Woburn Safari Park
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Or a monkey land on your car.
Or a tiger prowling metres from your tender body.
I haven’t been to a drive-through safari park for years, rather embarrassing given that Woburn Safari Park is only about 50 minutes from where I live. And while I have to admit that on balance I prefer to walk around zoos rather than driving (mainly because I’m ridiculously impatient and don’t like waiting behind other cars – ever) , it was undeniably a thrill to see lions, bears, tigers and other carnivorous friends close up.
The Safari Park, if you don’t already know, is up on the North Bucks/Beds borders, nestled to the East of Milton Keynes. Woburn itself is a very pretty village and worth a look if you have time. But if you have only eyes for the Safari Park here are my Top Tips to making the most of your day:
1. On the drive through bit at the beginning, don’t give up before you get to the monkeys. The day we went the queue was incredibly slow, with drivers stopping all the time, despite the instructions to keep moving. We nearly took the shortcut back to the leisure area out of frustration, but in retrospect that would have been a massive shame. The monkeys are, as you expect, the most interactive animals out of the lot (thankfully – who wants an interactive lion?), playfighting, picking fleas off each other, clambering everywhere. Stick it out!
2. Given 1 above, if you’re coming from a distance away, it might be worth doing the foot safari before you start the drive around. That would definitely have worked better for us, just to have a stretch of legs before we started another hour in the car.
3. Timing is everything. I am the queen of the half-arsed plan, never working things out properly beforehand. I managed to make the bird display in the outdoor amphitheatre (small, but fun), but messed up on seeing the sea lions go through their party paces. Check it all out on t’internet before you go here. There are feeds/talks on penguins, otters, monkeys, meerkats, trips on the little chugger railway…. Er. Oops.
4. Make sure you feed the birds at Rainbow Landing. This was probably the highlight for my kids – you buy a cup of nectar (£1 for 2 little cups) and then go and feed the lories and lorikeets. They’re so intoxicated by the food they hop onto your arm to get it. Finn somehow ended up with a bird on his head. Then the bird flew off but left a little something wet to remember him by, which kind of made my day.
5. If you’re running short of time, I’d give the sheeps, goats and hogs a miss. The new porcupine, meercat and mongoose enclosure is more fun. Even better is the ‘Guess the poop’ game in the area, where there’s a picture of the three animal ablutions and you have to match them to the animal. My youngest child in particular thought this utter genius and was delighted to have correctly guessed what porcupine poo looks like. Honestly, I’m not making this up!
6. There’s a high monkey walk near the play area that is a great way of booting kids out of the way for half an hour. Even better wait for them to end the walk with a zip wire – if they don’t put their feet down fast enough, they’re dragged for metres on their bums. Bad parenting to laugh but I take my kicks where I can get them. Apparently it can get booked up quickly (maybe we were lucky) so it might be worth pre-booking it. That also goes for Go Ape, a newish addition that’s very popular.
7. Take a picnic. My usual gripe about rubbish eating facilities at big UK parks continues (Kew Gardens, you are the welcome exception). The food here is average at best, expensive (it cost us £40 for some sarnies and soft drinks) and a bit depressing actually, as it’s such an easy and important fix. I promise I’m not hanging out for polenta or wild mushroom risotto here, just a decent gourmet sandwich on fresh bread. Come on British parks, you can do it.
8. If it starts to tank it down, fear not – there’s an indoor activity centre for younger kids with a Play Ark soft plan, and some giant slides that should keep those 1.3m and above amused.
9. We were knackered by 3pm, but if you have more stamina than us, it’s worth going for a second drive around the safari later in the day – apparently it’s a lot less busy and you can get a much better/closer/more relaxed view of the animals.
10. If money is no object, check out the VIP tour – it’s £299 for a maximum of 8 people and basically you bomb about off road in the WSP jeep, getting superclose to the animals and seeing stuff behind the scenes. As my son so eloquently put it, it looked totally sickage.
11. If money is an object (er, helloooo?), make sure you book in advance online – with tickets at £30 per adult and £22.50 for kids, there are deals to be had and dosh to be saved.
Woburn Safari Park, Woburn Park, Bedfordshire, MK17 9QN. Tel: 01525 290407