On Friday we drove to Kent to the Port Lympne hotel and animal reserve. It is somewhere we have wanted to go to for a while and booked it about six weeks ago but kept it a surprise for Oscar and Archie until we arrived. On arrival when they saw the signs they were so excited but couldn’t believe it when we told them we would be staying there and have the zoo to ourselves in the evening!
We arrived at midday, it took us and hour and a half to drive there and I had packed a picnic so as we couldn’t check in until 3pm we headed to one of the picnic table areas to have lunch. There are a few places to grab meals around the park during the day like the Meerkat shack and a burger place outside Baby Doll’s. We started walking around the reserve which is absolutely huge (600 acres to be precise) and very hilly, but don’t worry if the little ones get tired there are complimentary pushchairs dotted around the reserve to use.
There are two different areas to the reserve one which you can walk around and the other which is the safari route. There are complimentary safaris running all day from Base Camp but the queues are huge. There are other safaris you can book and we booked a Ranger Safari at 3.30pm so took the walking route to start with.
Firstly we walked along the primate trail past all sorts of Monkeys and the Palace of the Apes where the Gorillas are. With every enclosure around the reserve they are absolutely huge, some of the biggest in Europe so sometimes you can’t spot the animals at all. This is why it is great to stay over night as you get two days within the reserve and also once the park is closed to the day visitors you can still go around the reserve and see all of the animals. The evening time was amazing we got to see so many more animals as a lot of them come out more at night.
We then walked past all of the small cats, Cheetah’s and Painting Dogs. Around the reserve there are plenty of toilets and places to grab a drink and a snack which is great especially when the walk around is so long. Both still snack shacks have a children’s play area too. There is also a Dinosaur trail near the small cats which is great with lots of different types of dinosaurs hidden within the trees.
We carried on past the Byson, Lynx, deer and Red Panda’s and passed ‘Hog Deer Creek’ where our Shepherd’s hut was located where we were staying for the night. It looked beautiful, I couldn’t wait to check in!
Further up was the Rhino Walk where you can walk right past the Rhino, sometimes them only being a matter of metres away from you. They are such lovely animals. WE walked up past the baboons and back to guest services. We checked in and then waited for our Ranger Safari which was booked for 3.30pm. The Ranger safari costs £45 each but you get a discount code to use when booking if you are staying at the reserve.
We got on to the safari truck with another family and our Ranger Charlie and set off. We passed the Wolves and Wolf Lodge where you can stay and have your own window into their enclosure and tree top walk way to look down and watch them. There is also a Rhino lodge here too that looks over the huge fields they are in. We then entered into the safari only route and our first stop was by Rosie the Rhino. Charlie told us all about her and about the Black Rhino, he was great with the kids too as Oscar asked him so many questions throughout the safari and he was so patient and answered them all. Rosie the Rhino came right up to the truck, I had never seen one so close up before.
We went passed the bear enclosure but could only spot one from a distance. They are an old elephant enclosure which is ginormous. At Port Lympne they make the enclosures as fun as possible and hide the bears food and treats for them to find and are always installing new equipment to keep the animals stimulated and entertained. There are also Capybara here running around and Vicugna which are cousins of the Alpaca’s.
We carried on past the camels, deer and the Przewalski’s horses which is a really rare breed of horse. The African experience was my favourite part of the safari we firstly went past the Wildebeest, Ostrich, Zebra and the African Painting Dogs. My favourite part was seeing the Giraffe. They came right up to the safari truck within touching distance. There is Giraffe Lodge here too which are a few safari tents where you can stay with a view of the Giraffes. There is also a Giraffe Cottage. For prices, availability and to see the different types of accommodation online click HERE.
We then checked in and was driven to Hog Deer Creek back past a few of the animals on the safari route. The shepherds huts on Hog Deer Creek start at £409 a night and vary in price depending on what day you stay and what time of year. The nightly cost includes a golf buggy from your 3pm check in until 1pm the next day and the two day entry to Port Lympne and its sister park Howlett’s which is 15 miles down the road.
The Shepherds hut was beautiful inside with a lounge area, tea and coffee facilities, a mini bar, shower and toilet and sleeps 4 with a double bed and 2 single beds made into a bunk bed. My first and only criticism of our entire stay is that having the two boys in bunks above us wasn’t great as the wooden beds creaked every time they moved and we were constantly woken up and I kept jumping up to check that Archie wasn’t about to roll off the bunk. In the end at about 2am, I ended up sleeping on the top bunk with Archie and Oscar slept below with Greg. If we stay again I will be booking a treehouse instead to get a better nights sleep! The shepherds hut was lovely and clean and the shower was lovely! The treehouses start from £409 to £859 per suite, per night.
