Kate Freud and her children, Jago and Georgia, head off for a weekend safari in Kent
I haven’t visited a safari park since childhood myself, so am even more excited than the children at the prospect of what’s to come as we head down the M2 towards the Kent coast. Set in an impressive 600 acres of countryside, you really do get the sense that the animals – many of which are endangered – are able to roam as freely as possible here at Port Lympne Reserve. Our weekend adventure begins with a visit to the tigers, resplendantly baking in the midday sun and paying very little attention to their admirers on the other side of the fence. They merely whet the children’s appetites for what is to come, but first, following an excellent wood-fired pizza at the park’s Babydoll restaurant, we head to Rhino Lodge, our digs for the weekend. The beautiful cottage – newly refurbished in cosy country, Soho House style – overlooks the rhino enclosure and much to the delight of the children, the rhinos roam up to the garden fence within minutes of our arrival.
Rhinos aside, one of the greatest thrills of the weekend proves to be our golf buggy. With small children in tow, there can be no more civilised way to see the sights.
Our next stop is the prehistoric Dinosaur Forest, which the children are blown away by. We then swing by Carnivore Territory to see the lions being fed – a gruesome sight but the children love it, and then it’s supper time for us, followed by sundowners at the Club House, a spectacular safari lodge with views over ‘the savannah’ (or Kent countryside). We toast marshmallows, drink hot chocolate and pile into bed tired but happy.
A delicious breakfast at the Port Lympne Hotel the next morning sets us off on the right foot before the Giraffe Safari. Our ranger drives us cross-country, with everything from impala to zebras roaming around us, before reaching the giraffes. Watching my son Jago hang on for dear life while feeding them bamboo is a highlight. Feeding time continues with the gorillas, who feast on kumquats and peanuts before it’s our turn for a last meal back at the hotel. The children are bereft at the prospect of returning the golf buggy, but have so many happy memories to savour before we return again next year.
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