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West Midland Safari and Leisure Park (Worcestershire)
Member Name: elysia2003
West Midland Safari and Leisure Park (Worcestershire)
Date: 30/10/11, updated on 30/10/11 (195 review reads)
Advantages: Getting to see the animals close up
Disadvantages: The animals still being caged up, but to a lesser degree
During the October half term this week, trying to find something to entertain the whole family, whilst also being undercover should the weather turn chilly or rainy proved to be a bit of a mission. The cinema or bowling can only amuse you for a couple of hours, and so we decided to make a day of it and chose to visit the West Midland Safari Park.
~*~ Getting there and Opening Times ~*~
For reference, the winter opening dates are: 6, 12, 13, 19 & 20 November; daily from 26 Nov - 24 Dec 2011 and then every weekend from 31 Dec until 5 Feb 2012.
The address for Sat Nav is, Spring Grove, Bewdley, Worcestershire DY12 1LF.
We didn't use the Sat Nav on this occasion as we had been a couple of times in recent years. It should be noted that the brown signposts for directions, while there are plenty of them, they are not always in the place you need them to be. For instance, instead of being placed at an island, informing us to take a right hand turn, it was placed at the turnoff, which is all well and good if you are turning left, but causes confusion in other cases.
~*~ Admission To The Park ~*~
The prices for admission to the park are as follows:
Under 3 year olds: Free
Concessions (Students & Disabled Visitors, with valid ID): £12.99
Credit cards are accepted widely throughout the park, and there is a cash machine onsite, which charges £1.75 to withdraw a maximum of £40, should you need extra cash.
We pre-ordered our tickets with our Tesco Club card vouchers. This meant, using the rewards scheme, £15 of vouchers would enable our family of three adults and one child to gain entry to the Safari Park - a huge saving of almost £40.
Amazingly, the price includes a Free Return Ticket; and as we took our visit during the winter season, we are able to return again before February. I would imagine, if you visited in the spring, you could visit again during the summer and see how much the newborn babies have grown.
As you enter the site, you are escorted to some booths where you can pay your entrance fee, if you have not already done so, and purchase boxes of food for the animals, at a cost of £3, or a souvenir guide book for £5. We purchased one of each, and also received our free return ticket, and a guide map.
The box of animal food doesn't have a weight on it, but it's a similar size to one of those individual portion boxes of cereal. If you have several children and they all wanted a box each, it would work out quite costly, with not a lot to show for it, so be warned. Despite its small size, a little of this food goes a long way, and you'll be able to feed lots of deer and goats.
The guide book comes in a glossy soft backed A4 size. It contains lots of information and references to the animals you get to see. I've been here several times before, and I know they try and get you to buy these things on top of a high entry cost; I've always said no before, but believe me, this is really worth the money. It will be great for the kids to gain further information about the animals as it's written in a very simple, easy to understand format; even the photographs in this book are awesome. My daughter hasn't put this book down yet, it's so interesting.
~*~ Things To See and Do ~*~
Once you are through the payment area, it is up to you how you spend your day. Do you go on Safari first? If you do, my advice would be to take a toilet break before you do - that four mile journey around the animal enclosure is the longest four miles ever. Alternatively, you could do as we did, and see what else the park has to offer first.
We entered the main park through the gateway of the Lost City Plaza. Here is a covered walkway with tempting food shops and gift shops on either side. There was a snack bar with the normal burger and chips, and a pizza joint, but what tempted me the most was the pancake stall with the most delicious sounding fillings and wafting aromas. It was mouth watering. It was extremely hard to walk past but I did, eventually. My daughters were both tempted by the gift shop selling a wonderful array of cuddly toys, and also the traditional sweet shop. I had to promise to return on our way out.
As we emerged from the Plaza, we arrived at what seemed to be a new section to the park - the Tree Tops Pavilion. This was closed when we arrived, but we noticed it had opened later during our visit, on our way out to be exact. This was a huge disappointment to my youngest daughter, as they did lots of craft events in little huts there, and she would have enjoyed this immensely.
