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The best drive-through safari parks and zoos

Written by James Mills

The best drive-through safari parks and zoos

This Summer, why not treat the family to a day out they’ll remember by taking them to a drive-through with a difference? Forget about fried food or coffee, juice and pastries, for a drive-through experience kids won’t forget in a hurry, try a safari park.

Britain is blessed with some of the best safari parks in Europe. You don’t have to travel far afield by train or plane to marvel at how curious monkeys can be, or just how intimidating it is to stare into the eyes of a big cat.

We’ve rounded up the best safari park experiences for a brilliant day trip by car.

 

West Midland Safari Park

Where: Worcestershire

This is one of the most popular safari sites in Britain. Why? Because here you can peer through the window or – better still – panoramic sunroof of your car and be transported to an alien environment where the vistas and landscapes appear to change according to the animals that roam them.

You can see rhinos and giraffe in the African Plains before driving on to watch the buffalo, blackbuck and deer graze freely.

As the drive-through route progresses, so the size of the animals’ teeth grows. Prepare to make eye-contact with some of the world’s greatest hunters, including lions and tigers. With so much more to do once you’re out of the car, the West Midland Safari Park makes for a roarsome day out.

 

Woburn Safari Park

Where: Buckinghamshire

Part drive-through safari, part traditional wander-by-foot zoo, Woburn gives visitors plenty to see and do during a day trip.

Those who want to feel the hair on the back of their necks stand on end should head straight for the drive-through safari, and the Kingdom of the Carnivores tour – just one part of the park’s route. There, bears and wolves run wild, and lions and tigers are also on the prowl.

Along the way you’ll encounter the Giraffe Junction (which has to beat the spaghetti junction any day), negotiate monkeys swinging from the treetops in the African Forest, and marvel at the size of rhinos in the Savannah Grasslands area.

 

Knowsley Safari Park

Where: Merseyside

Knowsley’s claim to fame is that it offers the longest drive-through safari of any zoo in the UK. Measuring in at five-miles, it’s not only got the distance that’s different. The zoo also offers families the chance to do as many tours as they like on the day of visiting – making it great value in anyone’s book.

Along the way, the contrast in animals is what makes it so memorable. One moment you can be gazing in awe at a formidable pride of lions, the next giggling at the mischievous meerkats.

 

Longleat Safari and Adventure Park

Where: Wiltshire

It’s windows up and sunroofs closed for a tour of the oldest safari park in the country. The famous drive-through takes families through Wolf Wood – but quite who will be howling the loudest remains to be seen.

Have your binoculars ready for Tiger Territory, but don’t stare too long at the big cats in Lion Country. There’s also a deer park, big-game area with white rhinos and even the chance to get out of the car and stretch your legs alongside some of the leggiest creatures in the world, mingling with the giraffe in the African Village and Walking Safari area.

If you’d prefer a guided tour, it’s possible to pay extra and hop onboard a double-decker, for a guided tour of all that Longleat has to offer.

 

Port Lympne Wild Animal Park

Where: Kent

It may not be one of the better-known names but Port Lympne is one of the original safari sites, opened in 1976. Strictly speaking, you can’t take your own car on the savannah safari. Instead you ride aboard a specially prepared truck as you and the family roam the 600 acres of Kentish countryside.

There are said to be more than 88 species of animal to capture on camera, or imitate in real-time. And those who want to get seriously close to the creatures can book to come face to face with one of Africa’s ‘big five’, including the black rhino, giraffe or lions.

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Written by James Mills

Read more from James Mills

James Mills is a former editor of BBC Top Gear and Auto Express magazines. He now contributes to The Sunday Times Driving. His favourite car is the Caterham Seven.

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