After a long hiatus of being stuck at home with no trips to have had, and nothing internationally on the horizon, I’ve decided to make the most of the UK opening back up and will be bringing you along the way with me for all my doorstep adventures!
In April, two friends and I (24-26 y/o) decided to take a trip to West Midlands Safari Park. Due to the current environment surrounding COVID-19, we had to book tickets in advance and did so about 2-3 weeks prior to our visit, as we noticed it was selling out fast. The process to book online was straight forward and we opted for admission only, with the addition of purchasing a box of animal food per person. There were two ticket options to choose from; standard admission or admission including theme park rides, which is £15 extra. Thankfully, we didn’t fork out the extra £15 as we wasn’t entirely sure how many of the rides would actually be open, and whether it would be worth it. They all seemed to be open but one thing I would note is that they were definitely more ‘child friendly’ themed rides – I’d say the website makes them look a lot more exhilarating than they actually are in person…as an adult with no children anyway! Nothing against the park, as I’m sure the theme park area is great for families, but young adults visiting by yourselves/with friends, don’t be fooled by the initial excitement of the word ‘rides’ at booking!!
Back to the beginning. Upon arriving at the park, it was ridiculously busy. We got there around midday, on a sunny British day, 1-2 weeks post re-opening, so I don’t know what else I expected but had I known it would be that busy, I’d have probably suggested visiting later on in the year when the excitement of being allowed out of the house, calms down. We genuinely spent more time in the car, in bumper to bumper traffic (safari included) than we did elsewhere.
In all fairness, the staff were handing out leaflets saying the safari would take approximately 2 and a half hours – 3 hours if taking immediately, and were advising to walk around the park first. However, it was that busy, we just couldn’t imagine it being any different later on in the day and we were already deep into traffic so it just seemed to make sense to go with the flow of traffic…I regret.
It honestly did take 3 hours to go around the safari, if not longer, and unfortunately only about 2 animals actually came up to the car to be fed, so it’s fair to say I had a first class ticket on the disappointment train. Don’t get me wrong, a lovely time was still had and I’m going to do the classic current excuse of saying “it’s COVIDs fault” because let’s be honest, after months of lockdown, seeing a load of strangers up close and personal is terrifying, so I feel for the animals who were clearly experiencing this level of fear.
I must say, I don’t even know what animals they were that came up to the car and think this experience is what sells the safari, or to me it is, so I was disappointed but I can’t blame the park as our visit just proved it’s pot luck on what animals you see, and what you don’t. We were most excited for the zebras and giraffes, as I had spent countless time on WMS tagged images on Instagram prior to our visit, and couldn’t wait to experience them walking amongst the cars myself. Turns out, they weren’t out when we were going through the safari, and much to our disappointment, they were at the beginning as we were leaving…typical!!
There were however, lots of different animals to see throughout the safari, in the distance, from deers to Elephants, Lions to Camels, Rhinos to all other random safari animals in between. Thankfully, I took a good camera with me so was able to get some great shots!
Aside from the safari, I personally don’t rate the park itself, but I do think the restrictions in place for COVID had a lot to do with that.
We visited when indoor facilities/attractions were still closed so the majority of the main park itself was shut which again, was disappointing. No live animal encounters or shows to enjoy, but we were able to pay a visit to the Penguins, Meerkats, Goats and Hippos so it wasn’t a total loss.
The main entrance is where you’ll find the main dining options, which is a great set up, particularly for those who opt for the safari first as unless you’re prepared with drinks and snacks in the car, searching for the food and drink stalls will be the first thing on your mind so it’s very to have them available within a few steps out of the park. Just like a visit to any attraction, the food is overpriced for what it is, but I will say it seemed like they had great variety; Chicago Town pizza, fries, burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, jacket potatoes, salads, sweet treats such as crepes and waffles, and PLENTY of refreshment stands throughout the park for ice cream, cold drinks and other confectionary items.
The staff at the park were fantastic – situated throughout the park at main entrances to ensure masks were being worn in required areas and social distancing was adhered to. I do think the park itself was still very busy, despite claiming it was limited capacity, however that may well be because I hadn’t seen more than about 6 people at once for over a year, so anything above looks like a mosh pit!! There were signs in areas to follow one way systems or queues for things like refreshments but I would say it wasn’t very clear outside the main entrance area so just be wary of that.
It’s important to note, if you’re not going to go on any of the rides, you won’t need to keep a huge chunk of time to work your way around the main park. I’d say, dependent on the live shows available and if they are of interest, 1-2 hours is plenty to enjoy the rest of the attractions. The good news is, you don’t even have to walk far to experience 90% of it! Right at the beginning of the park is the area where you can see the penguins, sea lions, reptiles, insects and visit the Aquarium. Then, just a short walk pretty much straight ahead is the remaining animal experiences; hippos, meerkats, lemurs and goats, so you can enjoy everything of interest within a short distance, without getting lost amongst the rides or pestered by the gaming staff to waste your money on trying to hit a target to win a soft toy you’d never pay £10+ in normal circumstances…we’ve all been there!!
My best bit of advice to those looking to book is;
- When booking, make sure you put your car registration in – this gives you a free visit if you visit in the same car, so why not!
- Follow any advice given from the staff upon arrival regarding when is best to take the safari
- TAKE A DRINK IN THE CAR. I was ridiculously thirsty having travelled to the park and then been stuck in the slow moving traffic around the safari for 3+ hours, and there was nowhere to get a drink on arrival/around the safari, without having to park and get out of the car. At least if there was, it wasn’t clear.
- Don’t be fooled into buying a box of animal per person. They aren’t very fast moving animals, so a little goes a long way when trying to entice them over to your car and get a snap of them eating from your hands, so a box or two for the whole car to share will do you perfectly.
- Get there early because you’re actually allowed to enter the safari more than once. We didn’t have time to go around again as it was so busy all day, but if you get there early, do a safari upon arrival, spend a little time in the park itself, then do the safari once more before departing – if it’s anything like our visit, it’ll guarantee better sightings of certain animals you may have missed first time around!!
- Take a picnic – save money and time by taking your own food. There’s plenty of space around the parks main entrance, to enjoy some lunch.
- Don’t fall for seeing ‘Monkey Mayhem’ on the park map, thinking it’s monkeys. I did and my excitement was soon crushed when arriving to realise it was the name of the ride…maybe no-one is as silly as me to fall for that one though!
Remember, this review was based on a visit back in April, when restrictions were tighter. Upon looking at the website, looks like more attractions throughout the park are now open, so I look forward to visiting again at some point and comparing the visit…who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and be able to feed the giraffes next time!!