Longleat Zoo, Wiltshire

I know that I continue to apologize for not posting things out as regularly as I always have, and then I continue to post in random spits and spats but I am genuinely sorry and I promise now I have a good reason that I will share with you in a week or so on the April Monthly Favourites. But I'm trying to keep going! And in the spirit of keeping going, I have a really cool day out to share with you that I'm sure won't be news to many people, but it's one of my favorite places in this country and it deserves to be spoken about. 

For my birthday at the end of February, we spent some time with my parents in Wiltshire, we had so many fun days out planned that of course, I'll share with you here, but as it was Earth Day yesterday I'll start off with (in my opinion) the best one, which is our day out to Longleat Zoo! 

If you didn't know about Longleat, it's a 9,000-acre zoo and safari drive-through located between Bath and Salisbury in Wiltshire. The zoo opened in 1966 and with its incredible experience of driving through the massive animal enclosures, it became the first zoo in the world (outside of Africa) to offer a drive-through safari. Now, the zoo has so much more from countless smaller animal enclosures to children's play areas, an activity center, an education center, a maze, a small train, and a replica paddleboat steamer to take you on a tour of a 1/2 mile lake. And if all that wasn't enough there has been a huge stately home within the grounds since the 1580s which you can explore and they also offer accommodation for tents and caravans as well as lodges at the Center Parks next door! So as you can imagine there's a lot to see here and I can't even cover it all in this one post but I'll do my best! 

We started off in the "African Village" which is just before the safari and offers you the chance to see giraffes, elephants, zebras, and emu all enjoying their slice of this huge place, there are very large open platforms tall enough for you to meet the giraffes face-to-face if they're having their lunch but on the day we went they had moved to a different area and we didn't get to see them. But it left us lots of time to see some of the more forgotten about inhabitants like these Giant African Tortoises all tucked up in their house! 

Just to give you some idea of how open plan the zoo is, although there are HUGE gates and fences to keep everyone safe, the gates are usually open and have cattle grids before and after to stop the animals from walking out but that didn't stop one very brave emu from getting dangerously close to the exit! Soon enough a keeper had arrived in their famous zebra-print 4x4s and distracted them all with some food. 

Now it was time for the safari to begin! Within the safari portion of the zoo, they house deer, wolves, monkeys, tigers, lions, cheetahs, and elephants all with their own huge expanses of enclosures. Just a quick note that these animals are kept as wild as possible, the keepers DO NOT interact with them up close unless separated and sedated, and whilst driving through the safari YOU MUST keep your doors locked and windows shut where it advises you, these are wild animals who see you as dinner, not a playmate. So we started off in "Monkey Mayhem" which is my favourite part of the park, this ginormous troupe of Rhesus Macaques takes a particular shine to the cars driving through and very regularly rip bits off of cars or take a joy ride on the roof or bonnet. We love it there and always expect a little vandalism from them but if you have a very expensive car or one that you're precious about...bring a different car or take the diversion route away from the exhibit because they're fearless mechanics and Longleat is very honest in saying they will not take liability for damage to vehicles!

Then we moved on to the deers, on this section you can open your windows and get out of your car because you can buy deer food for £1 a cup at the entrance, and the deer are always hungry! I've never done this part before and it was really lovely to watch my partner (who had never visited Longleat before) enjoying this up-close, special feeding moment with the deer! 

Now we moved on to the big cats, and we didn't know what kind of experience we were in for yet! I've been fortunate enough to go to Longleat many times over the years and we've learned that driving as slow as you can and sticking to the edge of the road is the best way to see the amazing animals, one thing I love most about Longleat is that the enclosures are so big and the animals have so much free-roaming space that on some days you may not even see them at all if they're lazing about under trees or far off in the back away from the main road, and I love that you really have to get your eagle eyes out and take your time searching for the animals, but if you're gonna speed round and not even stop to look for anything there's no point in being there. 

We entered "Tiger Territory" and as soon as we pulled in a HUGE beautiful Tiger clocked us and started making its way over, I think it saw my dad as some sort of juicy prey because it was definitely heading to our car, we were loving the experience but the keeper clearly thought something wasn't right so she drove her 4x4 just in between us and the tiger so that it backed off and found something else to do...I mean, just look at its eyes! 

From there we drove round to "Lion Country" where Longleat keeps two prides of lions separately, as their breeding program did so well they had to establish a new pride and split the original one in two. The lions are often lazing about in the sun or all sleeping together in a big pile, and that's exactly what they were doing that day! We drove around most of the enclosure and saw nothing until right near the exit gates where the entire pride was sunbathing and just starting to wake up from their nap. 

The last time we visited the lions, a huge lioness rubbed her side up against my car door, and I could see her up close like I'd never seen a lion before, it was one of the most special moments of my life so far and I'll never forget it (but that's another warning to keep your car doors locked in case they can be clicked open from the outside!!!). 
That was the end of the safari for us, we parked up and headed into the main zoo itself, past the snack stands, cafes, gift shops, and the maze towards the Jungle Cruise. I was really excited to show this part to my partner as he loves boat rides and it's just another magical experience to interact with wild animals in a way you probably never have before. 

On this 30-min cruise, you get to see pelicans, hippos, and everyone's favourite, the sea lions! Now, they also let you feed the sea lions for about £3 a pot you get a couple of little fish that you can throw over the side and into the (not-so) hungry mouths of the greedy sea lions. Our tour guide was absolutely hilarious, constantly saying not to wave at other boats as they went by and telling funny stories about the animals and keepers he worked with, we had a brilliant time there and I'll show this video I took when we were feeding the sea lions, just be warned they are VERY noisy! 

From here, we'd almost finished our amazing day out, we walked around the outside of the house but we didn't have time to go in that day, just look at how beautiful it is! We did look at getting married here but as you can imagine, it's a bit out of our budget. But if you do visit Longleat, I recommend getting the full experience and buying a safari & house ticket because the inside is just as beautiful as the exterior. 

The last picture I got was when we were walking around the Main Square that houses the smaller animals. We went inside a very humid room and saw these huge Cuban Crocodiles snoozing, then turned the corner onto some very loud and excited Giant Otters putting on a real show for everyone. 

After this, we went to the gift shop and I got a little pin for my bag of a beautiful tiger, then we headed back to the car to go home, I was exhausted! I love Longleat, I love what they do to make experiences with wild animals safe and accessible, and I love the work they do in global animal breeding programs as well as conservation within this country. They're just an all-around incredible zoo and although I know some people disagree with zoos, I've always said the ones that do it right make a huge difference to animal populations throughout the world and you can see that here from their healthy, happy, and inquisitive wild animals. 
Because of their high standard and brilliant work, the zoo is quite expensive to visit. Adult tickets are around £35 and child (3-15 y/o) tickets are around £26, but children under 3 go free and any carer is free as well! The zoo is very accessible by car and they have plenty of parking and facilities, the only other way is by train and although the zoo isn't too far away from Frome Station which has regular services from Bath and London, you will have to get a taxi from the station to the zoo, unless you can find a bus service that drops you off nearby. 

I hope I've sold Longleat to you if you've never been and now I hope you're considering getting a ticket to come and support this beautiful zoo that holds such a special place in my heart, once you go it'll draw you back time and again, I promise! 

In my next post, I'll be talking about our trip to Stonehenge!

H x