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Birthday 2019 – Part Two – Longleat

Sorry for the double post today but, as I said in the previous one this was originally meant to be one single post before it got too long. This is the trip that I did on my actual birthday and it was absolutely amazing (:

I’ve been to Longleat countless times in the past and honestly don’t think I could ever tire of it there. I love getting to see all of the animals and am particularly fond of visiting at Christmas when the house is decorated so gloriously and the lights that are put up in the grounds are truly amazing to see. This was my first time doing one of their VIP tours though and I can’t thank my parents enough for the tickets and the chance to do so. It was truly amazing to get in one of the park’s safari trucks and get closer than ever to the animals, learning all about each of them from someone who has fascinating details about both the breeds in general as well as each specific animal that finds it home at Longleat.

The Safari:

To start with we went to the big cats section to see the Tigers, Lions, Cheetahs, Hyenas and Wolves. Unfortunately the tigers weren’t out at this time but, as one of them was prowling back and forth by the fence, we still got to see it and they’re just such fascinating creatures to see. I love their coats and their size is shocking to say the least. Everybody still got to see one of the parks newest tigers up close and learn some fascinating facts about them. Then it was into the lions to see some of these gorgeous creatures lounging around together. They’re fascinating to watch and it was amazingly sweet to see them bump heads as a greeting to one another. We were told about the three ‘mean girls’ and how things settled down, for the most part, once another male was added to the mix. The cheetah was curled up sound asleep but it was still lovely to see him (later on in the day we got to see one of the younger members of the family too) and we were quite lucky to catch a glimpse of the hyenas which apparently remain unseen quite often. It was the wolves who I was pleasantly surprised to see dashing around all over the place though. In the past I’ve generally only seen them in the distance but there’s a new pack in the enclosure now and, full of young, excitable energy, they were charging all over the place. They were gorgeous and I loved getting to see them up close for once! We even got the chance to see some of the previous pack, in retirement, in an exhibit behind the newest pack as one of its members was curled up on a hill, watching.

After seeing the big cats we went to feed the deer which is always quite exciting to do. The second they realize you have food they flock to the car and give you a truly up close encounter. The antlers are so impressive to see up close and it’s lovely to have such a personal encounter with the creatures. I love getting to see the deer at Longleat. Once we’d fed them we were taken over to the other sections of the safari where we got to see a pelican up close – it was almost blocking the path – and I must confess that they looked a lot fluffier than I’d ever imagined. We got a much closer view of the flamingos than ever before too as we were taken right next to the fence of their exhibit. I’m pretty sure I saw more rhinos than usual as well, although perhaps that is simply as they were together. Either way the mix of creatures, great and small, that I got to see up close was fantastic.

It was then time to visit the African Village and explore on foot for a brief time. It was up to each member of the tour what they did but my family decided to go up to the lemur walkthrough as they’re such lovely creatures to watch. I was surprised to find goats in there now too who seemed quite pleased to get a fuss from visitors (so that was another creature that I got to stroke). We got to see the lemur groups switch over (different individuals go out at different times, due to squabbles) which meant they were pretty excited as they came swooping into their outdoor enclosure. I love these creature’s tails! And it’s such fun to see them swing about all over the place. We also briefly got to see the giraffes on the way back to the truck which is always wonderful.

Once back in the truck we got to see the giraffes and zebras up close which, simply put, was amazing. I’ve always loved these beautiful creatures and I learnt some fascinating facts about them both. I even got to see an incredibly young giraffe. From there we were going to head to the monkeys but the keeper saw that Anne was out so we instead headed to her enclosure next. In all the years that I’ve been to Longleat I have never before spotted Anne the elephant as she tends to spend a lot of her time inside. This isn’t something that I’d ever complain about however because, truthfully, I’m just happy that she’s finally somewhere that she’s being looked after properly. Before being brought to Longleat she lived in a circus and was mistreated for years; when she arrived at the safari park she couldn’t use her trunk properly and she was incredibly wary of people. Now though she’s got that movement back (although she does sadly have arthritis in her legs) and a dedicated team of keepers to look after her. So, after being gawked at in the circus for years, you can hardly blame her if she prefers to stay inside a lot of the time. It was definitely a rare treat to see her on my birthday though and I learnt that, adorably, she has a trio of goats for company.

