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West Midlands Safari Park
West Midland Safari and Leisure Park (Worcestershire)
Member Name: ladyofcampfires
West Midland Safari and Leisure Park (Worcestershire)
Advantages: Plenty to do and see, enjoyable for all ages. The only place in the UK with White Lions!
Disadvantages: Expensive day out, lacks information about animals.
I've wanted to visit West Midlands Safari Park for quite a while now although as I don't drive I haven't really had chance to. I've never really fancied the idea of taking a coach trip to the park as I just don't think it would be the same as being in your own vehicle going at your own pace. A few weeks ago my best friend passed her driving test so I filled up her petrol tank and forced her to take me!
----- Location & Getting To The Park -----
West Midlands Safari Park is located in Bewdley, Worcestershire, West Midlands and is accessed via the A456. If travelling with a SatNav the postcode for the park is DY12 1LF.
The nearest train station to the park is Kidderminster, approximately four miles away. Kidderminster bus station is located half a mile away from the train station where regular buses stop right outside the park. If travelling to the safari park without your car the park offer guided bus tours for an extra charge of £4.25 per person, under 3s travel free.
-----Admission Prices & Opening Times -----
Admission Prices are as follows:
Adult (16-64) - £14.99
Child (3-15) - £12.99
Under 3's - free
Senior Citizen - £13.99
Disabled - £13.99
Student - £13.99
All admissions also include a free return ticket. These prices do not include access to the amusements and rides at the park, admission for which is paid separately and costs £11.50 for an adult and £10.99 for children, senior citizens, students and disabled people.
Currently, tickets can booked online via the safari park's website (www.wmsp.co.uk) for a 10% discount.
The park closes during weekdays in November and the last week of December through to the second week of February, it is still open during weekends during these times. The park opens at 10am, 9am on bank holidays, and last entry is between 3pm and 8pm depending on the season/day you attend. We went during the summer peak period where last admission was 5pm with the park closing at 6pm.
----- The Safari -----
The four mile safari (6.4km) takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to complete on quiet days and is home to 40+ different species of animals from around the world. As this is a safari it allows a more up close and personal experience with these animals than zoos tend to offer. For a real intimate feel you can purchase special diet animal food from either the entrance booth or the gift shops within the walking areas of the park. This food can be fed to the deer, goats and cattle during the safari who will happily come and eat out of your hands! I would personally recommend purchasing this food as it adds a lot more to the safari experience and for £3 you get a reasonable amount too! It's definitely worth the money in my opinion.
The safari is home to the only pride of White Lions in the UK, all ten of which are a magnificent and rare sight. Even out of the UK there are not many places to see these rare predators as the vast majority of them are bred in South Africa exclusively for hunting. In fact, there are only thought to be around 500 in the world. Despite them having a whole load of space to wonder around in, we found all of these Lions simply huddled up together having a early afternoon snooze. A very precious sight and, unless I got back to the safari park again, probably the only sighting of them I'll ever get. The pride were behind a fence obviously for safety reasons although as it was just a few thin wires (I can only assume it was electric otherwise I have no doubts a Lion could escape from it with no trouble at all) there was a still a clear view of them all and offered great photo opportunities.
White Bengal Tigers can also be found in the safari, not as rare as the White Lions but stunning none the less. These were contained behind a mesh style fence making viewing them a little more difficult but still possible. We were lucky enough to arrive at a time where one of the males decided to walk around really close to the fence making him clearly visible, a wonderful sight to behold!
There are also 'normal' Lions and Sumatran Tigers at the park. The Lions were, surprisingly, free to roam about and come to your car with no fencing around them. All doors and windows had to be shut and locked obviously but it was still nice to get so close to them. The Tigers were enclosed behind fencing and we only actually had the very restrictive viewing of one of them but I suppose that's something you have to expect at a place like this. You can't expect all of the animals to be clearly visible to you when they have such a lot of space to roam about in all of the time.
Keeping with big cats, the park has the largest group of Cheetahs in the UK, I think I counted about eight of them. Like the White Lions these impressive felines were huddled up together having a nap. Thankfully they decided to take this nap right against the mesh fencing enclosing them so views were pretty good.
