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We were totally wild about this park
South Lakes Wild Animal Park (Cumbria)
Member Name: jillycat
South Lakes Wild Animal Park (Cumbria)
Advantages: Lots of great animals and opportunities to feed them
Disadvantages: the tiger talk was a bit heavy to listen too
The Animal Park is situated at the southern tip of the Lake District in the North West of England on the A590 trunk road. If you take Junction 36 from the M6 and follow signs for Barrow in Furness, until the brown Elephant Tourist Signs take over. We had done a route map with the AA and this in combination with the brown signs got us there with no problems. You can catch a train to Dalton-in-Furness and catch a cab there as it is not on a bus route. The car park itself I think makes the zoo look as if it is going to be a disappointment as it just looks like a piece of waste land with a small entrance. However don't be dismayed as appearances here are definitely deceptive.
The park and our experience
The park was created and developed solely by David Gill. At the time of construction back in 1993/4 According to the website David built the Park with his own hands and to this day, still designs and builds all the facilities around the park but now with the help and assistance of the some staff. The park has expanded a lot over the years and built upon the conservation themes a lot.
The main entrance when we went was not selling tickets but a bit further down the hill a window in the café the tickets were being dispensed from here. We had been given a free entry ticket by friend so it was a cheap entrance for us so we decided to purchase both a guidebook at £3 and some animal feed at £1 taking our total price too £16.50. The animal feed bag tells you which animals you are allowed the food and this includes geese peacock's kangaroos and ducks. We feed a few of the geese and ducks on the lake by the entrance but wanted to save some for the other animals later on.
The guide books is a glossy book that has not only the map of the zoo but pages dedicated to each animal with its conservation status essential facts about the animal and is definitely worth the money we thought as it makes a lovely souvenir and is something we can talk about with our son due to the lovely pictures and information in it.
After our initial feeding of ducks we made our way to the Australian Pathway which takes you through various aerial walk ways and enclosures. You initially go through a gate with a sign asking you to not let the lemurs out. As you walking into the first part of this enclosure you are meet by various birds such as swans but what stands out more is the lemurs running around. This is the first time I have been to a zoo and seen lemurs being allowed out and to run wild as it were and they just seemed to love it. There are signs dotted around the places asking you to not feed them or touch them and if you do you will be asked to leave. My son was initially a bit taken a back by this but once he realized they were more than happy foraging in the bushes and trying to find a place to lounge in the sun he soon relaxed. You can get really close to these animals I would say at one point we were less than half a meter away from a pack of them sunbathing. Also in this section roaming free are emus and wallabies. We then wandered over the tropical house and the walk-in condor and vulture aviary. We were unable to go into the aviary as there was a sign up saying that you could only go in at certain times and this was something we never got back to do. My husband and son went into the tropical house whilst I looked at the mongoose babies. I went to go in there with them but made a swift exit after reading a sign saying not to touch the snake as it may bite! When my husband and son came out they assured me they hadn't seen a snake but lots of bats and kangaroos instead but this would not be an area I would be comfortable walking in.
We went to look at the big cats and the primates later on and were treated to various animal antics including a monkey trying to catch a bear. The other animals there are also in huge mixed enclosures such as the rhino's baboons and giraffes.
One of the treats about this zoo is the animal feeding times and through out the day there is a programme of times you can either go or watch the animals being feed or feed them yourself. These are very popular but on every occasion we went we were able to see the feeding clearly and take a turn. Each time there is also a talk about the animals and the work being done in a conservation project to save them from extinction. These talks are more appealing I think to the adults but as the animals are generally crowding round the keepers this seem to help keep the children's attention.
The first animals we went to feed were the giraffes; you get given some nice green leaves to hold out for them as they bend down to taken them from your hands with their very long tongues. Initially our 3 year old was content to watch and seemed a little unsure if he wanted to hold the leaves but after he saw that they hadn't bitten anyone he was very keen to have a go. I would definitely recommend letting the children see how it's done first as the children who didn't seemed to drop their leaves and then be upset that the giraffe hadn't taken theirs.
Later on we went to see lemur feeding the talk here was interesting and to the point. She also demonstrated how to hold the grapes for the lemurs to take them and how if you drop it to leave it on the floor for them to get. I have to admit my son was happy to watch the adults do this as the lemurs seemed to crowd around everyone with food. What amazed me was when they climbed up on the wooden fence whilst I had my hand out they were incredibly gentle at taking the grape and delicate too in the way they ate it.
