A Day out at Howletts Wild Animal Park

The other week we visited Howletts Wild Animal Park for a family day out for the first time as a family of five.

We last visited Howletts when Beau was an only child and we went for a day out with his nursery. We really enjoyed our visit then, but I was intrigued to learn about the recently installed Animals of the Ice Age Exhibition and when we were invited along to have a day out, well we jumped at the chance.

What exactly is Howletts?

Howletts was originally founded by Mr John Aspinall in 1957 and was set up as private animal park. The Park was then opened up to the public  in 1975. Today the Wild Animal Park is owned and run by The Aspinall Foundation, a world-leading conservation charity who are continuing with John Aspinall’s dream and are passionate about breeding and protecting rare and endangered species and releasing animals back into the wild wherever possible, just as John Aspinall himself had always envisaged.

Over the years, Mr Aspinall could often be spotted checking in on his animals by cycling around the park on his bicycle. He had one overriding ambition in life, to preserve some of the worlds most endangered species. After his death in 2000 Mr Aspinall was buried in front of the house within the grounds of Howletts which was his home and a memorial was built next to his grave near the Bison.

Howletts today is one of Kent’s most popular tourist attractions and has over 400 animals in residence including tigers, gorillas, rhinos, elephants and monkeys.

Howletts is near Canterbury in Kent and it’s sister park, Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve is near Hythe, Kent.  Both parks are run by the charity and rely on visitor funds and donations to continue carrying out the essential work that they do.

Inside the Park

The Park itself is a variety of walkways that lead you to the various  animal enclosures. Upon arrival, you will be given a map of what is where to help you navigate your way around.

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One of the pathways is named the Woodland Walk. This has recently undergone an extensive makeover with the installation of the Animals of the Ice Age Exhibition.

As you head into the Woodland Walk you will see a sign above your head that indicates that you are now amongst Animals of the Ice Age!

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As you venture inside you will spot around every corner and hidden among the trees and bushes, life-size, and what it believed to be anatomically correct, model animals of the Ice Age such as woolly mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers.

 

Our favourites though were the ‘giant beast’ – a huge bear-sloth like creature that is standing up on his hind legs and licking a tree and of course, the woolly mammoth.

The Woolly Mammoth was quite simply, extraordinary. Unlike many such models at other attractions it wasn’t simply just cast in plastic and fibre glass, but was actually…..well woolly!! such attention to detail was a big hit with me.

Alongside every  Ice Age animal exhibit there is an information board with fun facts on them telling the story of the animal kingdom as it was over 2.6 million years ago.  I’ve got three sons aged 7, 3 and 2 years and they all really enjoyed this exhibit, running around trying to find the next one and the eldest boy having a go at trying to pronounce some of the names!  It really was great fun for the whole family and it is included in the standard admission price into the Park.

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For your information, a day ticket for Howletts costs £21.95 per adult and £18.95 for children aged between 3-15 yrs. There is also the option to purchase a Family Ticket (2 adults & 2 children) and the cost for this is £70.  If  you are booking more than a day in advance online, however, you can save 20% on these prices and there are also season tickets available which allow you unlimited access to the Park for a period of one year. There is also certain other activities available in the Park that are not covered by the admission price and these include things like the Tree Top Challenge and Close Animal Encounters which are pre-bookable. For information concerning opening times, special offers and special events please visit the website

whilst we were at the Park we did take part in the Treetop Challenge. This costs £7 per person and is suitable for children aged 6 and upwards to adults. There is also an Animal Adventure Challenge for the younger ones (2-5yrs) and the costs for this is £2.50 per child and this includes a goody bag and certificate at the end. Both Beau and Rudy enjoyed these challenges.

There are several cafes and kiosks situated throughout the park and on this occasion we choose to dine at the Pavilion restaurant. The boys all had hot meals of sausage, chips and beans and the cost of this was a very reasonable £5 each. The hubby and I both decided to go for burger and chips! Although I did notice that a lot of families opted to pack and take a picnic with them.

 

What was my favourite overall experience of the day? well, there were so many wonderful animal encounters, the close up with the Rhinos, coming face to face with a tiger, the giant ant-eaters, they are simply astonishing, the lemur walk….. its hard to choose, but without doubt my heart goes out to this beauty….

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BabyDoll …… I stood and talked to her for a while, said that considering she was born in 1961 that she must of seen some sights in her time and she looked me right in the eye, it was a moment…. and just for a moment, it felt like we had some sort of connection. She was so human like,…… this moment made me totally appreciate what John Aspinall and his dreams were all about.

We arrived at the Park around 10am and we were one of the last to leave. we had a full on jam-packed day and we all loved it. The kids were all exhausted by the end, but were all still a bit sad to be saying goodbye! Until next time Howletts…….

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*We were gifted a day experience at Howletts Wild Animal Park in return for this review. All of the opinions expressed and photographs contained herein are all entirely my own.

 

Sally x

 

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