Take the kids to … Monkey World, Dorset | Travel
In a nutshell
Thirty years ago, the late Jim Cronin rescued nine chimpanzees that were being used as photographers’ props in Spanish beach resorts and established this sanctuary in Dorset. Today, Monkey World is home to more than 250 apes and monkeys – mostly rescued from laboratories, circuses and the pet trade. Enclosures are spread across 65 acres but with limited capacity to house more animals, director Dr Alison Cronin campaigns to stop smuggling from the wild, and to raise awareness of the cruelty of the legal British pet trade, which it describes as “our biggest, most chronic problem”.
The park has hosted 44 weddings since 2009 – surely a gift to any best man.
Best thing(s) about it
As nine series (with a 10th currently in production) of Monkey Life prove, these animals are endlessly watchable. The chance to see baby orangutans playing, lolloping bachelor chimpanzees, and acrobatic gibbons up close feels like a privilege. There are 20 species in all, though my son, an avid fan of Monkey Life, leapt about looking for his favourite characters from the series: “Where’s Eddy? Where’s Ben?”, but was just as keen to see the human star of the show – keeper Jeremy (though we didn’t spot him). Signs on the enclosures introduce you to the members of each troop and daily keeper talks reveal more about their characters. There are also two children’s playgrounds.
What about lunch?
The animals have a far healthier diet than the visitors. The main Treetops restaurant serves sausage rolls and pasties (£3), burgers and chips (£5.45) and jacket potatoes (from £3.45). Kids’ meals are £4.15. Two further cafes serve baguettes, cake and ice-cream. It’s cheap – coffee is £1.55 – but that’s reflected in the quality.
Exit through the gift shop?
It’s next to the entrance; my son was in there like a shot, lost among hundreds of cuddly monkeys. There’s also a vast array of ape-themed gifts from mugs and posters to bookends and sweets and biscuits named after the residents – surely grandma would appreciate a packet of chimp Thelma’s butter fudge and chocolate chop shortbread?
North of Lulworth and west of Wareham, it’s on the A31 between Bere Regis and Wool. Trains (from London Waterloo), and the Jurassic Coast bus service, stop at Wool, 1½ miles from the park.
Value for money?
Adult £12, child (3-15 years) £9, family (two adults, two kids) £38, single parent family £27. All proceeds are ploughed back into the centre’s rescue and rehabilitation work in Dorset and its overseas projects.
Open every day, except Christmas Day, 10am-5pm (6pm July and August).
9/10 (but 1/10 for the food).