Longleat is not a cheap day out but you get a lot for your money. It’s worth getting there as early as possible. We got there at around 9.30am on the day of our visit. We had booked our tickets online in advance (you get a discount on the gate price if you do), and getting through the gate was pretty quick. We were advised to head for the safari drive first as “it gets busy near lunchtime”. We dumped a car at the main car park and all piled into one for our trip around the safari.
The cars were queuing at the safari gates when we got there. There were toilets though so we could get out for a quick visit. It was quite well organised with staff coming down the two lines of cars to check our tickets and give us our Steve Backshall Deadly 60 CD for the car.
The gates opened bang on 10am. We drove down to the first part, where we parked and went off to explore the area. Here there is an explorers den where you can learn how to be safari explorers with a video of Steve Backshall. It wasn’t much use but the girls enjoyed it anyway. We picked up four free safari spotters books to use with our CD.
We had a walk through the lemur walk-through, which was very good. The lemurs were plentiful and active, and delighted and startled the girls in equal measure.
Then we joined the short queue for the giraffe feeding. For £2 a stalk, you can feed the giraffes from the platform. It was fantastic. The giraffes were very friendly and willing. You can buy more stalks for a discount, which is handy when you have a few children wanting to have a turn.
There were other animals in this area including wallabies. Then we got back in the car to do the main safari drive.
The safari drive took around two hours. There are no toilets on the way and you can not, under any circumstances, get out of your car. You can have the window open in some areas, but best to have them closed for some animals.
Our favourite parts of the safari drive was the monkey enclosure, and the deers. The monkeys were suitably active but very picky about which cars they wanted to surf on. We had one sit on our back windscreen wiper for a while but they were more interested in the cars with roof bars on, or more that they were more interested in trying to remove the roof bars. The car in front suffered some damage to their back windscreen wiper but considering the amount of monkeys in there, there wasn’t too much mess. The girls loved the monkeys and wanted to stay in there all day.
The deer were lovely. As you drove through you could buy a pot of deer food (the buying food thing is a bit of a theme at Longleat) and then feed the deer from your car. They were very willing and descended on the car as soon as it looked like we were parking up. The food was soon gone. Top tip – take hand wipes.
The big cats were a bit of a disappointment. It was quite hot when we visited so the lions and tigers were all just lying about in the shade. As impressive as they are, you’ll be lucky to get much more than a glance at a distance. Other animals such as the rhinos, and the ostrich were much more obliging! There is also a very impressive herd of zebra.
The safari over and we drove back down to the main car park so we could explore the adventure park. This was part zoo, part attractions, and there was plenty to do.
Our first stop – after the loos and a very good handwashing – was to get some lunch. We got some hot dogs from the booth. At £5 a piece they were nice but pricey. I split one between two children as they are big enough. It’s also a bit awkward as you can’t buy drinks from the hot dog booth and have to re-queue at another. There are lots of outdoor picnic tables, or indoor cafes if you prefer.
The Jungle Cruise was pretty good. This is a boat ride out to see the gorillas on the island – who were not very visible at the time of our trip – and the hippos and sealions in the lake. Again, you could buy a pot of food and feed the sealions from the boat. They are very noisy and active, and made a beeline for the boat as soon as they saw the fish being dangled. We really enjoyed this bit and this was probably the longest queue of the day at about 15-20 minutes.
There are lots of other animal attractions to explore, with a butterfly house, more monkeys, giant porcupines, cute otters, and a very good meerkat walkthrough. The lorikeet feeding (£1 for a tiny pot of nectar) was also a lot of fun.
One part the twins were looking forward to was the Postman Pat Village. It was ok. It was very well done but apart from houses with buttons to press there wasn’t much else there. I was expecting a themed ride or two, but apart from a strategically placed Postman Pat themed gift shop, there wasn’t a lot to do. Great for little Postman Pat fans but not really worth the trip on its own.
We all enjoyed the Rockin’ Rhino ride. It wasn’t very exciting but was good for little ones.
The obligatory parrot show was excellent – probably the best I’ve seen. The parrots of course were roller skating, driving little cars, and doing jigsaw puzzles – the usual really, but the presenter was enthusiastic and got the audience involved. The girls loved the show.
Our last stop of the day was Penguin Bay, where we saw a colony of penguins, and prodded a ray or two. The penguins were all inside by this time as their outdoor enclosure was being cleaned, so we couldn’t do the penguin walkthrough, but we enjoyed it anyway. Gotta love a penguin!
We were there from opening time to closing time and didn’t do everything. We didn’t do the famous maze, or see inside the main house, or go on all of the playgrounds. We only had time for one trip on the perimeter train, and didn’t get to go back and see our favourite animals again. I can see why people buy an annual pass and come back again and again.
We really did have a good, full day out.
For more information, please visit http://www.longleat.co.uk/