Treasured Memories and Spoiler Alert - the Car Survived
If you are looking for ways to entertain the kids during the school holidays, a visit to Knowsley Safari Park is a must. Read on to find out more about what you can expect when you visit Knowsley Safari Park, and to help you decide whether you should indeed take your car through the monkey enclosure.
Last week, my long-suffering husband and I brought our own three little monkeys for a winter treat to Knowsley Safari Park. My elder two have visited in the past with their grandparents and with school, but it was the very first visit for me, my partner and my five year old. I really wanted to go through the monkeys with our car and in a moment of weakness, the hubby agreed....so I seized the opportunity and booked our tickets.
When we arrived, we were handed a map of the car safari, which also included details of the foot safari. We were given a pack of stickers too, which is a nice addition to stop little ones getting fidgety in the car, and to get them to concentrate on the different animals that they will discover. As you spot the animals, you can add the correct animal sticker to the map where you have seen them. If you're worried that there will be some squabbling over the stickers, you can always purchase extra stickers for a tiny charge (at the time of visiting it was 50p). We were also told the times for the sea lion show (which I immediately forgot), but Knowsley Safari has a great app you can download which includes the times for the shows and talks.
The Car Safari
Once through the gates, we headed straight for the car safari, and our little animal lovers started competing to see who could spot their first animal. It didn't take long. Throughout the car safari, you can get up close and personal with some pretty awe-inspiring animals. We managed to get very close to Rhinos, Zebras, Lions and Camels, which the kids all loved to see.
However, the stars of the show were most certainly the monkeys. By the time we got to them, the hubby was getting quite nervous. There was a Car Safe route.....should we take it? Luckily my 11 year old stepped in, begging to take the route through the monkeys, and so off we went. We got halfway through and were feeling quite smug as the monkeys kept running past our car and jumping onto our neighbouring cars. Then everything changed. A young monkey jumped onto the passenger window by my son. He was thrilled as the monkey looked straight at him, scratching at the window. I'm pretty sure he was trying to break in, but my son was convinced he was trying to clean the car. Once one had jumped on, several others joined us, and we ended up with one on the bonnet, one of the wing-mirror and one on the roof of the car. I was pleased I wasn't driving, and my hubby was looking stressed, as we were surrounded and he didn't want to drive and run any over. We ended up driving on with a stubborn monkey hitching a lift on the wing mirror.
The kids were thrilled at the monkeys, and I was in stitches (even the hubby loved it, although as we left and the kids begged to go back, he flatly refused). Our car had escaped unscathed, if a little dirty, but we did see a couple of cars that had had their windscreen wipers pulled off. So although it's fantastic, only take this route if you're prepared for the consequences. Knowsley Safari also offers the chance to take the Baboon Bus, which will drive you through the monkeys at certain times of the day. It's not that cheap (at the time of writing it was £5.50 per person which can add up for families), but it might be a better option if you want to experience the fun of the monkeys without the worry of damaging your car. Space is limited on the bus, so I would advise you to book in advance.
Be warned, it does take a while to get through the car safari, especially if it's busy, so make sure the kids have been to the toilet and aren't thirsty or starving before beginning. We ended up in a queue of cars, waiting for a herd of camels to move, and there were several points where we had to wait as cars stopped to get photos and see the animals up close.
After all the excitement of the car safari, it was time for some lunch. We stopped by at the Oasis Restaurant as it was freezing and I couldn't have faced a picnic. However, we did spot a sheltered area especially for packed lunches which is perfect if you're on a budget. We found the cafe pretty reasonably priced. The kids opted for simple hot dogs and chips, which included an animal mask; a big hit with the kids. My husband and I both opted for a butternut squash and beetroot burger with chips which was pretty good value too. It cost around £30 for the five of us to eat.
The Foot Safari
When we had finished our lunch, we checked the times and realised we were just in time for the Sea Lion show. Although we ended up quite near the back, we could still see pretty well, and the two Sea Lions were fantastic to watch, with a show that was funny and endearing. Our nine year old and five year old sat entranced through the whole thing, and even the eleven year old enjoyed it. It wasn't too long a show, making it perfect for tiny children too. In the end, there's a chance to get closer to the sea lions, but if your kids are getting fidgety in the crowds, head outside where you can get a great view of a couple of other sea lions from under the water. There's also a small playground outside, ideal for letting the kids burn off a little energy.
A new addition to the park is the Tiger Trail, which I was looking forward to. Accessing it through a rope bridge was exciting for the kids, and once across, the trail is filled with little obstacles and tunnels to make the experience more fun. Also scattered throughout the trail is plenty of bite sized information to read about tigers, perfect for youngsters. You can view the tigers behind glass, and when we arrived, staff at Knowsley Safari Park had just hidden rabbits to encourage the tigers to get closer to their audience. We managed to get a really good view of the tigers, watching them tip over barrels in search for their food.
Another big hit with the kids was the bat cave, although some children could find it a little scary. My nine year old flatly refused to go in as she thought it was too dark, but after we convinced her to come in, she really enjoyed it, and went through several times. It's a short walk through a cave which is dimly lit, and you can see the bats are flying around freely. None of us were hit in the face; my husband told me they wouldn't hit me as their senses are too good although I wasn't convinced. Be warned though....it smells awful.
Other animals you can see on the foot safari are giraffes, meerkats (always a popular one with my three), birds of prey and more.
Not quite a Bald Eagle
It is also worth mentioning that there are a few small rides at Knowsley, which aren't included in the price and the kids are bound to want to go on them. If you want to go on a ride, you will need to pick up a ticket or a wristband, so make sure you budget for it, or be prepared to say no. On our way out, we ended up with the obligatory visit to the shop, so be ready for that too.
We loved our trip to Knowsley Safari , which we found to be an exciting trip out for kids of all ages (and for grown-ups too). Knowsley Safari runs lots of offers throughout the year too, so make sure you check their website before your visit to work out when will be the best to go along.