The park home a pack of Eastern Dholes and, despite only actually seeing one, were a particular favourite of mine as I just find them to be such attractive animals. They always remind of foxes, another animal I love, and I just find it nice to see a similar animal be an attraction to humans rather than be labelled 'vermin'. Then there's a pack of African Wild Dogs which were another highlight of mine. I just love their coats and how sneaky and clever they are!
There were also a fair few Southern White Rhinos at the park. This was actually the first time I'd ever seen a Rhino in person and I was pretty impressed by the sheer size of them! Obviously they're big animals but I don't think you quite comprehend just how big until you've actually seen one. African Elephants also live at the park and we saw two males eating the grass. The Elephants are enclosed by electric fencing on the floor meaning you get a unrestricted view of these enormous animals. Although we only saw two the Elephant house behind them looked like it had space for a fair few more so I'm not sure if others were hiding inside or not.
Rothschild Giraffes were roaming about between the cars trying to get some food from visitors too. Again, I don't think you can fully appreciate just how big these are until you peer out of your car window and just see a knee! There were loads of Bactrian Camels and, as if he heard her, the moment my friend announced her dislike for these animals one decided to stand directly in front of the car and refuse to move for a good ten minutes making us well and truly stuck there! A little further along we came to a few Zebras too. The park have three types of Zebra, Grant's, Burchell's and Grevy's, all very beautiful and definitely the one animal that produced the most collective 'awwwws' from us.
Other animals in the safari include Ellipsen Waterbucks, Common Elands, Wild Water Buffalo, Visayan Spotted Deer (definitely the most friendly animal at the park, a number of them happily had their heads stroked from us), Barbary Sheep, Addax, Yaks, Gemsboks and many more.
I did find the information given about the animals to be lacking detail and a bit of a let down. I personally want to be educated whilst I visit these types of attractions rather than just looking at the animals and I didn't feel as though I came away from this safari with any additional knowledge. Each section of the safari has a notice board at the side of the road with animal names, where the originate from and how endangered they are - pretty basic information. The Lions were particularly disappointing. These were labelled as 'African Lions' which isn't actually a sub-species of Lion. I couldn't work out whether they meant 'West African Lion' (which is) or that these Lions originate from Africa - which most do so that's no real help. Maybe I'm alone in getting frustrated over that but I would of thought I place like this would have been very specific about these matters. There was also no information on the sub-species of Cheetah at the park either.
However the animals had ample amounts of space and all looked happy enough and it was great to see some rarer types of animal too. I think anyone of any age would enjoy a drive around this safari and that is proven just by peering into other cars whilst you drive around. Families with small children definitely seemed to only make up a small proportion of the groups of people smiling and pointing in their cars. Plus you're also free to drive around as many times as you like whilst the park is open. Although by the time you've experienced everything else the park has to offer there isn't really time to go around again.
----- The Lost City Plaza -----
The Safari Park offers much more than just the actual safari and as soon you park your car into one of the many free car parking spaces to enter the walk around parts of the park you'll come to the Lost City Plaza. This is pretty much a long line of shops made up of a rather large gift shop and several places selling different types of food. The gift shop here is the largest of the five at the park and probably the only one you need bother with as all of the rest are just smaller versions of this one, the items for sale are pretty much identical in every shop. Sticking to my habit of purchasing a key ring every time I visit a place like this I managed to get hold a nice one containing a picture of the White Lions for a very reasonable £1.50. This is where those reasonable prices end though! Everything else sold in here is very expensive. Obviously you expect these places to be over priced but this one was probably the most overpriced I've experienced. The shop sold a wide range of stuffed animals the smallest which was barely bigger than my Hamster, cost £5. There were the usual West Midlands Safari Park branded stationary items, mugs and postcodes for sale too. You could even purchase a tax disk holder! The rest of the items sold seemed pretty irrelevant to me. Pens with names written on them, candles and dream catchers. They just seemed to stick out as they didn't follow the theme of the rest of the items.
There's also a sweet shop here, again very overpriced, selling pick & mix, ice creams and rock. Little bags of sweets were made up which contained no more than a generous handful and cost £2.95! Most of the stuff in here can be bought from my local Tesco for half the price. I couldn't pass the home made fudge without buying a few bars though! At £1.95 for a bar just a little longer than my middle finger these were still pretty pricey. However absolutely beautiful! I picked up a bar of white chocolate fudge topped with a Cadbury's flake and it was probably the best thing I've ever tasted, although rather sickly. If you like fudge I would definitely recommend picking up a bar of this, it's not the type of thing that can be commonly bought either. There was also a pizza shop which I missed the prices of and a chip shop style place too. We didn't buy anything from either of these places so I can't comment on how nice the food was but I do remember exclaiming that a portion of fish and chips cost just under £6!
