a minimum given the fact that they’re main ambition is to reintroduce them into the wild.
Driving around the Reserve in the Land Rovers is amazing as the scenery is stunning and the area is so vast. With its watering holes the animals look so at home in it you could almost believe you were in Africa.
My Overall Impression of Port Lympne
It’s a beautiful place to visit with kids and the safari experience is amazing. Our grandsons couldn’t stop talking about how they had fed the Rhino and Giraffes.
It’s also such a great learning experience, the littlest Grandson (aged 6) had to do a school project on an animal a couple of weeks after we’d been to the Park. He chose to write about a Fossa, one of the animals he’d seen at the Park and he remembered so many facts about them and he loved being able to share it.
We all thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be going back.