Fantastic family fun at Port Lympne

A while ago our family was invited to spend the day with the staff and animals at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent.  When the lovely Sam wrote to ask us if our large family of little monkeys would like to meet and feed their large family of little monkeys we jumped at it!  (Of course, she worded it far more politely, but I’m sure that’s what she meant).

We spend the few days leading up to our visit hoping and praying for good weather. So far the week had been a wash-out.  As it turned out we were lucky and had the best day weather-wise that we’d had for a while.  You’ve got to love British Summertime, don’t you?

The day started early as always but this time we had company in the form of Linda from BBC South East News who wanted to capture our special day for a slot on the day’s local news.  She arrived at 6.30am in order to film us all having breakfast and getting ready for the day.  We also had a quick interview to give a glimpse into our large family life.  It was especially amusing to hear five year old Sid answer the question, “What is the best thing about being in a large family?” with the answer, “Food!”.  Typical Sid!

You know you’re getting old when TV camera crews start looking so young.
After being asked a thousand and seventy five times whether it was time to go yet by several different small people it was finally time to go and we set off on our journey.
Port Lympne is one of the two Aspinall Wild Animal Parks.  It is located in Lympne, near Hythe in Kent with its sister park, Howletts, situated three miles south of Canterbury, Kent in Bekesbourne.  
Howletts was the first of the two parks to be opened back in 1975 by John Aspinall.  His aim was to breed rare and endangered species of animals and to return them to the wild.  The Aspinall Foundation has actively led in wild animal conservation ever since and has managed several projects and programmes around the world. 
When we arrived at Port Lympne we met up with Sam and two interns, Amy and Trevor, at the Gatehouse.  They immediately made us feel welcome and at ease and we quickly realised that this was true of all the staff we met there.  After a quick interview with BBC Radio Kent we began our day.
The first stop was meeting the36  Guinea Baboons and the kids were thrilled to be able to help with feeding time.  Jamie, pictured below, is the keeper and definite expert on the baboons.  He answered all my questions patiently and knew everything he could possibly know about them.  One thing I noticed is that all the animals were so well looked after and cared for and Jamie was a great example of why. 
Sid and Harry helping with feeding time

Eddie tossing in a couple of handfuls of nuts to the impatient baboons.
 It reminded me of feeding time at home!
Daddy, Oliver and Joseph looked on.  
Can you see Linda from BBC South East in the background filming our day?
 By this point we were quite oblivious to her as we were so taken by the baboons!

After we fed the baboons our journey around Port Lympne continued.  We passed by each of the animals and as we walked around the beauty of the place was striking and the views all around were absolutely breathtaking.  What immediately grabbed me was how not only were the animals so well looked after but I repeatedly marvelled (like a broken record at times!) how clean everything was!  With over 600 acres this I imagined is no easy task to achieve but somehow they do and the result is impressive.
We continued to be accompanied throughout the day by Sam, Amy and Trevor. I think Paddy wanted to take Trevor home with him as a souvenir as he insisted on holding his hand to walk around the place.  Whoever thinks home-educated children can’t socialise really can’t have met any!  We were enjoying their company and our time there so much that I didn’t think to take many pictures at all which is my only disappointment of the day and completely my own fault.  
As we walked around on our way to a break for lunch we stopped off to see the gorillas.  Oh, how we all loved them!
Between them, Port Lympne and Howletts house the largest collection of gorillas in human care which currently stands at 74.  As well as this they also work on projects with the governments of the Republic of Congo and neighbouring Gabon, aiming to halt the decline of the western lowland gorillas.  The Aspinall Foundation’s conservation work doesn’t stop there as they have several overseas wildlife conservation projects (*cough*, message to Aspinall’s, if you need a blogger to cover any of these…!) as well as conservation work within the UK.
Watching the gorillas, I think the children thought they were watching a parallel universe behind the glass -except hairier. 
Eddie wondered why Oliver wasn’t answering him. 
Until he realised it wasn’t Oliver. 

Sid, Eddie and Paddy were behaving the same way only this morning.

Harry felt like he was looking in a mirror.
Oliver and Joseph were well occupied watching the antics of the baby gorillas. 
I think they’d have happily stayed there for hours!

Paddy realised what the twins’ arrival would bring. 
And who doesn’t love a new baby?!

Tired from the morning’s excitement it was time to stop for lunch and a sit down.  I very much appreciated this!  I also very much appreciated the trip back to base on the minibus afterwards which saved us (or more to the point, me) from having to walk uphill.  I’m sure it wouldn’t normally have been a problem for my usual athletic self (*ahem*) but when you’re 24 weeks pregnant with twins it’s not on my list of priority experiences!
We spent the rest of the afternoon looking around the park some more and took part in the Wild Animal Experience which much to the boys’ enjoyment included a safari on one of these:
We were driven around the park with a stop halfway to have a quick play and stretch of the legs as well as a look around the souvenir shop.  You’re in no hurry to continue the journey by boarding the same truck again and are free to stay at the stop for as long as you like, catching a later truck back.  We chose to re-board quickly as by now we were all beginning to flag and wind down a little. 
We finished up on the safari and then had another sit down accompanied by ice-cream which was the perfect end to a wonderfully perfect day.  
We were all tuckered out by the time we got home that evening.  There is plenty to do and one day isn’t enough and much to my surprise as I’d imagined otherwise, the safari ride around the park is all included in the one day ticket price.  Not only that but if you visit once your ticket is actually valid for a whole year, so while they don’t offer family ticket prices or discounts this works out at excellent value and is definitely something that we’re going to be getting as soon as finances allow though I do also have to point out that the tickets aren’t set at excruciatingly painful prices and absolutely worth every penny. You can find out more about the Port Lympne Passport here. 
I’ve gone on enough about how much I loved it but what did the children think?
Here are some quotes from the children:
Harry: “I thought it was really good. When we went on the truck there was a big board that had all the animals and we fed the monkeys and it wasn’t good… it was GREAT!
Caitin: “It was really fun. I liked seeing the monkeys and feeding them and I liked the lions as we first went in.”
Sid: “I loved everything! Can we go back again? Can we go back today? What about tomorrow?”
Eddie: “I liked the truck and the lions and the gorillas and the monkeys.  I liked everything! It was great!
Oliver: “Monkey! Ooh-ooh, ah-ah!”
Paddy: “I like all the animals!”

So to all the staff at Port Lympne, I’d like to say a big thank you and you couldn’t have made it any more special or memorable for us.  We are thoroughly grateful for all you did and want to extend our particular thanks and appreciation to Sam, Amy and Trevor for putting up with us all!  We will definitely be back! 
(Sam? Amy? Trevor? Where did you all go?!)


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2 thoughts on “Fantastic family fun at Port Lympne

  1. excelent!!!Thanks for posting, I have always wanted to see it,Here the animals having bigger living environments and I personally LOVE this wild animal park.i really want to go!

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