Aspinall Foundation, Port Lympne – AAA Safari

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Every now and then in an otherwise ordinary life, I have an extraordinary day. Yesterday was one of them. It was one of the most amazing days I’ve had in a very long time and I haven’t stopped smiling since. Literally everything about it was perfect. This post will be photo heavy!

I visited Port Lympne wildlife park in Kent with my friend and we went on a 3 hour safari getting up close and  personal with a number of beautiful animals. The park actually have a number of different experiences available and we opted for the AAA Safari experience which cost us £95.

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We arrived at the park about an hour before the start of our experience, so we hung around “basecamp” for a little while, enjoying a cookie and drink from the café there. Reasonably priced and the most delicious cookie I have eaten in a while 🙂 At the same time we had the opportunity to admire many of the butterflies in the area.

IMG_0992We soon established that the park is quite extensive in size (later we found out it has over 600 acres of land) so we got a little confused with where we needed to be – with the help of a really lovely staff member in the basecamp café we found the “guest services” area and booked in ready for our experience.

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We shared our experience with another group of 3 and our Land Rover was certainly up for the job! Comfy seats and plenty of room it was to be our transport for the next 3 hours.  Our ranger, Will, explained to us the usual safety procedures and chatted to us about our expectations for the experience (none of us had any!). Anticipation was high.

We drove along a road for barely 2 minutes and Will pulled the car over and asked us all to hop out. A little confused, we followed him up a hill and along a short path to our first adventure – feeding hawthorn to black Rhino!

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It was evident that we were about to go on a truly behind the scenes tour and this really added to our excitement.

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This “little” lady might be pregnant which is exciting too – Will was telling us that the Aspinall Foundation are the most successful breeders of black Rhino in the UK. 8 rhino have been rehabilitated and sent to protected reserves in Africa. The work the foundation does is truly astounding.

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Next up, we hopped back into the jeep and headed over to see the Silverback Gorillas.  We were able to see their accommodation which is basically like a three or four story apartment block – it’s massive. It’s so tall that they have views of France on a good day! John Aspinall, the original founder, built it this way so the Gorillas could enjoy the views.

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We enjoyed watching their behaviour whilst Will enthusiastically taught us about them. He was so passionate about them, it was contagious. He had lots of stories to tell us about them and I could have listened for hours.

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Whilst Will was talking to us about one silverback this cutie decided we weren’t paying him enough attention so started poking small sticks through the wire above our heads, forcing us to pay him some attention. It worked!

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I could have stayed and watched them for hours, marvelling at their strength and size, but we had more adventures ahead of us yet.

Back in the jeep, we headed round the corner to the Silverbacks outside quarters.

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We watched them being fed and learnt that part of their enrichment was to scatter the food so they have to move around and search for it.  It was such a glorious day and they were certainly enjoying the weather as much as we were.

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I loved hearing about the foundations work on rehabilitating these gorgeous creatures too. They are currently in the process of sending three gorillas to their habitation island in the Batéké Plateau national park, step one of rehabilitating them to the wild.

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Back in the jeep, we headed on a journey through over 100 acres of Kentish Savannah where all the animals roam free, tightly controlled by the occasional double gate which we stopped to make sure were secure after we passed through.

We followed the main path around the park.  We saw so much – wild horses, wilder beast,  deer, ostrich, zebra – honestly the list seemed endless.  So many stunning views.

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Suddenly, we went off road. Will had spotted the critically endangered Rothschild giraffes.

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I’m madly in love with giraffe anyway so this was an absolute delight for me. To actually be this close even was amazing. But we drove right up to them ……and fed them!! WOW! This is really what dreams are made of. I did not expect this when I woke up that morning.

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Honestly, I feel like I can’t remember a thing Will told us because I was so awe inspired and lost in the moment. I remember this may well have been Luna, or her baby and I learnt that giraffe, like humans have 7 bones in their neck. Can’t really tell you much more than that – although snippets keep coming back to me, I promise I was listening I was just a bit star struck.

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Before we knew it we were surrounded by no less than seven giraffe, completely and totally relaxed in our company. It’s this baby’s birthday today! He’s one year old.  Being inside a tower of giraffe was ….. wow. Words still escape me.

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I always thought giraffe would have rough fur, turns out they’re super soft like a cat. Amazing. They really seemed like gentle giants.

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After a whole hour of spending time with the giraffe, it was time to start heading back to basecamp.

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IMG_1167.JPGIMG_1079.JPGWith quite a few stops for photos along the way.

The three hours went so quickly, but I feel like I’ve not only had a brilliant day out – but I’ve had the opportunity for a great education about more than one animal. Honestly our ranger was magnificent. He was so knowledgeable about everything, so passionate it was an absolute joy learning from him. Made me wish I had his job!

After  our safari experience was over, we were free to explore the park on our own steam. We stopped for a bite of lunch (read here, picnic in the carpark!) first and then wandered around for a few hours discovering other things the park offers, such as the glorious views from their onsite hotel and wandering around the beautiful gardens.

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It was an absolutely amazing day out. I highly recommend booking an experience if you go – it’s brilliant value for money and every experience sold means the foundation can do more to help with the rehabilitation of animals and research into conservation and so on.  Absolutely worth it.

I have to point out too that I’ve not been sponsored to do this post – I simply booked and paid for the experience and this is my honest review of the day out for no other reason than I loved it and want everyone else to give it a go too!

Trust me, You will not be disappointed.

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