A genuinely luxurious and epic sleepover with red pandas, tigers or rhino in Worcestershire? A stay in the West Midlands Safari Park’s new lodges offers all the adventures and thrills of a real safari with close and personal animal encounters the kids will go wild for.
[words by Wersha Bharadwa]
A one-stop destination for the good life and set in over 200 acres of magnificent parkland worth travelling for, West Midlands Safari Park dominates the sleepy village of Bewdley in Worcestershire.
Getting here is frictionless with a 30-minute drive through some pleasant countryside on the A456 to Bewdley. Because of its Heart of England setting, Kidderminster, Birmingham and the Cotswold’s are within swinging distance as are both the M5 and M6.
Your adventure begins the minute you drive through the Worcester downs with acres of countryside revealing itself almost theatrically before you arrive at the park’s entrance. First opened in 1973 (by Sophia Loren, no less) West Midlands Safari Park has long been a place of exciting family fun and wild adventures.
Now home to over 140 species and well over 1000 individual animals on a four-mile-long safari and Discovery Trail Zoo area (which includes a walk-through bat cave alongside reptiles, penguin and lorikeet exhibitions), other additions to the park include Boj’s Giggly Park, a life-sized dinosaur attraction and a theme park.
On arrival, chilled out staff from the lodge guest relations team help to ensure a swift check- in. Traditional African drum beats softly pulsating from speakers, polished wooden floors, velveteen sofas and classic African artworks on the walls are skillfully done inside a dedicated lodge reception building.
It’s all there to let you know you’re in the hands of experts. All the team here are friends including Marie, Kendall and Kate, and by staying in one of the lodges, you’re instantly made to feel as though you’re a part of their lovely community too.
And whilst the safari is spectacular, the 22 individually designed lodges are an attraction in their own right – just ask any of the radio and TV personalities and their families all clamouring to hunker down here for an immersive night with nature. It’s easy to see why too; spacious and opulent, all the top-notch, two-storey luxury lodges sprawl across the edges of the park and adjoin the rhino, tiger, giraffe and cheetah enclosures or back up onto the red panda exhibit located inside the main zoo area for guests wanting to explore from within.
Those staying in the cheetah lodges can watch cheetahs, Asrael and Bappe, speeding through the tall grasses and windows in the giraffe lodges look out onto a gentle herd of Rothschild’s giraffe, here at the park as part of an international breeding initiative set up European zoos to conserve their endangered species with a reserve population.
White rhino lodges bestow scenic views over the prehistoric horned beasts gently moving about a spectacular red stone ancient temple themed shelter, and the four tiger lodges come with private terraces and sunken hot tubs from which guests can view the majestic cats chuffing away, relaxing on vantage points and hiding behind foliage.
As conservation is the ultimate goal at West Midlands Safari Park, staying overnight in an individual self-contained lodge helps aid projects in the park and abroad which focus on protecting vulnerable and critically endangered species by providing them with environments as close to their own natural habitats and with wide open spaces to roam. It’s all here exactly as you would expect on an African safari except, you’re in the peaceful rolling downs of Worcestershire.
The park has made it truly hard for other animal encounter experiences in the UK to compare; there’s a complete and unique magic about how lodges offer seclusion away from the hustle and bustle of day visitors with the live action of your animal neighbours.
Staying in a lodge guarantees the close-up wildlife entertainment doesn’t stop when the last of the park’s visitors leave either. At night, the place pulses with the energy of nocturnal beasts singing, howling and murmuring under the starry skies.
The Safari Lodges
Inside lodges, flamboyant is the first word that comes to mind. The accommodation has been made to such a high standard it’s a masterclass in how to offer discerning families a unique British break and experience an adventure with nature at the same time, especially one with some of Britain’s arguably most unique views of captivating resident cheetahs, rhino, tiger, elephant, giraffe and red pandas.
Combining luxury and relaxation, the two, double-storey red panda cottages which accommodate two adults and up to three children (and have private parking spaces to boot) are located in the heart of the bustling zoo. Thankfully, the design is such that you don’t overlook your other cottage neighbours at all, and the kids will love starring in their own real-life wilderness fantasy by rocking up at your private entrance next to the red panda enclosure.
Once you’re in, you can marvel at the sight of the cute but notoriously private mammals hopping from pillar to post from the viewing pathway that leads to your cottage front door. The two red pandas are a recent addition to the safari park family too. Female, Mei Lin, arrived in the summer of 2021 and Sanka, her male mate, joined in April 2022. Both are now a top-billed attraction and have settled well into their new den which includes lots of planted bamboo, tall trees, climbing structures and nesting boxes.
Internally, the entire cottage is art. There are the slate grey matted walls, polished, underheated dark wood floors and squishy sofas teamed with geometric cushions. Moody lighting from funky chandeliers and cool ceramic, woven raffia and wooden mask artworks casually lining walls add to the eclectic Nepalese design and ooze revelry. All accommodation comes fully teched up with American style fridge-freezers, double ovens and microwaves all by Bosch in open-plan kitchens. Other top-end touches include chic drinks cabinets, Bluetooth speakers and Nespresso machines.
