Anonymous review 25 June 2009
Woburn Safari Park is split into two sections, firstly you have the 'drive-through' animals, then you can park up and move onto the 'foot safari'. You can go straight through to the foot safari first and come back on the re-entry road to the drive through and you can go around both as many times as you like. There is plenty of free parking, and some grass areas for picnics and enjoying the sun however there is no extensive gardens or planting like many zoos have, nor are there any 'photo points', sculptures or anything like that. Both sections are easy enough to find your way around, there are not many signposts but these are not needed really.
The highlights for us were:
Drive through Wolf and Black Bear enclosure - I think this must be the only one of its kind in the UK, and it is brilliant to be able to see Wolves and Bears together as they would naturally be in the wild. One tip - Remember to look up in the trees to spot all of the bears! Both species also hide in self dug dens in the ground which is great for them, but might mean you need another trip around to spot them all.
Drive through Monkey Woods - 3 Species are in here which is great and they don't seem to destroy the car like many drive through Monkey enclosures. It is always fun to see baby monkeys playing on your car!
Rainbow Landing - Free flying Lorikeets and Lorys in an inside aviary which is looking very dated but is pleasant enough, especially when the waterfall is on. It costs about £1 to buy 2 pots of nectar to feed the birds and be prepared, because if they are hungry they will mob you when you walk in!
Lemur Walkthrough - Is not the largest or most heavily planted Lemur walkthrough we have seen however it is lovely, with a couple of huge trees and lots of Bamboo for the Lemurs to play in which they seemed to love. They have 3 species of Lemur, 2 of which are rarley seen in Zoos (most zoos seem to favour Ring-tailed Lemurs). They have Black and White Ruffed Lemurs which lift their arms up for you to tickle their armpits sometimes! Also Red Bellied Lemurs, of which one is a new born baby, and Red Fronted Lemurs which are smaller than the Ruffed. There is a talk on at various times throughout the day when most of the Lemurs come quite close for the keepers to feed.
Squirrel Monkey Walkthrough - A lovely sized enclosure for these small Primates, but do not take food, drink or babies dummies in here as the monkeys might well take them off you! The keepers have their work cut out keeping the monkeys from climbing on visitors but generally the monkeys are good natured if you respect the rules on the gate. The feeding time is great to see, when all the monkeys come down from the trees to see how many mealworms they can stuff in their mouths. Strictly no touching of the monkeys is allowed.
Australian Walkthrough - Very spacious enclosure for Wallabies and Rheas, very strange as Rheas are not even from Australia! At feeding time there is an opportunity to stroke the Wallabies and hand them a bit of food - great for small children.
Penguins - Small and dated Penguin pool however it allows a good view of the Penguins and there is a window so you can see them swim underwater. The feeding times are worth seeing, 2 children are chosen from the audience to help the keepers feed the Penguins and the talk is very informative.
Birds of Prey Display - Don't forget to go to this display as its worth seeing some beautiful birds free flying.
The disappointments for us were:
Lynx - In a very small enclosure even for one cat let alone two
Reptiles - There is no reptile house and the only reptile we saw on show was a snake
Tigers - The one day we went no Tigers were on show in the drive through but instead were in a pen on the side.
Lions - Have a MASSIVE enclosure but you can see the keepers controlling exactly where the Lions are allowed to go, which isn't very far.
Misleading Signs - There is a train platform which is called "Bison Halt" so you expect to see Bisons but you don't!! Also there is a slide called "BobCat Run" so you expect to see BobCats but you don't!!
They are enough toilets available, but only just! There are no gardens for you to sit and enjoy the surroundings but there are some grassed areas. There are 2 restaurants, one is The Ark and is massive! It sells chips, burgers, drinks and such like but does some nice vegetarian meals and is spacious. Also in this building is the Play Area which is brilliant, massive slides for kids and an assault course style play area with a ball pit for the smaller children. The next restaurant is a bit more grown up and sells some lovely meals, again at prices which are not too bad but could be a bit cheaper! There are some drinks machines around but not many. The shop is very good, with lots of choice and reasonable prices. The car parking is free and even when it is very busy there are always spaces and these are right in the park. The guidebook was £5 (if i remember correct) and for this you get a Spotters Guide also which the kids love to use, this was good value for money. There are good play areas for the kids, free Swan boats for them to pedal on the lake and its a lovely atmosphere.
