A foggy, dark autumn Sunday took us to Knowsley Safari Park, just on the outskirts of Liverpool for a day out which turned out to be a highly enjoyable day!
While it sounds like a long way to go, it only took 40 minutes from the Yorkshire/Lancashire border of the M62. The Park is well signposted and on the main roads and so if you avoid rush-hour during the week, it is a really easy drive.
Entry into the park was a little slow as only 2 payment windows were open (Drive through style). As such, if you’re the only adult, make sure the payment window is at your side!! We went when it was half price and so we paid £9-ish. As H is under 3, she was free, so pretty good value for money. (Prices as at November 2015).
Upon entry you have 2 options; drive through the safari (you can do this as many times as you like) or go into the animal park. We did the animal park first and everything was surprisingly central. This allowed Heidi to walk most of it herself. This is a bit different to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park which seems to cover much more land.
In terms of the animals, there were giraffes, which you could get very close to due to the elevated viewing platform. This was a hit, especially as they seemed to like the attention of people looking at them! There were also elephants, but they were a bit less sociable, as well as the usual meerkats etc.
A couple of surprising ones were the sealions and the bats. The sealions have a show which we missed. However, the venue was busy, so it must have been good. (Update: we have been since and the show is brilliant!). The bats attraction was where you could go into the bats habitat (akin to a cave!) and they were flying free around you. The little ones will either love or hate this. However, if they hate it, the exit is next to the entrance!!
We didn’t see any of the talks/shows, which I should have factored in, if I was planning properly. But it leaves something to do next time!
Because it was relatively quiet, you didn’t feel as though you had to ‘move on’ after looking at the animals. We spent about 20 minutes looking at an owl, which Heidi thought that she could control and make it whistle by doing a dance for him!
We had a spot of lunch, which was the usual kids lunchbox. However, there was quite a good range of food for both adults and kids and the prices didn’t seem too bad. There were also vending machines and with these, you could pay by card, which was a first for me!
In terms of nappy changing facilities, they were pretty much standard. However, it would have been good to have a toilet in the same room as the nappy changing mat. This makes it so much easier for single parents!!!
After seeing the animals in the park, we went on the safari. Because of the low speeds, a lot of parents had their children on their laps so they could see the animals. If you feel comfortable doing this – do it. The kids see much more and it helps pointing animals out to them. You never get out of second gear and it is a once in a lifetime experience! The safari takes around an hour (please note if potty training!) and obviously you can’t get out, as there are lions, tigers and all sorts of other animals on the safari. Most of the animals can get up to the car which can be wonderful for the little ones. However, it is also wonderfully terrifying, so it is a test of parenting and driving skills to make sure they are comforted!
The “highlight” of the safari is the monkey enclosure. As my car is about to be scrapped, I decided to drive through. But if you have a car that you like, please don’t go in!! You can drive along the outside and see the monkeys, but obviously going into the enclosure, you get really close to them! This is perhaps the most memorable part for Heidi as she mentions the monkeys now with such accuracy and enthusiasm, although she did get scared a little bit. It isn’t every day where monkeys climb on the car!!
After the safari, we went on the amusement rides. For £10, you can buy an unlimited ride wristband so you can go on the rides. The best part of this is that parents can go on for free if the kids are little, so you aren’t paying twice. The rides are just right for toddlers/preschool children and the attendants are great in keeping the children entertained (and sat down!). They are good in knowing what little children are like in terms of not knowing what car/boat to go on etc! I have to say thanks to Gemma and Jess for putting a big smile on Heidi’s face when she was going on the roundabout! I am sure the queues would be huge during the summer holidays, but we had free run on the rides!
So, after 4 hours there, we headed back home after a hugely enjoyable day. You could stay longer if your child had more stamina/was older. However, Heidi was asleep soon after joining the motorway on the way home, which was a bonus!