From there we headed to the monkeys but we saw several other animals along the way such as the camels, oryx, tapir and bongos. I’ve already said in here that I’ve been to Longleat plenty of times in the past but I have never actually been inside of the monkey exhibit before. This is because they’re very fond of pulling anything that they can – windscreen wipers, parking sensors, even number plates sometimes – off of cars. Some cars get through entirely unscathed; others come out missing plenty. So we’ve never taken the risk of going through in the past. Whilst in one of the park’s own safari vehicles that naturally wasn’t a problem however and wow was it worth it! Getting to see these little creatures at work was amazing; watching them climb over cars and scamper off with their newfound trophies; seeing the baby ones carried around by their mothers or playing with each other in the grass; getting peered at by them through the truck’s windows when they jumped on top of our truck too. It was fantastic! They’re so mischievous to watch and the babies are just unbelievably sweet. It was a fantastic final stop for the safari tour and I could have happily stayed in there, watching those cheeky beings at work for hours.

After the tour was over we returned to our own vehicles and had the remainder of the day to explore the rest of the park. As giraffes are a favourite of my mum’s – and mine – we went to watch them for a little longer and took the time to visit our favourite store which happens to be in that area (they sell some gorgeous wooden giraffes and zebras in it). From there we planned to head to the rest of the park, so that we could see as much as possible in the time available, but we accidentally took the wrong turn and ended up going through the big cats once more. This did allow us to see all of these gorgeous creatures again however so it was totally worth it.

Jungle Cruise:

Another family favourite, of ours, at Longleat is always the Jungle Cruise. If you’ve been before then I’m sure you’ll know all about it but for those that haven’t it’s a short boat trip that allows you to see a few more of the animals that Longleats home to. You take a journey around an island, that was once home to Nico the gorilla who sadly passed away last year, but is now home to some Colobus monkeys. There’s a new colony of gorillas on a separate island who were all outside, enjoying the sunshine. There’s two hippos that I’ve always looked for in the wrong place until last year (I’ve generally thought they were in the water when I’ve heard that they’re out of sight but actually they’re quite often tucked beneath the muddy banks instead). And, of course, there are the sea lions who flock to the boat demanding the fish that they know is about to be fed to them. I just love seeing these animals at Longleat and find them so fascinating to see. Afterwards, on the way off of the boat, we got to see the red pandas up close too which were just so gorgeous and vividly coloured. If you ever get a chance to see them clearly – they quite often seem to spend their time curled up at the top of trees – they have the sweetest faces imaginable.

The Rest:

Once we’d finished the Jungle Cruise we had a cream tea with the voucher that came in our VIP experience before heading off to see the rest of the animals within the park. There are so many other creatures there to see but here are a few of the highlights:

♥ The koalas who are fairly new additions to the park. This was my first time ever seeing these creatures in real life and they were unbelievably sweet.

♡ The giant otters who I have to admit I was excited to see. I’ve always loved seeing the Asian Small-Clawed Otters at Longleat so the chance to also get a glimpse of another breed was fascinating for me. Our timing at this exhibit was perfect too; when we arrived the otters were underwater and when we headed back out, they’d decided to go and roll around in the mud. It was definitely entertaining to see them playing in such ways.

♥ The meerkats who were having fun tearing apart newspaper in search of their food. This was another case of ‘perfect timing’ as it was interesting to watch them hunt for their dinner.

♡ The lorikeets which are beautifully coloured birds that I’ve wanted to walk through for quite a while. In the past I never have as I’ve always visited Longleat with someone whose afraid of birds; this time, finally, I got the chance to enter their exhibit and well… this happened:

Yes, for some bizarre reason one of the birds landed on my head and didn’t want to budge. I was carrying a pot of nectar to feed them but so were plenty of others yet somehow I seemed to be the only one to receive this extra special treatment.

Altogether I had an absolutely fantastic day and I’d definitely do it again. Going on a VIP tour at Longleat is definitely worth it. I did, unfortunately, run out of time to see the house but I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to do so at some point in the run up to Christmas.

Have you ever been to Longleat? What are your favourite animals? Have you ever had a chance to see any of these fantastic creatures – or others – in the wild? Let me know in the comments section below.