Oh my! OK so there were no bears, but there were a number of other striking animals to see, and a couple of surprises along the way.
To end the Summer Holidays with a bang, we visited Knowsley Safari Park, and immediate I am LOVING the fact the park has an app to use while you’re there.
You don’t need to be flush to visit the park either, if you sign up to Kids Pass you can get tickets for around £10 each (under 3s go free and I’m not sure how long the offer lasts for), plus there are gazebos set up for you to be able to enjoy your own lunch if you opt to bring your own.
Tickets are checked/purchased at drive through booths on arrival, where you’re also given a map of both the safari drive and the foot safari (the rest of the park), plus a sheet of stickers to map your animal sightings on the safari drive. The safari drive is a 5 mile track with no stops, so it’s best to get any drinks or take a toilet break before you go round, you will not be allowed to stop and get out of the car for a wee once you drive through the gates to the safari drive. #knowtherules (you’ll get this when you visit). The toilets before the drive are in portacabin style buildings BUT, unlike a lot of outdoor toilets are well kept and full of interesting facts, like, cows can walk upstairs but not down? OK, so there are probably more interesting facts on the walls that that but that’s the one that sticks in my head.
We started the day with the Safari Drive, which started innocently enough, we even got a bit of a comedy gold moment when an ostrich caused a traffic jam, however, getting there shortly after 11am the sun was already peaking and the animals were entering ‘nope’ mode. (I know how they feel). Well, except the baboons, they were on the lively side… and not to Dean’s delight. “It’s all part of the experience”, he said; he now regrets EVER saying that and officially hates baboons. As we were heading in to the baboon drive we saw multiple cars exiting the drive covered in baboons, (who all got off before the cars got out the gates). It wasn’t long before we had to stop for a mother and baby approaching the car in front of us, Dean thought this was very cute and was delighted they weren’t actually heading to our car… little did he know. The baby clambered on to the car in front and just chilled on the bonnet, while the mother made her way to our car.
This is where Dean lost his love of monkeys.
You know those nozzles that sometimes stick out of car bonnets, where the water comes from to clean your windows? Well this demon bit those out! She literally got her mouth round each one, and yanked them out with her teeth. I’m pretty sure Dean was praying at this point that the baboons didn’t do anymore damage, and to their credit, they didn’t do anymore damage… BUT, they didn’t leave us alone either. One male launched himself up on to the wing mirror, and as Dean tried to take a selfie with said baboon, it promptly took a dump on the wing mirror while climbing on to the roof before jumping off. You have no idea how much I laughed as Dean looked like he was about to cry at the fact a baboon had just shat on his car! I actually still snigger about it. How is it NOT funny?
There is a ‘car-friendly’ monkey viewing route that avoids the risk of damage to your car. Make no mistake the baboons WILL damage your car in some way. Windscreen wipers appear to be the favourite, judging by the number of cars we saw with windscreen wipers being pulled off.
After the drive, which took an hour and a half, we stopped for lunch. I’d recommend going for lunch around 11-11:30 to avoid the rush. It gets packed! Meal wise you’ve got a lovely pub lunch selection, pies, fish and chips etc, along with the usual suspects for Children’s meals. You’re also looking at pub lunch prices, the pie dish was around £7 and the kid’s meals are £4.50. Each child’s meal comes with a drink (Capri-sun, water or milk) and a foam fancy dress mask, and the food looked fresh with no processed nuggets.
Turns out there’s a more cafe/coffee house area in the same building round the side, but I’m blind as a bat and didn’t see it. I wish I saw it. There’s also a number of snack/ ice cream parlours dotted around, much to Aria’s delight.
After lunch we made our way to the bat forest. Be warned you will walking around a dark enclosure with live bats flying around you, prepare for some close encounters. I loved it but Roman was a little scared after one clipped his hair with its wing. They aren’t small bats, oh no, they are big bats and they are fast! Lively too, making lots of noise. The enclosure only takes a couple of minutes to walk around and is lit with dim green lights so it’s not pitch black, meaning your eyes will adjust very quickly.
We then made our way to see the birds of prey, where we saw owls, vultures and *drumroll* a Bald Eagle! I wish I’d had my camera out, because it spread its wings and they are impressive! Apparently not as impressive as the Andes Condor though… Holy moly. There’s an actual scale painting of the condor on one of the walls in the bird of prey barn, so if you struggle to imagine how big these birds are, we compared it to our 5 year old. She could easily be carried away by one of those giants.
PS. If you fancy seeing a condor in real life, Lotherton Hall has one.
We left the Bird of Prey area just before the display, given how freaked out Roman was by the bats we figured giants flying over head would make him cry. We’ll save that for another time. So instead we went to see if we could spot the wolves. Unfortunately it was the middle of the day, so they were all hunkered down in their cave dens, something else we’ll have to watch out for another time. We did find a cute photo op though before heading off to the Amur Tiger Trail; or at least it would have been a cute photo op if they looked at the camera at the same time. Ah well.
The route to the Tiger Trail takes you over a beck via a wobbly bridge, or there is a flat wide bridge if you have a pram, a wheelchair or generally feel uneasy on bridges that bounce when you walk on them.
