Saturday, 23 August 2014

West Midlands Safari Park Review

West Midlands Safari Park Review-August 2014

Disclaimer: all opinions expressed are my own. I have not been paid for this review by the companies mentioned.

There’s a lot to be said about pre-School children/toddlers. They develop likes quicker than some celebrities change partners. But one thing that is usually a given is they have a favourite animal. My little one loves animals-in particular penguins and big cats. I really have no idea where she developed this love for penguins as I am a lover of Giraffes and yes big cats. It’s a unique quirk of her personality and like any other parent we try to encourage her to have ‘likes’ that are specific to her and her only in the family.

As a child I have fond memories of visiting Farms, the odd Theme Park and the Zoo. I loved the Zoo. Exotic animals to look at in the UK?! Yes please! My particular love for a certain West Midlands Safari Park started back when in 1995 and I have been in love with it since.

Now that I have two children of my own to keep occupied I found a new reason to visit WMSP. I wanted little ones to learn about the animals that they cannot see walking around in the wild. I also want them to develop from a young age an ethos that includes conservation of animals (in particular those which are vulnerable). One of my biggest fears is there will be animals my girls won’t be able to see when they are older as they will become extinct. So my approach is this-actively encourage my children to visit Zoos/Farms/Sanctuaries and allow their love of animals to develop.

So enough of my mission to create children who understand the importance of conservation let’s get onto the bit you guys want to read about West Midlands Safari Park.

Safari's are thirty work; so be prepared
I shop as Tesco (before the do-gooders start calling for me to be stoned to death please note I haven’t done a shop at Tesco since pre-Ramadan 2014). I collect Clubcard points. I love the Clubcard points and when I get the chance to boost them I am literally on a high. I get giddy calculating my savings. Oh the sheer bliss of being frugal. After using my points last year to take little on to WMSP before her sister was born I decided I wanted to take her back there as she is now older and more into animals than when she was 2 & 1/2. As soon as the Clubcard ‘sale’ came up I was quick to order tickets for WMSP as well as tickets for Blackpool Zoo. Tickets to WMSP (excluding the rides) cost £17.99 per adult and £12.99 per child. Under threes are admitted free. This price also includes a return visit. However this visit must be carried out in the same car that you used on the original trip as the ticket has your car registration on (as well as noting how many people were in the car). If you some reason you cannot do this e.g. you sold your car you can contact WMSP with evidence of this fact and they are more than happy to help. Even when you purchase your tickets via the Club card scheme you are still given a free returns voucher which stretches your points even further. Even if you pay the full admissions price you are in for a treat (and so are the little ones).

One piece of advice I do have for those who hate queues. Always check the traffic updates for the route you will be taking and like any other attraction avoid peak times as the self drive safari will take you 2 hours which can be a problem with little ones in the car.

Smile for the camera
After a 90 minute drive to WMSP we had two very excited children who wanted to see the big cats and Pingu. We got to the park around 1:30 (don’t ask folks) and there were no queues into the park. We exchanged the vouchers for admission tickets and soon commenced the self drive 2 hour safari in the heart of the Midlands.  

Little one was extremely excited. We decided to take both our children out of their car seats. We weighed the pros and cons and decided that as the car would be traveling at a very slow speed we didn’t feel there was a need for them to be buckled in throughout the safari. Plus when we visited last year little one hated being stuck in one static position and that put a damper on her enjoyment. So we decided to let little ones roam around in the car. And we were not the only ones; other parents clearly had a similar idea as we saw many little people sitting on their parents laps.

Once we had snacks and drinks sorted (remember it was a 2 hour safari) we set of to enjoy the views.

The safari itself is 4 miles across 100 acres of land set in the heart of the Midlands between Kidderminster and Bewdley. The safari is organised by areas which are:

African Plains where you will find the herd of southern white rhinos, my favourites the giraffes as well as zebras, Ankole cattle, Congo buffalo, ostrich and eland (the largest of all antelope species (to name but a few)

The Grasslands is home to the Barbary sheep, the Persian fallow (which is endangered) and the Adder snake-yes a snake! Believe it or not it’s the only venomous snake that resides in the UK.

The Wild Woods is home to the very playful dholes.

Wild Asia is where you will find Asian water buffalos, sambar deer, Przewalkski’s horse, Philippine spotted deer, barasingha (translated=12 horns) as well as the magnificent greater one horned rhino who look like they are wearing a coat of truly pretty armour.

The Tiger Ridge where you’ve guessed it you will find the gorgeous stripy Tigers.

Cheetah Plains is home to the world’s fastest land mammal. Quite frankly I don’t favour my chances of outrunning these beauties that can reach up to 70 miles an hour.

Land of the Painted Dog-I don’t think I would ever say this about a predator but these guys are cute. But of course they are wild dogs so yes they are scary too.

Realm of the Lions is the patch of the Safari where you will find the stars of the show the African Lions. Simply beautiful.

Kingdom of the White Lions is what I look forward to out of the big cats. These beautiful creatures are not albino. Seeing these guys in the wild is very very rare so it’s a privilege to see them here.

Asian Lowlands is home to the addax, bactrian camels, fallow deer and banteng-to name a few of the residents of this part of the park.

Elephant Valley is now to the very happy and cheery African elephants which include a baby that my little one named Dumbo.

We were lucky enough to see the majority of the animals. We didn’t spot any adders (for which I am grateful for believe me).

Me feeding a giraffe
The park has clear signs dotted around reminding you to keep your windows closed (where appropriate) and whether or not you can feed the animals (feed boxes are available at the kiosks priced at £3.00 per box). There is also advice on how to feed animals which I found useful as I got the chance to feed the elegant and truly breathtaking giraffes. You put your hand out (arm full stretched) and open your hand. The animals happily take a nibble. And when you want to stop feeding the beauties you turn your hand and drop the feed on the floor and put your hand back in the car.

