Mumsnet were invited to review an overnight stay at Livingstone Cottage, set within the heart of Port Lympne Wildlife Park.
This is not your normal holiday cottage rental, but a real treat for a special occasion. The cottage sleeps 8 in 4 rooms, including a luxurious bridal suite complete with roll-top bath and twin room ideal for kids (big and small) overlooking a Meercat enclosure. Included in the overnight stay are 2 private safaris, a 5 course dinner and cooked breakfast.
We arrived at the park at 2pm and were met by our ranger and welcomed with a glass of fizz (hubby) and fresh orange (pregnant me).
After a quick safety briefing we were off in our jeep for our safari experience. Throughout the drive we had several close encounters with the local residents – including Rhino, Cheetahs, Ostriches, Zebra and various water bucks. Our ranger’s knowledge was faultless and really made the safari.
Upon arrival at our cottage we were greeted by our chef who had cooked a few African nibbles for us to enjoy as we unpacked and made ourselves at home. Groups staying at the lodge can ask for dinner to be prepared when suits and most make a real evening of it, enjoying the 5 courses with drinks (drinks are charged extra and there is a corkage fee if you bring your own). The food was simply outstanding and our ranger stayed with us during the meal answering any questions we had about the park, the wildlife and her recent time in Africa. After confirming what time we would like breakfast chef and ranger left us for the evening. I had grand plans for a luxurious bath and then some reading by the fire, but the fresh air knocked us all out and we bedded down early to the sounds of the wild.
The views from our window overlooked the park’s “African Experience”, so you’ll find yourself opening the curtains to see zebras wandering past and ostriches looking for early morning grubs – not your typical Kent view. Downstairs chef had prepared a fantastic cooked breakfast, which set us up for the day ahead. A quick walking tour of the Rhinos and Meercats and we were back in the jeep for our second private safari.
Finishing up an hour or so later, we were then free to explore the rest of the park by foot.
What really makes Port Lympne stand out from other parks is the conservation aspect. At its heart is the ethos that “zoos” shouldn’t exist to simply home animals for the publics’ viewing pleasure. They should be there as a means to enable conservation and the park has an active breeding programme, along with a programme to return animals to the wild. We spent a great deal of time in awe of a family of 11 Gorillas who are scheduled to be returned to Congo later this year – inspiring stuff.
This is not a cheap stay, but split 8 or 6 ways for a special occasion and bearing in mind the 2 private safaris and inclusive food, then the costs are reasonable. It would make a perfect 60th birthday or special wedding anniversary treat which the whole family could enjoy together. As mentioned, we took a toddler and he really enjoyed himself and was made to feel incredibly welcome by the chef who whipped up special meals. There was no toddler equipment in the cottage but you could bring your own travel cot, and just a few board games suitable for older children, but we were not expecting this to be a stay geared towards families with toddlers. The park also offers tented lodge accommodation for 3 night stays which are cheaper in price and geared more towards families travelling with children.