Take the kids to … West Midland Safari Park | Travel
In a nutshell
A safari park with more than 140 species of animal, including all the big hitters from Africa. There is also a theme park that has further animal attractions. It is actually in Bewdley, Worcestershire, not the West Midlands.
When the park was opened in 1973 (by Sophia Loren), the baboons were often in the news for trashing visitors’ cars and their clever escape bids: 130 once broke out and hit the town in nearby Kidderminster. In recent times, the safari park has become better known for conservation work. In 2014, the first male elephant calf in the world (and only the second baby African elephant) via artificial insemination was born here. He was called Sutton and born on the 5th day of the 5th month at 5pm to a mum called Five.
Best thing about it?
Seeing such majestic animals up close (yet with far more freedom than they would have in a zoo) is magical, however old you are. The first thing we saw was an enormous rhino walk right in front of our car. We also watched an elephant teaching her calf to break branches and eat the leaves, a giraffe stoop down and stare at us through the windscreen, and tigers and rare, beautiful white lions just a few feet away.
What about lunch?
First impressions were worrying: the stall in the car park (next to a grotty toilet block) knocks out cheap burgers, and the one just inside the theme park entrance displayed greyish fried chicken and doughy pizza. But, towards the back of the theme park, we found Burger & Co and had tasty fish-finger sandwiches on fresh, soft bloomer, with proper skinny fries (£6.50). Decent coffee, too.
Exit through the gift shop?
Dodging the fun fair/theme park is a far bigger challenge. If you have very young kids you could forget to mention it, come straight out of the safari drive-through and make a dash for it … but the rest of you will be spending the second half of your day (and plenty of cash) in here. However, it does have more animal attractions, at no extra cost, including a sea lion show, a reptile house, penguin pool and small lake with five humorous, and humongous, hippos. This section is a zoo, rather than a safari park, however.
Value for money?
It’s not a cheap day out. The standard entrance price is £23 for adults and £18 for kids, and a wristband for unlimited rides costs an additional £14 (adult) or £11 (child) – there’s also a better-value, four-ride ticket for £6. However, the website offers discounts of 15%-30% year round, even in the summer holidays, which can reduce costs significantly. A packet of animal feed – they’ll eat right out of your hand – is £3.50.
Almost everyone comes by car, obviously, to drive through the animal park, but there is a mini-bus tour (£6pp). If taking this option, get the train to Kidderminster (40 minutes from Birmingham, frequent departures, or two-and-a-half hours from London Euston, frequent departures but with two changes), then a local bus to the safari park.
My eight-year-old son gave it 10/10 and said it was the best place he’d ever been! His grannie, grandad and I all gave it a nine, the pricey entrance fee notwithstanding.
• Open 10am-4pm (off peak), 9am-6pm (Easter holidays), 9am-9pm (29 July-3 Sept), wmsp.co.uk