It’s a Safari in Kent. I mean come on that’s all I really needed to hear to convince me this was something I had to do. I come from South Africa and can you believe I didn’t spend all my time on Safaris, actually I spent very little of it doing such things and seeing as my partner will not be going back to South Africa for a very long time (terrible mugging experience so fair enough) I needed to bring the wild to us.
The excitement I had when I realised a place as this exists was unreal. I love any ideas that are kinda out there and if you don’t believe me read all about my Champing experience. For any animal lover, whether you have kids or not, this is a great experience, and I even recommend you staying the night if you can afford it.
What exactly is Port Lympne Reserve?
I don’t know how I stumbled upon this place, but I hadn’t heard about it until I was doing research for my boyfriends birthday present as the only thing you can gift a man who has everything are experiences, and Port Lympne sounded terrific.
They are part of the Aspinal foundation whose mission is “Our commitment is to conservation, through captive breeding, education, and reintroduction. We are working in some of the world’s most fragile environments to save endangered animals and return them to the wild.” Port Lympne is one of their sites that helps them fulfill this mission.
Port Lympne for us ordinary folk is a really cool place to go an experience wild animals that are generally not in the UK in an environment that mimics the wild as much as Kent can. The park is split up into different areas; the two main ones are the walking route and the safari route. In the walking path, the animals are held within confined spaces, and within the safari, you enter a truck and drive around open fields.
There are hundreds of different animals which have either been rescued or are there for the purpose of rehabilitation of their species. Basically, put it is a place for you to feel like you have left the UK (if the weather allows you) and get to experience all these cool animals while knowing that you are learning something about them and actually helping contribute to a good cause.
I cannot stress enough how much this is not a zoo. I love animals and would not be recommending somewhere that I didn’t believe was doing good by them.
What is there to do
We arrived around 11.00 although we wanted to come earlier, on these trips, one of us is always the reason for the delay this time my boyfriend insisted on washing his car. This meant we had to skip breakfast otherwise I would be panicked about the time. So there we were hangry( for those that don’t know hangry is a dangerous state to be in) and windswept as it happened to be a stormy weekend.
This intro above leads me to the fact that there is food available at several stops along the way as the park is quite large. I’m pretty sure you will find yourself stopping at most if not all of them.
Every day the park has several talks, activities and feeding times you can join, so make sure to ask after that. When you check-in they will give you a map of the park with all the different areas you can see. We got to see the gorillas feeding and learned all about their habits. Including seeing the silverback looking for his food with his bum in the air and face smooshed into the ground because he is shortsighted and cannot see the food
From walking around half of the park and getting to see all the monkeys, wild cats, and even dinosaurs, you can then hop on a safari ride which takes you into the ‘wild’. It lasts about an hour, and I tell you once you hop on that truck and the gates close behind you, you genuinely feel like you have been transported to a different continent. They have the African and Asian safari area and the South American area. The driver also gives you a running commentary throughout so you do learn a lot about the animals there.
As we went on World Lion Day, the theme was very much around them. They have two female lions, one male and 3 cubs who were just the cutest. There were a couple of competitions, and I even won the ‘guess the weight’ competition bagging myself 4 free tickets to go back to one of their parks. I was a bit too excited, but it was one of the first things I had ever won, apart from Bingo when I was like 7 years old.
Finally, there are a lot of add-on experiences you can buy that can be quite pricy. They have a list of them on the website. There is a free safari so don’t feel like you have to pay to go on an additional one available on the site. The paid ones give you more time on the safari as well as a smaller group. I didn’t go on one myself, so I am not sure if there are additional benefits.
I did get us the animal encounter tickets though as they sounded amazing and opted for the rhino experience because out of the ones left and available, it seemed like the most interesting. It was just the two of us and the ranger, and we attempted to feed the rhino. Unfortunately, none of the Rhinos wanted to play, so we spent a good hour shouting Rosy to try and get her outside. It didn’t work, but I did learn a lot about rhinos that day. So just be warned that if you do book one of these things you are working with wild animals and it won’t always go how you expect it to.
Also if you do book any experience and you are staying overnight you get a £25.00 discount per person.
Staying at the hotel or one of the lodges at Port Lympne
We stayed at the 4* hotel because frankly, that’s all my wallet could afford, but I would have loved to have stayed in one of the other types of accommodation. They have quite a few different kinds of accommodations available, and each brings a unique experience with them.
The hotel is beautiful and has a Jumanji like feel to it. I loved its decor and the strange over the top wall murals in the tiny restaurant. The first thing to note is its not a large hotel which makes it all that so much better, I think it has about 6 bedrooms in total. On the ground floor, you have a bar, restaurant, snooker room, and a few meeting rooms. The second floor is where the bedrooms are located.
The bar and restaurant are small, but both have an extensive menu, and the quality is quite high as well. My espresso martini was potent though which is always a good sign. It’s also where breakfast is served, which was really good and is included in the hotel room price.
Our room was the Charlie Chaplin room and had a view of the courtyard, it was basically a little flat with a small lounge area and bedroom separate. The bathroom wasn’t to my taste as it was quite old school, but that obviously ties in with the theme. As bedrooms go, it was decent with actually useful pillows. The rooms weren’t too soundproof, but that’s actually not a problem as there is no one around to make noise.
The two best things about staying there for me was the golf buggy that you can use from 15.00 on check-in day to 13.00 the next day, and the fact that you could walk around the park at night. The golf buggy was just cool because it meant we could zoom around the park and it’s a novel idea which I’m all for.
Getting access to the park at night is probably the highlight of the trip for me. I am generally a terrified person so don’t be fooled it freaked me the hell out, and I didn’t go down to see the monkeys but to walk in the gardens and to actually hear the animal noises surrounding us was pretty unique. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear any lions roar. We were also lucky enough to have a clear sky which meant a great view of the stars.
There are other great experience stays like the tiger lodge or wolf lodge where one of the walls is glass and is in the animal’s enclosure, so you get up close and personal with them. We saw a few bubble rooms as well and a bear lodge. When you go around the safari, you pass two other types of accommodation which have fantastic views of the Kent countryside, and you have the benefit of being in amongst the animals roaming freely. This all comes at a steep price though and rightly so as its a unique experience.
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How to get there from London
The address is Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve, Aldington Rd, Lympne, Hythe CT21 4LR
By Car: It takes 1h45 from Central London to drive here, but we all know it takes longer to drive 5 miles in London than 15 miles outside of it so adjust this time according to where you are starting from.
Train/ Bus: There is a Southeastern train from London St Pancras International to Margate. You will be on the train for around 40mins to Ashford international (ps: think there is a massive outlet store here too if you’re looking for a bargain) then you need to hop on bus number 10 run by Stagecoach South East and spend a good 50 minutes on the bus to your stop aptly named wild animal park. From there its roughly a 10 minute walk to the entrance of the park.
The 20-second breakdown
Entry Fee- Day entry into the park costs £20.80 for and adult and £17.60 for kids and includes a free safari ride. There is plenty of additional experience you can pay for too. The price is discounted online so make sure you by the tickets ahead of time.
Address and contact- Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve, Aldington Rd, Lympne, Hythe CT21 4LR. The number is (+44) 1303 264647.
That’ a wrap on my lovely weekend away in Port Lympne. Although it was just two days I had a blast and truly felt like I was on holiday so I do highly recommend you go. Let me know if you do!