Now, the wobbly bridge is a narrow single file wood and rope bridge, so there can be a bit of a queue. While we were waiting, Aria discovered a female peacock tail feather on the ground… which she now has at home in my vase. It didn’t take long to get on to the bridge, which Aria thought was great fun until the kids behind us started jumping on the bridge. Sigh. A small walk from the bridge we spotted the female peacock, and soon discovered it had a baby peacock with it! I’m not ashamed to admit I kind of cooed at this point because it is was actually adorable.
Aria quickly turned in to the peacock whisperer, managing to call them over and keep their interest for quite some time. She especially loved the baby bird.
We continued walking along to find the Amur tigers, stopping at another fun photo op. Not gonna lie, these tigers are HARD to find. Finally we spotted one laying in some shorter grass. Looking all peaceful, having a bit of a bask in the sun, only to be woken up by Roman screaming that Daddy had taken him off his shoulders. I’m not sure if the big cat was looking around for lunch or to tell us to be quiet, but that head flung up when Roman shrieked! Either way we left the poor cat in peace.
Coming from the Tiger Trail, heading back towards the restaurant, we passed the giraffes. There is a viewing point with foliage hung up to entice them over but I’m 99.999999% sure they were not interested, given they stayed well away. Probably heard Roman shrieking round near the tiger and decided to give him a wide berth.
Realising we’d somehow found ourselves coming up to 2:30 we decided to head for the sea lion show, starting at 3, and we’re all glad we did. We were introduced to 2 of the 4 sea lions at Knowsley called Roger and Arthur; Roger being the baby of the two. Arthur being older, was more experienced and stronger, and therefore demonstrated the majority of the tricks, but that didn’t stop Roger getting to show off. Do you know the main differences between sea lions and seals? Or how they actually balance a ball on their nose? If not this show will make learning these facts fun. I won’t spoil it for you. The thing I love about this show is that you can see the mutual trust and respect the sea lions have with their handler, I mean how many animals want a hi five when they’ve just done something pretty epic? The show itself lasts around 20 minutes, but feels so much shorter, which is always a good sign.
During the show, Aria had made a little friend, so it was mandatory that we stayed for a good ten minutes after the show to watch the sea lions frolic in the water. This was a large dose of cuteness in the day.
By the time we’d left the show area it was coming up for 3:45, meaning we had just enough time to get round the safari drive one more time before heading home. After all, there were animals Aria was yet to sticker on to her activity map, and she was determined to spot them all. It was coming up for 4 pm, by the time we had bundled the kids in to the car and got to the drive entrance, so it was cooler and the sun wasn’t as intense (though the car was still blisteringly hot). This was quite possibly the best idea we had all day, except the sea lion show, that was THE best thing we did.
This second drive round allowed us to see animals we didn’t see the first time AND the little surprises I mentioned earlier on. First of all we spotted the camels, who were no where to be seen on our first drive, and they weren’t the only ones. The larger deer were running all around the place, with a pair of males having a rut as we drove passed. The rhinos were all out, and inches away from the car (they are much bigger in person that on big cat week). Herds of small deer were also running about, crossing the roads, legging it through woodlands and just being all cute. We’d driven around a few areas when Aria suddenly shrieked that quiet excited shriek kids somehow master, “*gasp* a rhino baby”! Sure enough, there was a baby rhino following it’s Mother around. Another little excited shriek form Aria, “BABY WILDERBEAST”. She was right again, there was in fact a baby wilderbeast following a few adults. I fully expected the baby baboons, I mean they kind breed like rabbits but I never in a million years thought I would ever see a baby rhino, or wilderbeast.
We took a moment to watch the baby rhino and wilderbeast just casually following their parents before moving on to the baboon enclosure. This time we took the car friendly route. Boy are we glad we did! Driving down the outside of the enclosure you can see all the parts of cars they’d ripped off throughout the day scattered across the grounds. We got off lightly for sure. There is a safari tour bus you can get from the foot safari area that goes through the baboon enclosure, which is perfect for anyone wanting to see the baboons up close and personal without the damage to their own cars. The baboons do take the longest to get round, purely because they do not care where they are walking, sitting or jumping, you will be moving at a snail’s pace.
It wasn’t long after seeing the baboons again that we arrived at the lion enclosure. These majestic creatures were sunning themselves on our first drive, so it was lovely to see them this second time. Knowsley have 2 small prides on their grounds. One was in the main enclosure lounging in the sun, but awake and alert, with a pair of females sat just a couple of feet from the car.
The other pride was in a side enclosure sound asleep in the sun… all but one male, who was sat in the shade. He wasn’t very interested in anyone passing by until Roman started crying for his water. Those eyes staring right at you is a bit intense, but thankfully this side enclosure is fenced off; I’m guessing they only take one pride in to the main enclosure at a time.
There were a couple of downside to the day. There’s no WiFi, so be sure you have plenty of data left before visiting. Also, no elephants. I know, I know… the logo and signage have an elephant on, but there are in fact no elephants, unless they’re hiding with the tapirs?
Speaking of tapirs, they were one of the few things we see. You get there (and back) via a small train but we simply ran out of time. Although it’s not the biggest safari park/zoo it’s got more than enough to see and do; I’d definitely recommend getting an annual pass if you can, joining their membership and getting to the drive through gates for when they open!
If you make it round all the animals, or simply fancy a break, there is a fairground, complete with mini roller coaster and carousel. We didn’t get a chance to mess about on the fairground but we did notice the signage and I’d definitely invest in a wristband for the kids.
Finally, don’t forget to follow the selfie trail for the older kids!