I have just been on a day trip to the Serengeti Safari Park in Hodenhagen, Germany with my lovely husband and 2 hyperactive children (aged 4 and almost 2). It was a trip for all of the people who work in hubby's office but it was not a group excursion as such - we paid for ourselves. While the weather was a bit funny - one minute the sun was shining and we were minus jackets, the next minute it was overcast and the jackets were back on - a fantastic day out was had by one and all. And I wanted to share the experience with all of my friends here!
The Serengeti Safari Park is the only safari park and amusement park in Germany. It is located in Hodenhagen, which is in the Lohheide area, approximately 65 km from Hannover. By car you drive on the Highway A7 on the route Hamburg to Hannover and take exit 49 and drive through a little vilage by the name of Westenholz. When you reach Westenholz, the safari park is well signposted so you can't miss it.
Website - http://www.serengeti-park.com
The website address above is in english. Okay the english is not perfect but it is very understandable and easy to comprehend.
The season at Serengeti runs from 1 April to 29 October this year and for the rest of the year the park is closed to the public. I should make a note here that if you decide to drive your own car around the park, you do so at your own risk - this is well signposted at the entrance and is easy to understand as some of the animals could damage your vehicle if they are in a destructive mood. Also for safety reasons you are prohibited from driving around the park in a cabriolet or soft-top car.
* Adults - 20 Euros each
* Children Under 3 - Free
* Children Aged 3-12 - 18 Euros each
* Disabled people (80%) or more - 11 Euros (this is also the price for the person's escort)
* Tour on the Double Decker Bus - 3 euros per person extra (for all aged 3 and over). This is in German with no translations for English.
* The Jungle Tour - included in the entry price. Again the tour is entirely in German but easy enough to get by.
* Entrance to amusement park - included in the entry price
* Parking - 2 Euros
There are various discounts available. For example, after logging on to the website, and having a browse around, I completed a short quiz and was rewarded with a printable voucher which entitled us to receive 10 euros discount for the driver of the car (my hubby in this instance). This took our entry price for the car, 2 adults, one child aged 4 and one aged almost 2 from 60 Euros down to 50 Euros. Once you have paid, you receive your tickets, a map (you can have one provided in English) and a car sticker which is also your parking permit for the park.
During the season, the park is open daily, including Sundays and Bank Holidays. Normal opening hours for the box-offices are 10 am to 5 pm, although on bank holidays they are open from 9.30 am. The park closes normally at 6 pm but on bank holidays will stay open until 6.30 pm
If you decide to drive your own car around the safari park (as we did - our youngest is too young to go on the double decker bus tour), then this is easy to do as the map shows you each section of the park in great detail. There are four main areas and these are the ones I will talk about.
Animal Land (Tierland)
This is the area where you would drive through as the animals are left to wander the park as freely as is possible for each species. For safety reasons you are advised to stay seated in your car and not to open any windows (obviously!). If you do find yourself in trouble, the advice is to just sound the horn on your car and a warden will come to your assistance. We have been to the park twice now and have never encountered any problems, although the wardens are always within sight as they are dotted around the park, and there are plenty wardens at any one time.
Within this area you can expect to see giraffes (they like to look in your windows!), rhinos, camels, zebras, leopards, bisons, antelopes, lions, Bengali tigers, American black bears, baboons (they like to sit on your car bonnet and proudly show you their bits and pieces!), and elephants. As a point of interest here, Serengeti Park is one of Germany's largest elephant breeding stations.
Within animal land there is also Europe's largest petting zoo where you can exit your car and pet Shetland ponies, goats and sheep etc and you can also buy food for these animals and feed them. Although when I tried to buy some food from the station, I turned around and found that I was completely surrounded by the animals and received a lovely "hug" from the biggest goat you could imagine. This goat also nudged me with his nose until I gave up trying to move and just chucked the food on the ground and legged it, much to the amusement of my hubby and kids! The food costs 1 Euro for a small tub of pellets. The animals can also eat the tub as it reminded me of an ice-cream cone. My advice - just pet the animals and don't bother getting them any food - you will just get surrounded! If you do decide to buy food - I strongly recommend that you either keep your jacket on or take a spare top as my t-shirt ended up covered in mud and goodness-knows-what-else and I had to buy another t-shirt after we had taken our drive round the park!
When going through the lions and tigers it is also advisable not to make any sudden movements as this could spook the animals, although I found that the lions and tigers seemed immune to all the human faces peering out at them. The only animals who really took an interest in the cars were the ones at the petting zoo (they just want food!), the giraffes (they are just nosy) and the baboons (well they are just complete show-offs!).
When driving around the animal land you are informed to stay on the left hand side of the track as the double decker bus drives on the right side. Be warned - if you drive on the right side of the track you can expect that the bus will beep at you. It is my advice to stay on a steady speed whilst going through the area where the baboons are. First time in the park we went really slowly and the car got swamped with monkeys showing us their unmentionables through the window. This time we still went slowly but did not stop the car at all and the baboons ignored us and jumped on the car behind us (ha ha).
Water Land (Wasserland)
This area of the park can be explored on foot and there are various rides and amusments for everyone aged 3 and upwards. There is the log ride (expect to get wet and you can have a photo for 6 Euros!). Throughout this area are ducks and geese who will come up to you looking for food (they are greedy buggers if you ask me!). Throughout this area as well are constant reminders that you are in water land. There is a swinging bridge as well (sorry but I passed that one by as I get sea sick and my 4 year old refused to go on it as she recently split her lip on a swinging bridge at school!), and my hubby said that it was great fun! There are also boat rides and pedal boats as well but we did not go on these as our youngest is too young (you have to be 3 or over) and we got wet enough on the water log rides!