An Experience Kiosk is also located here. Here you can pay £30 to be star of the Sea Lion Show, £69 to feed a Giraffe, £99 to feed a Cheetah or £850 for six people to have a 'VIP Tour' around the safari. Not something I could afford to bother with that's for sure.
-----The Discovery Trail -----
Once you've left the Lost City Plaza you'll enter the Discovery Trail. This is home to 'Penguin Clove' a new attraction containing a group of Humbolt Penguins. This enclosure is actually pretty open, you could probably reach over and touch them if they were stood close enough to the raised glass although this isn't allowed so best not to try. The enclosure is almost a mini beach and there is glass which allows you to view under the water too, easily done as the water is so clean.
There's also the Sealion Show a little further up. This takes place three times a day and I was quite disappointed to find that the Sea Lions aren't actually on general public display so unless you attend the show you don't get to see them. We arrived into this area with only one show left that day which was a good three hours away! We ended up completely forgetting about it too so we never did get to see them.
There's the SeaQuarium too which is basically a massive fish tank containing massive fish. There was plenty of interactive information about these fish too and I ended up learning quite a bit. The water was perfectly clear allowing you see right through it to view these exotic fish.
Twilight Cave is a dimly lit room which has free flying bats and enclosures for Madagascan Jumping Rats and an Aye-Aye. I found the place to be a little creepy and I was walking around on edge expecting something to scare me half to death at any given moment. Other people seemed to be enjoying it and taking a leisurely stroll around the place but I couldn't wait to get out of there!
There was also a similar room containing 'Creepy Crawlies'. Being a typical girl I didn't even bother to go in here as, even behind glass, seeing a Tarantula would probably have forced a panic attack upon me. Frankly, just writing the word 'Tarantula' has made me shiver.
Then there's Mark O'Shea's Reptile World. Despite his face being plastered on all the walls I still haven't a clue who this Mark bloke is. But the Reptile World held plenty of snakes, in fact it was pretty much all snakes. There was one particular python which was enormous, the biggest I have ever seen. I quite like snakes but my friend soon ran out of there when she saw this one! There were a couple of Crocodiles too which were a little freaky the way they stood so perfectly still for such long periods of time. I lost count the amount of people who walked past and asked if they were real purely because they were so lifeless.
There's a large, clean but basic toilet block located here as well. Fully stocked with everything you need but not the most luxurious of places. The number of cubicles meant there was no need to wait in line to use the loo either, despite the park being quite busy.
We ended up eating here at the seated restaurant. This was a self service type cafe selling sandwiches, cakes and drinks as well as hot food. There was a definite lack of vegetarian options here. The only thing on the hot food menu I could see which didn't contain meat or fish was a bowl of chips which would have set me back nearly £3. I ended up buying a egg and cress sandwich, a piece of carrot cake and a bottle of coke which came to nearly £8! I will admit though, the carrot cake was absolutely gorgeous. Being such a massive lover of carrot cake I've tried a lot, this was definitely the best yet!
Outside the restaurant is a cash machine which charges you £1.85 to withdraw money. Probably best paying on your card, although everywhere has a £5 minimum spend to do so. Not that £5 is particularly difficult to spend here.
-----The Amusement Area-----
The Amusement Area is a little theme park type place, although don't go expecting Alton Towers! There are 27 rides in total and most of these are aimed at smaller children. The 'thrill' rides are still mostly enjoyable for older people who like that type of thing although nothing spectacular. A lot of the time the scariest thing about these rides is the fact they creek so much you expect to plummet to your death at any given moment. We went on a relatively quiet day so we didn't have do much queuing for any of the rides. In fact there were times we were able to go around again without even getting off the ride.
There were two water rides, rafts and a log flume, both will have you pretty drenched when you come off so best to leave those for warm days. There's a tower drop and a small rollercoaster with lots and twists and turns but no loops or the likes - it's a ride which makes you giggle rather than scream, a pirate ship, dodgems and a twister coaster (my favourite). The rest are pretty much children's ride and there's definitely a lot more for the little ones than the big ones here although it's still enjoyable regardless of age in my opinion. It's definitely worth investing in a wristband if you visit the safari park during the summer months (this area is closed during winter).