Once you complete the safari you will find ample parking. The park also provides lots of hand washing facilities as well as toilets that are clean. Hooray! Clean lavatories. Believe me it’s hard to find a venue that is clean during the holiday period. Yes there was a bit of a stink in the toilets but what would you expect? Little ones can sometimes ‘miss’ their aim and well a stink here and there can only be expected.

Once we were parked up I was getting hungry. As a lot of you guys will know I prefer to take my own picnic for two main reasons-for variety and to be more cost effective. I noticed some of the prices at the food booth and noticed some of the prices. A portion of chips cost under £3.00. Drinks included Pepsi however I didn’t notice the prices on them. There were a variety of ice-creams including Wall’s ice-creams.

After a two hour drive around there was plenty more to see. For the older children and families there’s a Discovery Trail that will keep you amused whatever the weather. Activities include talks on various animals.

For those who love a good show don’t miss the 15 minute Sea Lion show. The theatre becomes quite packed so you may wish to get a seat about 15 minutes before the show.

If you like Creepy Crawlies you can have a look around the place (called Creepy Crawlies) which includes goliath tarantulas and a plague of locusts.

The SeaQuarium is home to Nemo (I meant clown fish) and piranhas.

And if that’s not enough to get your adventurous side you can visit Mark O’Shea’s Reptile World where you will meet crocodiles, snapping turtles and vipers!

For those like me who prefer fluffy creatures you will find them in the African Village and the Lemur Woods. You will find three types of Lemurs around all equally as fluffy as each other. And once you have walked around and enjoyed looking at them move onto our favourites-the Meerkats. These little creatures are not only our favourites thanks to clever TV marketing the fact they interact with their audiences makes them family friendly. Our little ones just stood there talking to these beautiful animals and they stood there listening. Stunning creatures and a must see at the Safari Park.

Whilst you are in this area of the park don’t forget to take a peak at the goats too who live nearby in the Goat Park.

And for the Pingu lovers out there you simply cannot miss the Penguin Cove which is home to a family of Humboldt penguins. These fun guys are great to watch. Both girls loved watching them. I’m sure little one was asking her sister for Pinga.

The Hippo Lake is well home to the hippos! You can take a walk up to the viewing platform to watch this huge animals relax in the lake. Great spot for taking photos of them too.

There are many facilities dotted around the park for families. There were various eateries, first aid points, toilets and shops to buy a memento or two. Little one dug for a dino egg (cost £3.00 per egg; however every player wins a prize). Once your little one finds the egg they get to pick a dinosaur toy. We picked a pink one and named her. She later married Rex from Toy Story. There were plenty of suitable backdrops for family photos too including a Safari Jeep all kited out for well a Safari.

And the fun doesn’t stop when you’ve seen all the animals. There’s also the Theme Park to explore (for an additional cost to the admission price). We decided to purchase a cub wristband which gave little one unlimited access to rides in the Tiny Tots Theme Park. These rides included a mini pirate ship, a train, magic carpet ride and our favourite a carousel (plus other rides). The wrist band cost £7.99 and covered 7 rides which little one could actually ride on. We thought that was a reasonable cost to keep little one entertained. She went on the rides a few times and liked the independence. This park of the park is designed for under 120 cm talk people making it ideal for little people like our oldest.

Older children can ride on the other rides that shape the Theme Park landscape however we chose not to look around the rides little ones wouldn’t be able to enjoy.

Adult wristbands cost £11.99 (16-64 years of age). Children’s cost £10.99 (2-15 years of age).
Summer nights mean longer opening times at the Park-9PM in fact giving families plenty of time to enjoy the park. We managed to last until around 6PM before we got tired. There was a picnic area situated in the Tiny Tots part of the Park which is where little one enjoyed her second picnic of the day.

Asian Elephant
There were plenty of bins dotted over the park and the park was clean and tidy. I am aware that paying the entry fees seems like a lot of money however this is now I justify the cost:
  • You get two visits for the price of one
  • You get a 2 hour safari drive
  • You get to see penguins
  • There’s a Sea Lion show
  • There are meerkats, Lemurs, goats-plenty of ‘fluffy’ animals for little ones to look at, interact with and enjoy being around
  • The park is clean and tidy
  • You can take your own picnic as there are picnic areas
  • The staff were friendly and interacted with children extremely well
  • If you want to pay extra and enjoy the rides you can do so
  • There are plenty show times enabling you to enjoy the shows throughout the day at a pace that suits your family rather than rushing around the park
  • It’s a Park that is built for families and caters for families.
And if you can get hold of the tickets via Tesco Clubcards or other schemes it’s even better value for money.

What did I think of the food?
We took our own picnic so cannot comment as little one only had an Ice-cream (feast).

What did we pack?
a white Tiger having a nap.

The usual-a change of clothes, changing bag, sunglasses for all the family, feeds for little one, picnic, cameras as well as a small first aid kit and wellie boots. Oh and various audio stories for in-car entertainment.

Would we go again?
Yes, yes yes. In fact we plan to go back around October time as the children enjoyed it (as did we).

Highlight of the kids day:
Too many to mention-although I think they loved the Penguins and Meerkat moments

Highlight of the adults day:
Feeding the giraffe and Ostrich! Little ones hid when they saw the animals coming over to the car.

A beautiful tiger-all photos are my own

Any advice for visitors:

Give yourself plenty of time between activities. Take enough snacks and drinks to keep you fueled during the 2 hour Safari. Keep costs down by taking your own picnic. Pack for the varied weather the Midlands is famed for. Don’t forget your camera.

Enjoy your day guys and if you visit let me know what you guys thought of it.




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