A few weeks ago, we decided to take the girls to the West Midlands Safari Park for the day. It’s something we’ve been meaning to do for a while now, since both girls often talk about the different animals they see in books. I’m not a huge fan of zoos as I don’t feel comfortable with the animals being in such small spaces, so I chose the safari park instead.
I’ve been to the West Midlands Safari Park a few times, and I’ve always been quite impressed with the fact that the animals had plenty of space. I’m not sure if things have changed there since I last went, or whether it’s my own perception that has changed. But this time, I didn’t feel quite so comfortable with the way the animals were kept.
We enjoyed the drive through safari, and liked the fact that the camels, zebras, antelope, rhinos and various other animals were roaming free with plenty of space. We all enjoyed feeding the animals when they came over to the cars, and I was particularly impressed with Lia who has never been a fan of touching animals, but suddenly came into her own and fed and stroked many of them.
However, I didn’t feel at all comfortable with the amount of space that the tigers had. I’m no expert on these things, but one Sumatran tiger was definitely displaying repetitive behaviour indicative of having insufficient space, pacing the same area of its cage over and over. Given the amount of space that the safari park have, I was quite disgusted at the small amount afforded to the tigers.
Clearly, they don’t feel the tiger enclosure is appropriate for people to drive through, so they keep them in a small area where people will be guaranteed to see them as they drive past because they don’t have the space to escape. For me, that’s not what a safari park is about and I was really disappointed that West Midlands Safari Park had taken this approach.
On our visit, the giraffes were also shut away in a small area, although I can only assume that this isn’t where they are permanently, since on previous occasions we’ve always been able to feed them during the drive around. There are performing sea lions at West Midlands Safari Park as well, with shows throughout the day. Again, this is something I don’t feel overly comfortable with.
The entry fees were £22 per adult and £17 per child aged 3 and over. We bought one box of animal food for £3, bumping the cost of the tickets up to £64 for two adults, one child and one under three. For this, you do get a return ticket for any day this season, so as long as you visit twice that makes it £32 per visit which seems a lot more reasonable.
That said, once you’ve got into the safari park, there are a lot of hidden costs that you have to fork out if you want to do everything the park has to offer. Food isn’t unreasonably priced, and you of course have the option of bringing a picnic instead. The thing that annoyed me in terms of cost was the fairground.
The rides at West Midlands Safari park aren’t great. A lot are dated, such as the Big Apple roller coaster and the carousel, both of which are crying out for a lick of paint. A lot are quite restrictive in terms of age, with Lia being unable to go on the roller coaster and Libby being unable to go on any of the larger rides.
The cost for a multi-ride wristband to allow you on all the rides was £13 for an adult and £12 for a child. There was also the option of buying a tiny tots wristband for £8. The problem was, with children the age of ours, they wouldn’t be able to go on many rides unaccompanied, so I had to pay to go on the rides with them.
It was getting late in the day by the time we arrived at the fairground, so we didn’t feel the wristbands were our best option as the girls were only going to go on a couple of rides each. So, I bought some ride tickets for the individual rides they wanted to go on. It was £6 to buy four tickets and for the smaller rides, each rider needed one ticket. However for some of the ‘bigger’ rides such as the Big Apple roller coaster, it cost two tickets per person, so it was £6 for Libby and I to ride on it.
Of course we paid that amount, because the girls had seen the rides when we were driving through the animal enclosure, and had got incredibly excited about going on them. But I really don’t feel that the wrist band option or the tickets offer value for money.
Near to the fairground, West Midlands Safari Park have opened a dinosaur area. We didn’t manage to get to that part, but will be making use of our return tickets later in the season to go and have a look around. I have heard good things about it and I think the girls will enjoy it.
I do think that the West Midlands Safari park is quite a good day out for children. They learn about animals and for the most part, the animals are kept in better conditions than they are in a zoo. I also think that the basic entry cost – when you take into consideration the free return visit – isn’t bad value for money.
That said, I think that the fairground leaves a lot to be desired in terms of value for money, especially when you consider that you’ve already paid a lot to get into the park. I do understand that in order to run a park like this, they need to make a decent amount of money each season. The animals are expensive to feed and properly care for.
However, the Dinosaur area is new for the season when in reality, if they had the money to build it, perhaps they could have better spent the money on giving the tigers a reasonable living environment. Maybe they could have even splashed a lick of paint onto the tired fairground.
We will go back to West Midlands Safari Park with our free return tickets, but I think I’d want to hear that something had been done about the size of the tiger enclosures and the state of the fairground – or at least the cost of it – before going again next season. I would probably be more inclined to make the longer journey to Longleat next time the girls want to visit some animals, in the hope that it’s a bit better.