Review: Wingham Wildlife Park
A brilliantly, manageable-sized park set in a picturesque region of the county that boasts more species than any other zoo in Kent.
It has been a hugely unsettling time for so many of us over the past few months and so when the opportunity came up to admire the new baby bears, new giraffes and new orangutans at Wingham Wildlife Park, I jumped at the chance for that immediate feel-good factor as did my children (4 and 6) when they heard the good news.
For those of you not already in the know, Wingham Wildlife Park is a family-owned park where they house the largest number of animal species out of all wildlife parks and zoos in Kent (fact) and you’ll find it in a picturesque region of the county just off the road (A257) that links Canterbury and Sandwich. Plus, there’s also a Dinosaur Zoo if you have any dinosaur nerds in the family as I did. Don’t you just love it when your children teach you how to pronounce things?
What to Expect
Obviously, this is a different world that we are operating in now and therefore things are done a little bit differently at Wingham Wildlife Park to ensure everyone’s safety. I checked the website before heading there as my mother in law wanted to join us so I needed some assurance that she would not feel exposed during our visit – nor would I and the children.
I was reassured by the plans that have been put in place – tickets are pre-booked for specific date/time to avoid big queues, staff are wearing transparent face-masks if in contact with public, strict one-way viewings are in place for enclosed and busy areas, the soft play is closed at time of writing and hand sanitization points are throughout the park.
What you will find though is that there is a lot to be enjoyed – and still feel like the good old days – due to the enormous amount of green space, picnic tables wells-spaced out and the outdoor playground, go-karts and mini diggers can be used with everyone asked to wash hands regularly and use hand sanitiser before and after using the equipment.
You may recall that we reviewed the meerkat encounter a year ago and whilst, experiences are on hold for the moment (but watch this space as they are hopefully soon to return), Wingham has a huge variety of animals to admire as well as the recent additions to the big family there with the baby moon bears (named after the white crescent mark on their fronts), giraffes and orangutans who I could have watched for hours. Some of them being more camera shy than others…
What cannot be missed is the daily walk at 10.15 for the penguins where they are literally escorted out of their enclosure and marched around the park following a keeper with some strategically placed fish, until they waddle their way home. If you are feeling down in the dumps about anything, I defy you not to watch this magical activity without a big fat smile on your face.
We also spent a huge amount time admiring otters curled up in balls together, pretty in pink flamingos perching on one leg, a black panther basking in the sunshine with its paws high up in the air as well as peacocks strutting past you as they wander freely around the park. At everyone turn, there was a new animal to marvel at with their enclosures beautifully clean and spacious. In fact, my children looked longingly at the orangutans’ enclosure and repeatedly asked why they couldn’t join in the fun.
We took a picnic and I would recommend doing this as the queues are longer than normal due to furloughed staff and social distancing measures in place plus the food menu at the café did not have me licking my lips but there are still plenty of well-placed kiosks for the obligatory ice creams, drinks and lollies. Or if you’re in the mood for a foodie treat head to one of the brill gastro pubs in the area, like The Duke William or The Dog at Wingham.
We failed to bring coins with us (they seem to be as prehistoric as the dinosaurs these days) so we couldn’t join in with the mini go-karts and digger rides so bring a stash with you if you suspect that this will float your children’s boats.
As an aside, my mother in law chose not to go into the enclosed areas for additional safety reasons and also partly fuelled by the fact that she has a phobia of snakes but it’s good to know that you can opt out of things but still not feel that you are depriving yourself of a busy and fun experience.
Who should go?
As a family with relatively small children, we absolutely loved our day. It also feels good to support a local business as Wingham who opened their doors as soon as they could on the 12th June as they still had to look after and feed the animals as the lockdown concept is a bit alien to those hairy creatures.
The older members of the family will also get a real kick and education boost out of the hands-on animal experiences when they are back up and running as they provide a memorable and novel time for them.
It’s a full-on time with lots of pitstop opportunities along the way so book your ticket for an early slot and allow yourself four hours minimum to get through it all….!
What’s the cost?
Adults, £19.00 Children (2 – 15 years), £16.00. Family ticket (2 Adults + 2 Children) is £64.00. This makes it the most reasonably priced wildlife park in the area. Opening times: Winter (October – March) 10:00 am – 4:00 pm Summer (April – September) 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.
Many of my friends who live locally have invested in Season Tickets as you pay a one-off price for unlimited entry to the park for a year which makes a lot of sense as there is so much to see and cover just for one day.
Wingham Wildlife Park, Rusham Rd, Wingham, Canterbury CT3 1JL, Tel: 01227 720836, winghamwildlifepark.co.uk