on January 10, 2010
As the name suggests, the South Lakes Wild Animal Park is a collection of some of your favourite animals house in a park that allows the majority of its inhabitants to wander freely. The focus is very much on conservation and there is a lot of information about work that the park does to help animals in the wild. Not to be confused with a zoo, there is hardly a fence in sight, the park has obviously made a huge effort to provide as natural an environment as is possible in this country.The South Lakes Wild Animal Park is located at the Southern tip of the Lake District in Dalton-In-Furness. To get there, you need to take the M6 to junction 36 and follow the signs for Barrow-In-Furness until you see the brown elephant signs that direct you to the park. I’ll warn you now though it is a fair old distance around country roads once you have left the motorway, so you’ll need to think of ways to entertain the kids before you set off! There is plenty of free parking on site, although it is in fields, so I would imagine it would be a pain in the rain or snow.The park is open all year round from 10am until 4.30pm and last entry is 45 minutes before the park closes, although I would say that there is far too much to see and that leaving yourself 45 minutes would be utterly pointless. The entrance fee is £11.50 for adults and £8 for concessions in summer and £8 and £5 respectively in winter. These prices do include a £1 gift aid donation that you are not obliged to pay. I think these prices are pretty much the norm for this kind of attraction and you will get a whole day’s entertainment for the price. We actually managed to find coupons that got us 50% off which was fantastic value and just goes to show that you can find the deals if you look!If you particularly interested in the animals or are looking for a special gift for someone, the park does offer the chance to be a keeper for a day. There is a minimum donation of £100 for the experience, but you get all of your meals and snacks included as well as a memento of your day. I didn’t do this, but there are a few testimonials on the website that indicate that it is a fantastic experience.The park itself is split into areas relating to the natural habitats of its fifty species of animals and this makes it very easy to walk around. It’s rather like going around a safari park but on foot. The areas are Africa, Asia, Australia, Indonesia, Madagascar, South America and the Rest of the World. Within these areas you’ll find all the favourites, including tigers, lions, rhinos, giraffes, penguins and monkeys as well as plenty of more obscure animals that you’ll have great fun learning about. As I said earlier, the animals are housed in large areas that give them plenty of space to roam around and there are also many animals that are free roaming. For example, don’t be surprised if you have to give way to a monkey and be sure to stop and feed the friendly wallabies.As with all places like this, you get the opportunity to watch the animals being fed. The keepers are excellent in educating you in a fun and engaging way, whilst they explain the natural habitat and food choices of their charges. Particularly impressive is the feeding of the endangered tigers. The food is placed at the top of very tall pillars and the tigers are then released to ‘catch’ their food. The keepers explain that this keeps them fit and reflects, in some part, their natural hunting techniques. Also not to be missed is the feeding of the penguins, which will have children of all ages squealing with joy. There is also chance to hand feed the majestic giraffes, which is not something to be missed.There are shops and cafes in the park, although the prices are what you’d expect – not particularly cheap. We opted to take a packed lunch and found that there were ample places to enjoy it – as long as you don’t mind the odd peacock wandering past! Like I said, there are plenty of animals that roam freely. Many of them are just birds and things that have no interest at all in you. However some of the monkeys are more interested and will approach you – these are in an area that is enclosed within two gates that is easy to avoid if you want to. They aren’t in the slightest bit aggressive although it can be a little daunting for smaller children.I know that many people have objections to wild animals being kept anywhere other than their natural environment, but the South Lakes Wild Animal Park really has done everything it can to make this area as natural and pleasant for the residents as possible. It makes for a fascinating, fun and very educational day out and gets top marks from me.If you need any more information, the website www.wildanimalpark.co.uk is very comprehensive and includes lists of the animals and maps of the park as well as details about group bookings and adopting an animal, so is well worth a visit.
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