The penguin feeding was my son's favorite and these animals are definitely used to the time of their fish fed as they were queued up ready for the keeper at the time slot. Again the talk was interesting telling you all about the penguins and asking questions to the audience on this occasions that got some of the children involved which I thought was a good touch. She again demonstrated how to feed them. My son was up for doing this straight away as I think he was now confident that the animals wouldn't hurt him. Several fishes later the penguins were well fed and we had a son with a huge smiley face from doing his bit.
The other animal feeding experience we saw was watching the tigers hunt for their dinner. This involved the animals going into the sleeping area so a keeper can then come and place meat both around the outside area of the enclosure and up trees and poles for them to find. The tigers are then re released into the enclosure and you watch them hunt and find their food and boy are they fast you wouldn't want to get in their way! This take a bit of a while to organize and my 3 year old got a bit bored of waiting so went with his dad to look at the lemurs again before returning to see them hunt. The talk for this one was very heavily emphasis the conservation work and how rare these Sumatran tigers are. Now whilst this is an important message I do feel the point was over labored at the expense of hearing about the tigers them selves and their habits which is a bit of a shame as you could see people getting bored and not listening to what he had to say.
The other thing we did was the train ride. Unlike the monorail at Chester zoo this is just a little train that goes along a small track before returning. This isn't a means of seeing more of the zoo but it was a bit of fun for my son and at 50 pence a time isn't a huge expense either.
Unlike a lot of attractions we have visited over the years the café at the animal park actually offers some meal deals to reduce the cost of the food on your trip. Now admittedly these are all burger and chip style options but as we hadn't had any junk food on our holiday so far we decide to take advantage of these offers. My husband and I had a cheeseburger chips and beans and our son had chicken nuggets chips and beans. Now whilst the burger was nice but nothing special in anyway our son's chicken nuggets were a different matter and these were lovely bits of chicken breast rather than formed meat in a nice light batter. We were able to all have a hot meal and drinks for under £15 which I think represents excellent value. You queue up to select your drinks or a sandwich but if you are having hot food you order this and this is cooked fresh to order your table. You are given a number and place this on the stands on the table and the food and your cutlery is brought to you. We had a wait of about 8-10 minutes for our food but this I don't think is bad for a busy restaurant where food is cooked to order.
The layout of the café is great with a lot of indoor seating but what lifts it is that some of the outdoor seating area is on raised platforms that look out onto the rhinos and the giraffes enclosure our son decide these were the best seats in the house so despite it being a bit cold we ate outside to enjoy the views.
There is also both an indoor and outdoor picnic area if you are bringing your own and again there is plenty of seating. But be warned if you are eating in the indoor picnic area there is a snake tank there to look at. You can see it from the outside on your way to the giraffe house and it was something I rushed past quickly being snake phobic.
The zoo is very child friendly with lots to see and do with the animal feeding and train rides. There is good baby changing facilities and plenty of clean highchairs in the restaurant area and the picnic area. If you are pushing a pushchair it will be a bit hard work at times as the zoo is on a hill and there are lots of ups to test your muscles.
As this zoo is on a hill if you are pushing a wheelchair it will be hard work. All the aerial walkways are accessed via ramps so this is no problem for access. However the zoo doesn't allow dogs of any kind into the zoo due to regulations so a guide dog be it seeing or otherwise wouldn't be able to guide you around the zoo.
Similar to a lot of zoo's there are experiences you can buy such as being a keeper for the day or adopting an animal. The zoo also runs themed events over Christmas and Halloween so it worth checking their website if you are going to be there during this time.
This is a fantastic zoo experience with lots of opportunities to get close to the animals and find out about their habits and work being done to conserve various species. I would definitely recommend a visit if only for the opportunity to get close to animals such as lemurs penguins and giraffes to feed them. The zoo is very reasonably priced and there was enough there it keep us interested for the whole day with the talks and feeding. I am going to give it a full 5 stars as it was overall such a positive experience.
South Lakes Wild Animal Park
Dalton in Furness
Tel: 01229 466086
Fax: 01229 461310
Registered in England no 3561692
Prices and opening times
Open every day except Christmas day. The only times showing on the website currently are below. I am assuming it may change In November so it is worth checking.
1st April - 31st October 2011 10am-5.00pm
Last admission is 45 minutes before closing.
Adults - £12.50
Children - £8.00 (3-15 years)
Seniors - £9.00
Under 3's are FREE of charge
Tesco vouchers can only be used towards admission costs
Summary: A great zoo that does a wonderful job with conservation and gives visitors lots of animal fun
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