Last weekend we were invited to Knowsley Safari to try out the UK’s longest Safari drive and get close to over 30 species of animals and birds.
We’ve been meaning to try out Knowsley with our girls (aged nearly 5 and nearly 3) for a long while now so I was pleased we finally made the journey. It’s not far from us (in sunny Manchester) and took 40 minutes to drive there via the M57.
The Safari drive first opened in 1971, and covers 550-acres with more than 700 animals including zebra, lions, tigers and baboons. Alongside the safari drive, there’s a large Walkaround Area with many other animals, rides and trails (more later).
We were forewarned about the ‘interactive experience’, with lions possibly blocking your path during the drive and cheeky baboons doing allsorts to your car! So we chose to park up and take the ‘baboon bus’ around the safari (however, you can also take the baboon-friendly car route).
As soon as we set off on our bus, there was immediately plenty to see. Our guide was great, keeping a good watch for any animals she could see and explaining fully the different kinds of antelope and deer. My girls were thrilled to be so close to them. At one point not soon after we set off, a baby Pere David’s Deer skipped and jumped across our path which they were enchanted to see.
We passed camels, Nilgai and Bongos, amongst many other animals. We passed the section where Iberian Wolves were apparently lurking, but alas they were hiding from us that day.
By far the best bit of the Safari Drive is the lions. As you can see from the photos above and below, we were lucky enough that day to get a really close view. It was really amazing. They were having a good old kip and a huddle together and at one point a lioness climbed a tree right in front of us. Like a typical moggy, she got halfway, decided she couldn’t be bothered, got down again and then walked off with her head held high like nothing had ever happened.
We passed many more animals until eventually we reached the area everyone talks about: the baboons. And yes- I can confirm that I saw baboons sitting on several cars, one even nonchalantly waving to us as we drove past. One grabbed the ropes on the back of our bus and started climbing. The guide explained to us that during the last World Cup, the Park amasses quite a lot of England flags that the baboons had pulled off cars and loved to play with.
The guide was also very knowledgeable about conservation and world wildlife issues. We were shocked to learn, on passing the White Rhinos, that they are expected to be extinct in 5 years due to poaching for their horns. I find that so sad- they’re a magnificent animal and soon we’ll only be able to see them in zoos or protected safari areas.
We enjoyed the safari drive, which took around an hour on the baboon bus. In your own car, you can take as long as you like but of course any damage is at your own risk! We did think about taking the car around one more time, but then realised we had lots more to see and do in the Walkaround Area.
As you can see above, the Walkaround Area has a great Giraffe viewing platform. They came so close you could almost touch them. Giraffes are one of my most favourite animals – such big eyes and they just seem so gentle and caring towards one another.
Similarly, there is also an elephant viewing platform. They didn’t come so close when we were visiting, but we did see them frolicking around in the vast fields beyond.
We also went inside the Bat Forest. Now I think my nearly-5 year old could easily spend all day in a bat house. It’s dark, spooky and flying bats whoosh by you when you least expect it. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but we enjoyed being in there!
The photo above shows a Sea Lion doing a neat little manoeuvre. We viewed a spectacular Sea Lion show (they occur throughout the day at regular intervals). I’ve never seen Sea Lions perform- you can see they were really well looked after and enjoy what they do. And how good are they at balancing balls on their noses?? The keepers explained this was due to clever use of whiskers, but it was mesmerising!!
There’s lots to do and see at Knowsley- I don’t think we quite managed it all. There are quite a few children’s rides and our girls had a turn on some of these. There’s also birds of prey with talks throughout the day, high ropes adventure (we saw this- husband wanted a turn but alas it started raining), train ride, meerkat enclosure and a bug house which was closed for redevelopment when we visited.
Knowsley has just launched its ‘Wild Trail’ attraction, too, in addition to its Equatorial Trail, where families can visit the new European Moose and explore the woodland environment while learning all about the indigenous species.
We had a really exciting and full day. I’m definitely aiming to go back and try out the wild trails. Plus I can’t wait to drive round the Safari again! It’s a great summer activity.
Disclosure: We were invited free of charge to review Knowsley Safari. All opinions are my own. Prices are: Adults (16 and over) £16.50, Children (3-15 years) £12.50,OAPs (60 years and over) £12.50, Children under 3 FREE. A family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) is£55.00. Parking is free. For more information visit Knowsley Safari.