Knowsley Safari Park

 

In Issue 1 of The Merseysider magazine Alison Sullivan reported on a year spent visiting Chester Zoo with her two year old nephew, Louis (you can read this article by clicking here). He’s five now and as a summer holiday treat she took him to Knowsley Safari Park. Here’s her report.

When Knowsley Safari Park opened in 1971 it was the first in a big city, and for me there’s still something magical about the thought of Liverpool One thronged with shoppers, while just a few miles away lions, rhinos and zebras are roaming (relatively) freely. For Louis seeing the animals in this kind of environment was a completely new experience. I’d last visited about eight years ago, and found on my return that while there have been several impressive alterations to the park in recent years it has retained its unique atmosphere and remains one of the region’s most unforgettable attractions.

When we arrived we headed straight for the Safari Drive, the drive-through part of the park. Early on we spotted various kinds of deer, a sleeping tiger and a group of fearsome painted dogs (the park’s divided into zones, which keeps certain animals away from each other). Then, having survived the lions’ enclosure, we reached probably the park’s most celebrated occupants: the infamous baboons, who are pretty well guaranteed to clamber all over your car and get up to all sorts of mischief as they do so. We warily edged our car into the enclosure and soon heard a loud clump, announcing the arrival of a baboon on the back of the car; a few of his mates quickly followed. Louis was transfixed throughout, his reactions varying from pronouncing it ‘scary’ when an unseen baboon could be heard scampering about on the car roof, to squeals of surprise and amusement when the same baboon slid down the front windscreen and parked himself on the bonnet for the next minute or two, as if happy to accept a free ride. Travelling through the enclosure remains an experience every self-respecting Merseysider should have at least once.

After that it was a leisurely drive through the rest of the park. A particular highlight was when a group of zebras ran across the road directly in front of us, headed for a nearby waterhole.

After the Safari Drive there were more animals to come, as some are kept in separate enclosures which can be visited on foot. There are special viewing platforms for watching the giraffes and the elephants. The giraffes come within inches of you as they feed from raised containers, and you can see for yourself just how astonishingly long their tongues are.

There’s also a bat forest, a bug house, a birds of prey area and the equatorial trail, a collection of exotic animals (with unusual names – capybara, sitatunga – to match) who all live in habitats along the earth’s equator. The trail involves an enjoyable journey on the park’s own miniature railway, the route of which takes you around a large lake.

We also knew we couldn’t deprive Louis of half an hour or so in the amusement park. Here there are free facilities (such as swings, slides and a sandpit) alongside rides which at the time of our visit cost £2 each (alternatively a £10 wristband allows you to go on everything). Adults get free rides if they’re with children under a certain height, so we took it in turns to accompany Louis, who had a whale of a time. In the same area of the park there are restaurants, ice cream sellers and a gift shop. There’s also the sea lion show, which sadly we didn’t have time for – but it’s always good to have a surprise in reserve for the next visit.

Of course, Knowsley Safari Park is not just about entertaining the public, and as the guidebook explains the park is committed to conservation and research. The park also hosts a diverse range of events, including in the near future a Halloween night on Saturday October 26th, when there’ll be a hobgoblin woodland walk and close encounters with bats, owls and birds of prey. A couple of weeks later the Knowsley Food and Drink Festival takes place inside a large marquee on 9th-10th November.

Entrance prices to the park are very good value, especially if you take advantage of the offers which are often advertised in the press or on the park’s website (see below). The one year membership package, which offers unlimited access for a year, is also a good deal, and f you’re especially keen on animals there are also many ‘experiences’ available, such as Keeper For A Day and a three day Junior Rangers course. Louis’s still a little young for the last of these, but if his slightly nervous fascination with baboons continues no doubt in a few years’ time he’ll be signing up!

Photographs courtesy of Knowsley Safari Park.

For more information on Knowsley Safari Park, visit their website: www.knowsleysafariexperience.co.uk