In our opinion this is an excellent Safari Park, the animals have a lot of room and showed no stereotypical behaviour and is easily a full day out. Although if you find you have time on your hands a visit to the Deer Park or Woburn Abbey is also recommended. It is one of the more expensive parks to get into but I think you get your monies worth. Compared to West Midlands Safari Park this is a much nicer place to visit (although is more expensive). A great place to visit if you have just a little bit more money in your pocket.
Whenever the history of zoos is related, the name ‘Woburn’ will always appear. This huge private park has for many years been a sanctuary for wildlife, and over a century ago there were zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, moose, llama, and camels in the park. The Dukes of Bedford seemed to have a passion for rare grazing animals, and during the latter part of the last century there were also pampas deer from South America, swamp deer and hog deer from India, alpine ibex, kudu, musk ox, European and American bison, anoa (a dwarf forest buffalo), musk deer, goral (a Himalayan goat-antelope), and several rare wild asses among many others. But it was in 1895 that the eleventh Duke of Bedford made the decision that, was to earn Woburn its special place in the wildlife history hooks. In that year he made a special effort to collect together in the deer park every possible individual of a newly discovered species of deer from China, the Père David’s deer. There were a dozen or so available, scattered among several European zoos; apart from these the only remaining animals were a semi-captive herd in the Imperial Hunting Park near Peking, and a possible small relict population in South East China. Within ten years of the eleventh Duke’s prompt action, the last Père David’s deer in China was killed in the Boxer Rebellion, and Woburn had the responsibility and’ the opportunity to be the first place in the world to consciously save from extinction, an animal from another country.
The story of the Père David’s deer has become symbolic of all conservation work in zoos, and Woburn Deer Park has become the closest that conservationists might come to having a place of pilgrimage, where today several hundred Père David’s deer graze on a seemingly endless pasture that rolls away to the horizon.
Today the great deer park and the stately home of Wohurn Abbey are quite separate from the Wild Animal Kingdom’ which is a traditional safan park, opened in 1970 following the success of Britain’s first African style park at Longleat four years before. As at Longleat, the animals were provided by Jimmy Chipperfield.
The half mile drive to the entrance takes you past two colossal lion statues, created for the 1924 British Empire Exhibition. They are a taste of what is to come, for the lion enclosure at Woburn is possibly the best in any British park. It is simple enormous, and you might have to drive for several minutes before you spot your first lion. If that sounds less than attractive, you need not fear, there are plenty of lion in the reserve, and when you come across them it is with almost the same thrill as encountering lions on a bend of a road in Africa. Tigers get the same treatment at Woburn. They will walk right alongside your car, wade in the murky water of a pond, or bask arrogantly on raised platforms, almost posing for the cameras. Many safari parks still keep tigers in cages, but Woburn has rejected this idea to excellent effect.
With the exception of the tigers, most of the Wild Animal Kingdom has a distinctly ‘African feel’ to it, heightened by the presence of hippos that wallow in a muddy lake and graze a large grassy paddock, the white rhino that stroll majestically around a huge field, zebra, eland, crowned crane and giraffe. Also, in a similar enclosure are a small group of bongos, a rarely seen African forest antelope, with a russet, almost red, coat broken with a few fine white stripes. Bongos have been resident at Woburn since 1972, and this was the first group ever to be shown in a British collection. Since then the group has bred well, and their progeny have found their way to other zoos all around the world. The bongos at Howletts and London Zoos originated from this group at Woburn.
There is the customary monkey jungle where a whole host of rhesus macaques share a large tract of woodland with several Canadian black bears and more than 300 tall and unprotected oak trees. Both the bears and the monkeys climb the trees, and you may spot a sleeping bear stretched out along a high branch, or propped in the crotch of two branches, oblivious to the gaze of visitors beneath.
Alter years of keeping African elephant. Woburn has now switched to Asian elephant and they have plans to accommodate an adult bull and to breed elephant eventually.
After the five mile drive, the day is not yet over sealions give regular displays in what was once the dolphinariurn and there is a splendid amusement park. The leisure area includes fairground attractions. The cable-car ride ends up at the Pet’s Corner where there are llamas, donkeys, parrots and farmyard animals to be fed and stroked.
The deer park is a separate institution surrounding Woburn Abbey, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Bedford. Here, in addition to the magnificent unique herd of Père David’s deer with their long tufted tails, and back-branching antlers, you will see large herds of red deer and fallow deer. as well as the smaller and more elusive muntjac and Chinese water deer.
Woburn Wild Animal Kingdom and the Deer Park claims to attract almost more visitors than any other British zoo, except for London. Whether its claims are true or not, it does provide a very good day out, and does keep the name of Woburn, however symbolic, as an important part of the international zoo community.