If you had your hopes pinned on a safari this year you needn’t miss out – as you can still get up close to elephants, cheetahs and lions in wildlife lodges across the UK
Tanzania might not be an option this year but you can still drive 6.5km through West Midland Safari Park near Birmingham, which is home to zebras, Congo buffalo, Indian rhino and critically endangered Bactrian camels.
To see some of the animals at night – after most visitors have left for the day – you can now stay over in one of the park’s eight new safari lodges.
As well as the lodges, the animals’ habitats have also been renovated, so the park’s three African elephants now have access to an outdoor paddock and drinking pool 24 hours a day. Six of the lodges have large windows and an outdoor deck overlooking the pool, so you can observe Latabe, Five and Sutton as they drink. The two-storey lodges blend in with the paddock as they feature thatched roofs, wooden floors, woven rugs and straw lampshades. The two other lodges overlook the cheetahs’ lair, with floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedrooms providing a perfect view of cheetahs Azrael and Bappe. A Red Panda Cottage is also due to open in spring 2021.
For more information visit West Midland Safari Park.
Once the grounds of a 16th century manor house, Longleat opened as a safari park in 1966. Sandwiched between Bath and Salisbury, the reserve is four times the size of London’s Richmond Park, and home to game more at home on the plains of Zimbabwe.
Visitors can drive in their own vehicle or hop on a safari bus to see tigers, white rhinos and lions. Alternatively, you can join a walking safari to see lemurs, African tortoises and the black-headed Somali sheep.
For a close up of the zebras and giraffes, however, book a night in a cottage. There are three to choose from: East Lodge, which includes a guided tour of the grounds, and Keeper’s House and Keeper’s Cottage, both of which include a guided safari tour in a 4x4.
For more information visit Longleat.
Swap Kenya for Kent on a safari at Port Lympne Safari Park on the edge of the Kent Downs. Covid rules permitting, you can choose one of three ranger-led safaris, during which you will see black rhino, wildebeest, ostriches and critically endangered Rothschild giraffes.
For a more intimate experience, stay overnight and see the animals once most guests have gone home. The 243-hectare estate is home to wigwams, shepherds’ huts, a treehouse hotel and an igloo-style ‘bubble’ designed for stargazers. Depending on the accommodation you choose, you might be able to observe Amur leopards from Leopard Creek or watch TV side by side with Adras, Oudrika and their offspring on the other side of an enormous window in Lion Lodge.
For more information visit Port Lympne Safari Park.
Set within the Wild Place Project, this camp on the outskirts of Bristol is home to lemurs, pygmy goats, eland and okapi, which is endemic to the Congo.
The site has 10 wishbone-shaped cabins for overnight guests, who can help feed some of the animals on a morning tour before the site opens to the public. You can also join an evening tour and rangers’ workshops to learn bush craft skills under a canopy in the woods and around a firepit. As well as entry to Wild Place Project, overnight guests can visit Bristol Zoo Gardens for free, too.
For more information visit Camp Baboon.
There are only 520 Asiatic lions left in Gir National Park in Gujarati in the north west of India. While you may not be able to travel there at the moment, you can see a pride of the endangered animals in Land of the Lions, a breeding centre inside ZSL London Zoo.
The London enclosure is modelled after the national park, complete with railway tracks, a corrugated roof, train station ticket hall and a crumbling temple. Visitors stroll on raised boardwalks over the lions to a viewing area. You can also spend the night in one of nine cabins in Gir Lion Lodge. A stay includes three tours that take place once the zoo is closed to the public.
For more information visit ZSL London Zoo.
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