This area also has an arcade with the usual gambling machines, penny slots and games. There was a photo booth also which 'drew' your picture for a very reasonable £2 - a pretty cheap memento of your day.
In this area are also a few food stands. Here you can buy burgers, chicken, hotdogs, cheesy nachos, wraps, jacket potatoes and even crispy pancakes! The downside is that none of these eating stands offer indoor seating so unless you visit on a day where you're happy to sit on the picnic style outdoor seating you're much better off going to the indoor restaurant.
There's another gift shop and block of toilets in this area and it's also possible to hire a locker to keep your bags safe whilst you're enjoying the rides. To be honest I was too scared to even go and look at how much they charge you for such a privilege. I'm assuming it was a lot, there were only probably about twenty or thirty lockers available and most of them were unused.
You can board or leave the safari express here, a train which runs along the outside of the walking areas of the park and takes you to and from the Lost City Plaza to the Amusement Area. Walking this distance without stopping and looking at things along the way roughly takes and fifteen to twenty minutes and I'm sure most people got on just for the novelty for children. With the park being on mostly flat, even ground I can't imagine this is a very difficult walk to many people.
Hippo Lakes is also located in this area of the park. This is basically a raised platform which allows a much clearer view of the Hippos than the actual safari allows. It's a nice but short walk decorated with huge posters containing many facts about the animal topped of with nice, clear views. When we went all of the Hippos were huddled around each other in a pool of mood sleeping. One got up at one point only to lay back down and sleep in a different position. It's an easy life! It was very peaceful and scenic and also offered further viewing of the Giraffes at the park.
----- African Village -----
The African Village is the last area you come to at the park and one of the smallest. It's set up to look like, as the name suggests, an African Village although I'm not sure that it is entirely accurate. Here is yet another gift shop and a wash station - something you'll be needing to use if you take advantage of the animal encounters available here.
Firstly there is Meerkat Mayhem which is basically a big Meerkat Enclosure. They were by far the most energetic animals of the day and it was amazing to watch how one moved and the rest of them followed. There were a fair few of them too making it hard to concentrate on just one individual Meerkat as you constantly see another darting past out of the corner of your eye and I couldn't resist diverting my attention to this one to see if he/she was being cheeky, which they more than likely where! Very funny and amusing.
There's also Lemur Wood. This is a Lemur Walk through just like the ones many zoos offer now days. A walk around the woodland setting with free roaming Lemurs. These guys were very friendly and had no trouble getting right up close to you. You can't touch them however, just in case they bite, but you can get very close indeed. In fact it would be entirely possible to touch many of them if it were permitted. The walk took about ten minutes and was very enjoyable although not wheelchair or pushchair accessible. I think this is the only thing at the park which isn't though. Obviously you're free to leave pushchairs outside so younger children can still enjoy the experience and I think younger children particularly would enjoy this.
----- Overall Opinion -----
Overall I had a thoroughly enjoyable day out and will definitely be using that free return ticket with my admission. It's a great and rare opportunity to get up close and personal with animals you wouldn't normally be able to do so with. It's probably one of the most disabled friendly places I've visited and with the exception of the Lemur Wood, there's absolutely nothing which isn't easily accessible to disabled people.
I would have preferred the actual safari to give a little more education and information on the animals. This is a subject which highly interests me almost more so than actually seeing the animals so it was a little disappointing to just see big board stating the very basic things that just about everyone already knows anyway. Although it wouldn't be convenient to place boards with masses of writing along the roads I'm sure there could be some form of voice over in place which gives the required information.
Another thing is that is works out to be a very expensive day. I paid for just myself and between my admission, ride wristbands food, drinks and a small amount of gift shop purchases I spent nearly £60. I dread to think what that number would have been if I had children to pay for as well! The park could definitely benefit by offering some form of family ticket in my opinion and I'm very surprised they don't already actually.
Regardless, it's still a place I would thoroughly recommend and I don't think I'd have been disappointed if I'd drove a long way to get to the park either, the fact it's only a 45 minutes drive from where I live is an added bonus!
Summary: An expensive but very enjoyable day trip.
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