Our next stop was the Discovery Trail. This is a more hands on area of the park. For obvious reasons, you are enclosed within safety areas where needs be, but here I entered a bat cave, most of the animals were behind glass, in water, or climbing up trees, but the bats were flying freely, or just hanging there taking a rest. It was dark inside, but there was just enough light to see what looked like a shadow flying past you. There is a tape of the bats noises running, and it feels a rather authentic experience.
Having the animals free like this, you are reminded to use the gel anti bacterial hand cleanser as soon as you leave the room. You are also encouraged to wash your hands thoroughly as well, at the earliest convenience.
Also in the Discovery Trail Section were the Sea Quarium, Creepy Crawlies Room, and Mark O'Shea's Reptile room. It was quite busy here at this point, not feeling too well and not being a fan of insects, snakes or reptiles, I decided to wait outside. My partner and the girls came back enthused by what they had seen though, so it's definitely worth a visit if you can stomach it.
There are benches located outside, and it was nice to avoid the scrum of people vying to see the animals and just sit and enjoy how nicely the place had been decorated. As it is Halloween soon, the park had dressed with a Halloween theme. There were fake gravestones scattered around, and hundreds of scarecrows all with carved pumpkin heads. Skeletons hung from lampposts, and fresh pumpkins were dotted about. I say dotted, they were in groups of fours and fives, and placed rather decoratively, but I've never seen so many pumpkins in my life; there were thousands. Some of the decorations were a bit over the top, and a bit too gruesome. My youngest daughter (8) rather liked them, but I did see a toddler or two, cry at the sight. All the staff members were dressed up as some kind of zombie, in brown and red uniform with co-ordinating face paints. I thought they looked more like the scarecrow out of the Wizard of Oz on a bad day though.
Obviously this promotion is over now, but weeks such as these are a regular occurrence. I did see signs that the next promotion, with a Christmas theme, starts on the 26th November and that it will 'snow' everyday. I wonder what the staff will dress up as then, as whenever we've been before they have just worn ordinary attire.
Following the path, our next stop was the Sea Lion Theatre. This seats 525 people and no matter where you sit, you are guaranteed a brilliant view of the show. Due the animals performing they run the same show all season, and needing to be one that would appeal whatever the season, this was done with a pirate theme. I don't normally like these sorts of things, but the sea lion looked to be having more fun than the kids. The show lasted about ten to fifteenminutes, but you should get there early as may be standing room only during busy periods. For a fee of £25, your child can be the 'star' of the show, and will be able to meet the sea lions and have a photo session. If you wish to do this, you should make arrangements at the reception as soon as you arrive.
~*~ Explorers Restaurant ~*~
Our next stop was for lunch, which we decided to take at the Explorers Restaurant. This is quite a large building on the outside, but very bijou within. The building is now rather dated and tired looking, but if all you want is something to eat and drink, and rest for a while, it serves its purpose. You are ushered in through double doors and immediately ahead is the food counter with two queues, one leading to the left and one to the right. This meant that the queue did go down reasonably fast, but not quite fast enough, as there weren't enough staff serving. The tables were cleared quite quickly after they had been exited, and our party were lucky enough to sit down straight away. The tables and seating are a throwback to the 70's and they may even be originals. I said that the place was tired and dated, and this certainly didn't help. There are highchairs available if they should be needed.
The range of food on offer here was surprisingly limited and I couldn't understand why. There was a choice of two salads, feta and quiche, with rather meagre portions of both, and quite a lot of lettuce. There was chips available on their own, or cod and chips, or lasagne (plus a veggie version) and chips, with a side serving of beans and peas. These cost £6.99 each. They didn't look very appetising but my partner had cod and my eldest daughter had lasagne and they both agreed they were very tasty. My youngest daughter, not being very adventurous had a bowl of chips. The bowl was overflowing and so the £2.99 per portion seemed quite fair. I had soup of the day with a bread roll and this cost £4.99. I was given a choice of tomato or leek and potato, and I'm pleased to say, although it wasn't homemade, it wasn't some cheap and nasty stuff, at least it was Heinz. We all had a drink each, and food for our party of four, came to £30 which is quite reasonable for an entertainment place such as this.
