Before I moved to Cumbria in the summer I'd never been to the South Lakes Wildlife Park at Dalton in Furness. We had our own little zoo at Drusillas to visit at home so why do that on holiday! Then once we moved I wanted to make sure that the children could do similar things as we'd done down south but on a much smaller budget. Even though the Park wasn't a huge cost it was well beyond my means so I shelved any visit until the traditional free period in the winter!
This winter the Park has made this even longer by starting in November and going on until mid February for adults and Easter for children! The owner knows that families are on tighter budgets this year and so is doing his little bit to help. Of course during the winter many of the animals are rather inactive and in their indoor accommodation but its still worth a visit. There is also lots of maintenance and building work going on. With no entrance price the Park welcomes donations to help their conservation work.
There is also a Christmas wonderland starting up and at weekends there are more activities (makes for overflowing car park apparently). Today only the skating rink was open during the day for a fee of £3 a head. The Christmas lights were being put in advance of the weekend and I'm sure lots of parents will be willing to part with a few pounds for a visit to Santa's grotto.
The Park's emphasis is on conservation with very modern animal friendly enclosures and concentrating on animals that in the wild are very endangered and need captive breeding programmes to increase the wild populations. They are also helping zoos in countries like Colombia replace their old style enclosures with the better new ones.
My son's number one target once we'd got into the park was the tigers, with all the publicity over the arrival of baby Kadi in September it was what he really wanted to see. He was so excited about seeing the adult tigers patrolling their enclosure but baby Kadi was being cared for by humans in the vet building which we'd missed on way to tigers! He particularly loved the various primates especially the noisy, swinging Gibbons. Then onwards to the Lion enclosure, they were doing what lions do best - sleeping - which led to the inevitable "Are they real lions mummy". Not very exciting for a 4 year old. The cheeky rough and tumble of the baboons was much more his cup of tea:
He did enjoy visiting the other African wildlife of rhinos, giraffes and pgymy hippos too. The sleeping bears weren't too exciting! The sight of Father Christmas' reindeer waiting for his arrival initiated a quick search for Rudolph (luckily the lack of red nose was ignored in lieu of the large antlers!):
A quick snack to revive us from the Maki restaurant, including a warming coffee for me, then it was off to find the all important tiger cub. She is being kept in a building within the walk through enclosure which contained lemurs, wallabies, kangaroos and various wildfowl. The gorgeous Kadi was certainly worth waiting for:
We both enjoyed walking through the lemur enclosure and seeing the variety of wildlife roaming free around us. The animals all seemed relaxed and happy too. To finish off our morning at the Park I paid for us to have a go on the ice skating rink. My son had big enough feet to meet the minimum of size 8 so we had a go. He spent the whole time hugging the edge but he didn't hold on all the way round:
His verdict: "too slippy"!
So in conclusion it was a very good morning out with my pre-schooler. Very good value at no cost for entry meaning that there was some money for the optional extra skating. Everyone visiting the Park from toddlers to a school party to senior citizens seemed to find plenty to enjoy and learn about. If you are not keen on traditional zoos then this is a much better alternative. I know some people think no animals should be kept in captivity but the Park seems to be doing a great job in breeding animals and releasing them back to their native habitats.
We will be back with big sister and my parents to see the animals again.