Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, Lympne, Nr Hythe, Kent CT21 4PD
John Aspinall, a businessman, notorious gambler and wildlife enthusiast, once won a park in a card game. Realising a lifelong dream, he stocked the 100-acre site overlooking the Romney Marshes with his favourite Indian and African wildlife. His theory – give animals enough space and a close proximity to their natural patch and they will breed. His proof – restocking the Gobi Desert with the once-extinct wild horses from his very own park.
All these years later, the Aspinall Foundation is lauded for its exemplary conservation work, both here and overseas. Without this charity's tireless efforts, who knows how long some of the planet's most endangered species would be around for.
Thankfully, you needn't schlep to the African bush to gander at gibbons and leer at lemurs. Through years of hard work, the good people at the Aspinall Foundation have carefully cultivated this beautiful patch of our nation's very own 'garden' into the Serengeti plains. What's more, you can have your run of the place with a combined stay in the the über luxurious onsite accommodation.
Adjoining the wildlife park, Bear Lodge comprises 13 luxurious safari lodges (to call them tents would be a disservice) housed around the central Club House. These opulent tented abodes overlook the park's elephant and cheetah paddocks. Consider the morning grunts and snorts nature's own wake-up-call. The sunrises are well worth it anyway, with a stunning backdrop of far reaching views to the chalky Kent coast and beyond the English Channel to France (on a clear day of course).
Each of the double, luxury safari tents (all sleeping 8) are complete with open-air veranda, heating, carpets, beds, duvets, and fluffy dressing gowns. There’s even a cupboard to hang up clothes and a writing desk, should your inner Joseph Conrad wish to pen a letter home. Private showers and toilets (including for disabled) come attached. There’s also a communal canvas-covered lounge with fire pit, aka the ‘lapa’, for all guests.
There's plenty to do for your little rangers. Should they tire of spotting all the exotic wildlife (unlikely), the African Experience and Basecamp play areas provide an abundance of ropes and frames to monkey around on.
With more wild animals than Noah's Ark, plus an excellently eclectic restaurant (Mongolian Fish Grill, anyone?) and evening entertainment, you really won't want for much here. As the song goes, "it means no worries, for the rest of your days". Hakuna Matata indeed.