The kids will love how the lodges are brimming with entertainment too. There’s a surround-sound vintage record player with an oh-so-cool curated collection of vinyl records by Massive Attack, The Who and The Beatles – all, thankfully, crackle-free, a 65-inch flatscreen tv in the lounge with Netflix Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer & Amazon Prime and another two in each of the bedrooms upstairs. A mini library full of eclectic and thoughtful vintage and first edition books about nature and wilderness is next to the vinyl enclave – perfect for rainy evenings next to the roaring fire.
Every detail has been carefully considered to elevate a five-star stay including the open, pre-stocked minibar. Yes, you heard that right, the ultra-smart, down-to-earth and attentive guest relations team have taken cue from top luxury hotels and done away with individually priced items (instead this is included in your package price which you’ll be glad to know you won’t be billed through the nose for either).
The selection includes premium wines, beers, spirits, mineral water, soft drinks and chocolates and posh hand cooked crisps. The quantity in the mini bar is just mischievously indulgent enough to encourage you to fling your windows open and shout back at the hippos when they’re having a midnight gossip or squabble by the lake. None of this will matter to the kids, however. With all the hard work of hanging out with the animals during the day, they’ll be out with the lights.
The twin beds in the second room are perfect for piling into for bedtime reading and snuggles and can easily convert into a super-king if needed. A sumptuous king bed in the master suite comes with quality, crisp Egyptian cotton, a double mattress topper and is extremely cloud-like. Room service is swift; we’re brought up extra milk and cookies at turndown (though there’s a hob and microwave, the team are more than happy to bring up hot and cold milk for children to ensure you needn’t lift a finger). Everyone is gifted complimentary slippers and there are mini robes and slippers for the little ones alongside footstools to help reach sinks.
Bathing is literally a mini spa experience with the deepest roll-top copper tub we’ve ever seen sitting sleekly a few feet away from the super-king in the main bedroom and thick white fluffy bathrobes folded neatly in the concealed washroom with over-sized sinks behind it. It discreetly faces the window so you can look onto the red pandas as you lather up in divine-scented Noble Isle toiletries.
And that’s the real trick here. Aside from the total decadence inside, all rooms offer window seats and unmissable views of the red pandas silently strolling around, foraging and playing in their dominion. We gaze upon Mei Lin busying away her day in the afternoon sunshine and Sanka attempting to flirt with her, sometimes even nonchalantly catching our eyes from his high spots in the pen.
You won’t want to sleep because watching the moonlight catching their stealth movements is a sight to behold and a memory you’ll hold on to forever. Rooms in other lodges have also been designed to have triple-reinforced windows looking down on to the animal enclosures. An added safety detail is how while the lodges are housed next to a specific animal enclosure, children (and adults) cannot directly access them.
You’ll all sleep at one with nature and relish awaking to the stirring sounds of the dawn chorus before jumping into a powerful monsoon overhead shower in the main bathroom. Truly, we don’t know how you’ll ever top a stay here. Our advice is to not bother trying and instead rebook your next visit, pronto.
Food and Drink
Meticulously presented and delectable-smelling dinners are made using fresh, local and seasonal produce and are delivered steaming hot to lodges. The vast wooden dining table seating up to six is your best bet for a candle-lit dinner and a show as floor-to-ceiling windows next to it allow the best views of the red pandas doing their evening routines.
A main of beef bourguignon is the kind of homey, carb-heavy comfort you’ll crave after a full day exploring the safari park and other classic mains including corn fed chicken Caesar salad served with crisp, warm green beans and lemon pepper salmon fillet are cooked and presented impeccably.
Kids are offered mac and cheese, grilled chicken and tomato pasta bakes alongside classic pizza and mini cheeseburgers. A rich breakfast hamper featuring a generous spread of sweet and savoury baked pastries, cheese and charcuterie, freshly chopped up fruits, full English alongside juices and coffee isn’t just delivered to your lodge, staff lay out the table beautifully too.
What the Kids Will Love
- How staying in red panda lodges grants families access to exclusive guided morning talks and feeds with the small mammals before the park officially opens to day visitors. And when the park closes at 6pm, lodge guests can visit the walk-up viewing points to stand and say goodnight to the giraffes and African elephants Sutton, Five and Latabe trundling up the hills at sunset – an inspiring sight for any budding young zoologist.
- A walk-through bat cave in the zoo – especially thrilling as fruit bats fly freely overhead.
- An adventure theme park little ones won’t want to leave except to try the five interactive zones in the multi-sensory, CBeebies themed Boj’s Giggly Park Play Area. In the summer there’s also the chance for them to cool off in the memorable Wet n Wild splash area.
- The adventure theme park has something for everyone too with fun rides for those under 0.9 metres in height and more daring, adrenaline-packed thrills for kids over the 1.25 metre height restriction including a runaway train style rollercoaster, log flume and river rapids. Even better are the short queue times.
How to Book
West Midland Safari Park. Bewdley, Worcs, DY12 1LF. Nightly rates from £490 per lodge on a dinner, bed and breakfast rate and includes admission to the park during the day and theme park wristbands. Visit safari-lodges.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.