On our way out, I found the Oasis Bar tucked behind the double doors to the left of the room and this served sandwiches, and cold pasta meals. This would explain the lack of choice at the main food counter. There are no signs that this is available, and if you enter with a large crowd as we did, you get carried along to the hot food. I was seated with my back to it and never knew it was there until we left. I would have liked something from this menu rather than soup, so I was quite annoyed. The pasta and baguettes looked very fresh, and appealing.
~*~ Fairground Amusement Area ~*~
Still following the path (although you can detour if you should do desire) we headed down to the Amusement area. All rides are subject to minimum and maximum height restrictions. Wristband prices for the rides and attractions are as follows:
Adult wristband: £11.50 (16-64yrs)
Child wristband: £10.99 (Up to 15yrs)
Concessions: £10.99 (Available to seniors, people with disabilities, and students)
If you don't want to purchase a wristband then ride tickets are also available from an electronic ticket machine. The price is £6 for three tickets, but with some of the rides needing two tickets for admission, this would work out extremely costly, so I would urge you to by the wristband, and make the most of it, and go on as many rides as you can. The wristband and ride tickets are only valid for the day in which you enter the Park, and as the wristbands are fitted rather tightly by the assistant in the booth, so they cannot be passed between people.
There are two different sections in this area, one for old children and adults, and the Cubs Kingdom for under 5's. There aren't many rides here but what there are will certainly keep the kids occupied and happy for a while.
The family fun are was quite large, and had both traditional fairground rides such as the swings but also things for only adults which was a nice surprise. The Black Fly ride was certainly heart stopping just watching it. I would never have gone on. There are also Twister Coaster, and Venom Tower Drop which I would say are for teens and adults. Everything else looked to be more suitable for both youngsters and adults alike. The Zambezi Water Splash ride certainly looked great fun. You can get your photo taken on both this ride, and the Twister Coaster if you wish to take home a souvenir. If you get wet, there are huge driers where you can dry up to 6 people. I think these were around £5 a go, so well worth the money if there are lots of you sharing.
Dotted around the park are traditional fairground games, hook-a-duck, and ring toss games. My daughter laughed hysterically when she saw the one where you have to throw a rubber chicken into a cooking pot, in order to gain a prize. The prizes are rather cheap looking but its all part of the fun, who can take home the tackiest prize. If you are feeling peckish after all your excitement, the Botswana Burger Co. serve fast food meals, and Hot & Spicy Bar serves nachos, spicy fries and jacket potatoes.
~*~ New Additions for 2011 ~*~
New to the Park this year are the African Village, where you can experience the African way of life with lots of themeing, interaction and chances to encounter the animals. Walking with Lemurs enables you to walk among the lemurs who roam free within a wooded setting. This is at the furthermost point of the park, and although the rest of the park is wheelchair friendly, we didn't enter this, so cannot guarantee it is accessible to wheelchairs. Meerkat Mayhem is the dedicated area for this species, and features both inside and outside entertainment.
As you are at the farthest end of the park at this point, you can take the Safari Express Train back to the car park, or visa versa. This is a free ride, and all the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. It takes you past the lakes where you can view the Hippo's wallowing. I liked it too, as it saved my legs a little from all the walking.
Reaching the car park we had to visit the WC, as we were warned the Safari takes a minimum of 1 hour and 15 minutes, and obviously, if you need to go, you can't. The toilet block which is surrounded by the car park is also very tired and dated. Some of the cubicle doors had missing locks, and doors that were hung slightly askew. The toilets were clean, hygienic and usable, but the grouting between the tiles was black. It all looked like it was dire need of updating, and modernisation. It was clean so maybe I'm being picky.