Monkey Land (Affenland)
Again this area is explored on foot and you can see over 200 monkeys of varying species here. The chimpanzees are particularly cheeky and vocal - having a good screech at us weirdos all having a good stare at them! One was particularly charming having a sunbathe in front of us and showing his unmentionables for all to see - they have no shame at all! As you walk through this part of the park you will see the signposts for the white tigers. They are kept in their own enclosure as they are particularly rare and absolutely beautiful. My oldest daughter was absolutely enthralled with them and I even had to buy her a small tiger to keep in her pocket before she would stop talking about the white tigers. To see them is easy - you just follow the path which leads you to a kind of balcony area where you can look down and see the tigers. There are 4 tigers here and they were the highlight of the day for me as we missed them the first time we went to the park. Within Monkey land is also the starting point for the Jungle tour, but this will be covered separately.
And so we come to the final area within Serengeti Safari Park - and this is for all the big kids out there! Here you have all the fun of the fair! There are rides for children aged 3 to 93 here, ranging from small trains and teacups for the little kids to the dreaded top-spin ride for the big kids out there. I personally went on top-spin and two words can describe my feelings - never again! I am not one for heights and this is one of those rides that takes you up high and basically spins you round and round. Apparently when I came off this ride I was sheet white and shaking like a leaf. My husband however loved it! There are other rides but I didnt venture on any more - I felt too sick! But I had been on some previously on my first visit and they are fun - especially the teacups with my oldest daughter - that is more my style of fairground ride!
The Jungle Tour (Dschungel-Safari tour)
This is included in the entry price of the park and sets off from a starting point within Monkey Land. The tour itself takes about 25 minutes and you get to see the park from a different perspective - from within an open style safari type jeep. We nicknamed this the "pope-mobiles" as they do look similar to the vehicle that the pope once used years ago. However the jeep takes a different route through the park. You do get closer to the giraffes, and rhinos but then the jeep goes into the "jungle" and here you get some great special effects. This is open to all age groups although parents are advised to decide if their children are okay to go on this as some may find the special effects quite scary. However, my 2 kids thought it was great fun and laughed the whole way round. One word of advice - prepare to get wet! The driver of the bus does give a commentary but I'm afraid that I did not have a clue what he said as it was all in German - so if you can't speak fluent German - don't expect any translations. As the jeep was full of english speaking people (our group) and only 3 german speaking people - we were quite disappointed that the driver did not take the time to speak any english at all but we got the basics just by looking out of the jeep anyway. It was great fun and my oldest daughter wanted to go on it a second time but we were hungry and decided to go get some food.
Eating in the park
If you want to sit inside and have a proper sit-down meal, there is the restaurant Zanzibar. We did not go there as it is quite pricey and would have cost about 15 Euros each for a one-course meal with a drink so we decided to give the restaurant a miss. However, there are various snack bars and kiosks around the park and these are very reasonably priced. We went to one and got 3 bottles of juice, 2 adult hot-dogs, 2 sausages for the kids and 3 portions of chips for 14.50 Euros. I found that to be quite reasonable and on a par with most snack bars throughout Germany. All of the snack bars have tables and chairs so that you can sit and eat your food (although watch out for the ducks - they will prowl round if they think that there is any bread arond!).
Well, as you read earlier on, I was "hugged" by a goat at the petting zoo and did not have a change of clothes so had to go to the gift shop to get a clean t-shirt as I was not prepared to walk around the park in a top that was covered in mud and whatever else! There are little gift shops all around the park but the one we went to was just beside the restaurant Zanzibar. Here you can buy t-shirts, sweatshirts, cuddly toys and other gifts. Ethnic items are prevalent as are items relating to the animals in the park. I purchased a t-shirt for 16.50 Euros and my husband bought me the 3 wise chimpanzees (see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil) for 18.95 euros. There are lots of little knick knacks on sale and many were really reasonably priced. We also bought 2 mini white tigers for 4 Euros each. All of this came to 48.48 Euros and was nicely packed in a cute little paper carrier bag (the chimp ornament was well wrapped up as well). There are some very large items as well and as such these were quite expensive and very bulky.
My Overall Opinion
If you are ever in the area of Lohheide - this place is a must-see! I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the park and really had a good time seeing the animals up close and personal! It was an eye-opener for me as prior to coming here, I had only ever seen these animals in a circus setting when I was a child and this was more enjoyable for me to see the animals in a more natural setting. The petting zoo was great for my kids as they were able to get close to the animals and touch them, which they really enjoyed.
I found that I had no problem negotiating the park with a pram, although there may be some difficulties for disabled people. The park have noted that there are areas where disabled people would have difficulty and they are working on that all the time. This is good because it shows that they are trying to make sure that all areas are accessible to everyone.
I think the highlight of the day for me was the white tigers. I love the big cats and had never seen a white tiger until today - and I feel very priveleged to have done so. The park is involved in conservation and breeding programmes (all details are on the website) and this to me is a great thing as they are trying to make sure that rare breeds don't completely die out.
Although some people may find the prices quite high, I found them to be quite good value for money, considering the only part of the park not included in the price is the double decker bus tour. The opportunity to see wild animals in a natural setting for 50 euros is really good value for me as it is something that my kids will remember for a long time.
This park gets the full 5 star treatment from me! I will be going back one day (when my mum can come and see the big cats with me!) and I know that it will be just as good then as it was today. It certainly is a wonderful place to take the whole family for a day out and I fully recommend it to everyone.
Thanks for reading. Di xx