Before dinner we drove round to the treehouse hotel where you can a drink and roast marshmallows whilst looking over the fields where the Rhino’s are. It is a beautiful view with the sea a few miles away and you can even see France in the distance.
I booked our dinner and breakfast sittings a few weeks before as they get booked up quickly. We went to Babydoll’s for dinner which is wood fired pizza restaurant. The food was lovely, Greg and the boys had Pizza’s and I had a steak with Pollenta chips. For a meal with dessert and drinks for the four of us it was about £70.
If you are staying at the park once the day guests have left you have free reign. I would absolutely recommend staying as if you come for a day visit you may not get to see all of the animals as the enclosures are massive and the animals are well hidden. Being able to drive around at night and early on the way to breakfast we got to see so much more than during the day as a lot of the animals come out more at night. We drove around until about 10pm then went to bed.
We woke up to breath taking views and water buffalo grazing by the watering hole in front of Hog Deer creek. It was a beautiful start to the day.
I booked breakfast in the main hotel which is the most beautiful mansion-house with the dining rooms walls painted with different animal murals on them. In the centre of the hotel there is a Moroccan courtyard which is out of this World and the perfect spot for a cup of tea or a coffee. Outside there is a terrace looking over the manicured gardens, maze and pond. There were weddings on both days we were there, it would be a beautiful place to have your special day at!
After breakfast we drove our luggage back to the car by guest services and grabbed the listings for the day of animal feeds and talks. At 10am we went to the Tiger talk and got to see both of the Tigers, we had seen them in the evening but asleep. We also got to see the male Lion in the enclosure next door but not the lioness and she was in the hut with their two new cubs that are only a few weeks old.
We then headed to Gorilla Gardens to see the Gorillas and they were relaxing and eating. One of them gave us a real treat and climbed up the side of the enclosure and slid down the slide. The boys loved it and were so lucky to see it!
At midday we went to the Palace of the Apes to watch the Gorilla feed and talk. It was absolutely amazing! They all came outside to be fed and we even got to see a baby Gorilla clinging onto its Mother’s back less than a few metres in front of us.
We dropped our golf buggy back to Hog Deer Creek at 1pm (you have to check out of the hut by 11am) and on of the staff can either drive you back to the car park and guest services or you can walk around the reserve. We walked back to the Dinosaur Forest and it takes about 15 minutes to go around, went back for a last look at the Gorillas and then headed home.
Our stay at Port Lympne was absolutely amazing and we will definitely being going back. I would recommend staying in a accommodation that comes with a golf buggy as the reserve is huge (600 acres) and very hilly and just makes it easier to get around to the different enclosures and make the most of your time at Port Lympne.
There are different types of accommodation to suit all budgets;
Pinewood camping pods and one Shepherds hut – Pod prices start from £129 to £229 per night. Shepherds hut starts from £199 to £279 per night
Forest Hideaway (includes a golf buggy) – Start from £249 to £399 per night
Hog Deer Creek Shepherd’s hut (includes a golf buggy) – From £269 to £479 per night
Treehouse (includes a golf buggy) – Start from £409 to £859 per suite, per night
Tiger Lodge (includes a golf buggy) – From £1000 per night
Lion Lodge (includes a golf buggy) – From £1000 per night
Wolf Lodge (includes a golf buggy) – Start from £409 per night to £859 per night
Rhino Lodge (includes a golf buggy) – Start from £409 per night to £859 per night
The Bubble (includes a golf buggy) – Start from £359 to £699 per night
Giraffe Lodge glamping – From £455 to £595 per night. Based on 2 people sharing including dining
Bear Lodge glamping – From £350 to £475 per night
Giraffe Cottage (sleeps 8) – Prices start from £879 to £1,459
And in late 2020 there will be the opening of Giraffe Hall where you can stay in this gorgeous house with Giraffe’s walking freely in the grounds. I can’t wait to stay here!
You will be able to get closer than ever before and make friends with your giraffe neighbours, as the resident herd peer into the lofty ceilinged drawing room or amble up to the bedroom windows, where you can feed them.