~*~ Safari Tour ~*~
After getting in the car for the safari, you follow a one way system through to the animal enclosure. The road is tarmacked but you do get the feeling you're following an African mud track, and get an almost authentic experience due to the many potholes in the road, it's it such bad condition.
At some points you have to enter a pen, where the door is closed behind you, you wait while they check that there have been no animals wander into the pen, and then they open another gate allowing you to proceed. At every pen there are signs whether you can have your window open to gain a better photo opportunity or interaction experience. This should be down to common sense, but there are always people who disobey the rules. On our visit, we saw a child half hanging out of the car in an area where windows should have been fully up.
There are no monkeys at this safari park, and as they are notorious for damaging car mirrors and window wipers, this is partly a relief. It doesn't mean your car isn't going to be damaged though, on this visit a rather large deer with antlers decided he needed to scratch an itch on the side of our car, and damaged the paintwork a little (it's an older car so we're not bothered, but yours might not be), and last time we visited, a rhino decided he didn't like our car, and charged us. The wardens prevented it from succeeding, but there is always the chance of something happening.
The Safari is set up into little zones, and the first area is the African safari, with white rhinosaurus, zebra, ostrich, giraffe all running as free as they can within the confines of the park. There are plenty of wardens around to disperse any animals who might be causing trouble, and if anything does happen, you are asked to sound your horn and put on your hazard lights to alert them. The Asian Reserve, Eurasion Reserve and Elephant Valley follow, as you continue your journey. There are information boards detailing each species you will meet, so even if you didn't purchase the guide book, I guarantee you will still learn something and gain a better understanding of each of the animals.
At different times of the year, and according to weather conditions you get a different safari experience. On other visits we've only ever seen the Lions, Tigers, Cheetahs, and wolves in the distance, but it was our lucky day on this visit. The day was cool, but sunny and all the animals were enjoying the last of the winter sunshine. Oh hot days the animals like us, become lethargic, and go in seek of shade. It's also uncomfortable sitting in the car for any length of time on a hot day, so I would advise against this.
The whole safari takes a minimum of an hour and a quarter, but you can take as much or as little time as you like. Our visit lasted two and a half hours, as my partner, the driver on this occasion, likes to sit and study every single animal individually. This meant I got some great photos though, and I wish I could share them on Dooyoo with you.
It is recommended that if you make your arrival around 10am, to take the safari tour first, or alternatively, wait until after 3pm, as these are the quietest times. There was no last admission time for the safari anywhere I could see, but obviously be aware how long it takes, should you need to be elsewhere at a certain time.
~*~ Home Time ~*~
We left the park as dusk was falling and it was starting to get cold, about 6.30pm, but the park was open until about 9. I'm not sure the safari would be still open, but the amusements looked lovely all floodlit. It looked really effective with all the Halloween decorations, and spooky music being played constantly over the tannoy system.
~*~ My Thoughts ~*~
All in all I had a lovely day out and would definitely return. That's not down to the free entrance either, as we have been here several times over the years. Sadly though, I'll have to give it a 4/5 rating due to the fact that although some things have been altered, the new African Village, the new Meerkat and Lemur areas, and they were working on the Penguin cove, these alterations were for the animals use - which don't get me wrong, I truly value and appreciate, but if they want to get more customers through the door, to help with funding the animals upkeep, they really need to modernise the customer eating areas and toilets, things that make people want to come back. The whole park looks a little dated and lacklustre. It's lost its sparkle and freshness, and while the animals are the main reason you go, the shabby paintwork, and lack of modern amenities are a bit of a let down.
Fun Factor for kids 10/10
Fun Factor for adults 8/10
Educational Factor: 10/10
Dining Experience: 7/10
Overall look of the park: 7/10
For further information the telephone Number is 01299 400 700 or you can visit the website at http://www.wmsp.co.uk/
Thanks for reading my review which may be posted on other sites. I do hope it has been of some use.
Summary: A great day out for young and old alike.
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