Thursday, 31 March 2016

Braving the monkeys at Longleat

Last week over the Easter break, we were both keen to escape chores by getting out of the house for a day. Friday seemed to be the only day with a half decent weather forecast which just left us to decide what to do. Andrew said he wasn't sure whether he wanted to see animals or look around a house, that's where the idea of visiting Longleat came from, it offered both!
Longleat House
We arrived at about 10.30 and queued for about half an hour to get to the ticket booth. We'd bought our tickets in advance to save a little money and soon had our etickets exchanged for paper versions. It was our first visit and we didn't know the layout of the site, but we'd heard that the safari can get very busy so planned to head there first. The safari is a little drive away from the rest of the site, but when we got to the next ticket booths, we were handed a CD and waved through. The CD was quite useful, there is a section about each species of animal that you'll see, you just have to remember to start and stop it at the appropriate times.

Our first stop was in the African Village for a comfort stop after our drive, via the giraffes at the entrance. We then had a wander through the Lemur Walkthrough and the Wallaby Wood before stopping to pick up drinks for the car. With that we headed into the safari park.
Lemurs always look like they're evil geniuses plotting some terrible plan

Andrew still can't drive at the moment and it was only once we'd entered the safari park that I realised how difficult it is to drive and take photos whilst looking out for wildlife, all at the same time. There were plenty of animals to see, we passed zebras, flamingos, tapirs and vultures before arriving at the bit that I'd both been dreading and looking forward to in equal quantities.
We queued for about half an hour to get into the Monkey Drive Thru, as they let a certain number of cars out before letting more in. Within about fifty metres of entering the drive through, we had our first monkey on the car. We got off surprisingly lightly, we had a fairly chilled monkey who seemed to treat us as an open top bus tour, he sat on the roof with the wind ruffling his fur, watching the world go by. He stayed for a while before wandering off. We had one youngster join us and give my car aerial a bit of a nibble, but it just added to the enjoyment of the day. We saw other cars with monkeys peering inside, or others with a monkey on each wing mirror. It was definitely the highpoint of the safari and something I'd be keen to do again, perhaps as a passenger next time though.
Monkey Drive Thru
Once we left the monkeys, we passed ostriches, camels and rhinos then drove through the deer park. You can stop and buy food to hand feed the deer, but we passed on that and instead headed on to the big cats; the tigers, lions and cheetahs before finishing with the wolves. 
Camel stampede!
Overall we were in the safari park for about two and a half hours, I couldn't believe that we were there so long! We were hungry by this point and so headed to the Orangery Cafe for a sandwich and drink. Afterwards we went to see the other animals in the area. There were stingray and penguins as well as butterflies and even a chance to handle a tarantula or snake if you so wished. The queues for the Jungle Cruise were a bit off-putting so we didn't make it over to see the gorillas or sea lions, but I'm sure we can do that next time.
Finally, we ended our visit with a wander around Longleat House. Visitors are only allowed access to a small proportion of the rooms and, as they tend to be in stately homes, they were dimly lit to preserve the contents. They did however give an indication of the grand nature of the house. With that we stopped for a final cup of tea to prepare us for the drive home.

I'd thoroughly recommend it as a day out, but definitely allow a full day if you want to see everything. We'll be back to brave the monkeys again and visit the gorillas. Now, if I could just find out where the red pandas were hiding, we can see them next time too!

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