Birthday at West Midlands Safari Park
Matt gets so excited about surprises that he can’t help but let details slip. That, and we have a joint credit card so I saw a transaction for a rental car and asked him what it was about. To his credit, he didn’t give much anyway except that yep, we were going for a drive on a future weekend (easily worked out as my birthday weekend), and that I would need waterproof boots. Armed with that information, we set off from London after work on the Friday. It took a few hours with the traffic but we finally arrived at our destination, an estate in the middle of nowhere (Brockencote Hall). It was an absolute gorgeous place with the biggest bed I’ve ever seen – Matt could lie across it and there was still room left over!
I don’t like to ruin surprises so I refrained from looking up what there was to do in the local area. Matt told me we had a schedule for the next day and that we couldn’t be late. The place we were going wasn’t too far away so after an early breakfast, we hopped in the car and started on our way. I should probably explain that being in the middle of nowhere meant there was only one main road. And of course…it was shut. And there was like 15 cop cars blocking the way – there must have been some sort of accident. Matt, knowing what we’d be doing and not wanting to miss anything, started to panic a bit and couldn’t cope with trying to find new directions and drive the car so I took over as navigator. That’s how I found out Part 1 of the surprise, we were going to the West Midlands Safari Park!
Turns out Google couldn’t cope with the request for new directions either, so I had to direct us the old fashioned way – actually looking at the map. I got Matt to turn down a tiny road which turned into one of those typical UK country roads – only room for one car with super tall hedges blocking any view you may have. We got there in the end, and only a few minutes late.
And that’s when I got surprise #2 – not only were we at a safari park, Matt had arranged for us to go on the VIP behind the scenes tour! We had our own tour guide – Kath – for the whole day who chauffeured us around the park and even had her own camera to take photos of us. The first stop…feeding the giraffes! This is something I’ve always wanted to do and was probably my favourite part of the day.
Then we went to visit they’re Southern White Rhino, Barney. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed photos but this guy was huge. He even let us pat him and his hide actually felt like concrete. It was at this point that I told Matt we no longer had to go to Africa on safari since there was no way we’d ever get closer to these amazing animals. It was also cool to see how the animals are cared for. Even though they aren’t in their natural habitat, it’s clear they are well looked after.
Next stop was to see the much smaller Indian Rhinos and give them they’re morning feed. We were both pretty weirded out by their pointed lip as it moved around as if independent from it’s body.
The park was about to open to the public at this point so we got to let some of the animals out of their enclosures. I got to let out these gorgeous Dhole (Asian wild dogs):
And Matt got to let out the cheetahs!
Next up, Lions! We parked in the middle of the enclosure and the lions came running out right in front of our car, we then pulled up to where they were having they’re morning feed. It was pretty awesome and I captured a little video of it:
I had no idea there were such a thing as white lions but there are and West Midlands Safari Park have the only ones in the UK. White Lions are extremely rare and are only found naturally in the Greater Timbavati region in South Africa. They are not albinos. Their white colour is caused by a recessive gene less severe than albinism. And they are gorgeous!
We then drove around the rest of the park to see the other animals before stopping for some lunch. This included a gorgeous baby Elephant Sutton born this year and named after Stephen Sutton.
After lunch, we got to explore the other parts of the park which were set up like your traditional zoo. The sealions were particularly happy to see us as it meant they got to chase us around their enclosure and were rewarded with fish.
On our way to the reptile house I had a sinking feeling of what was going to happen next. And I was right. I suppose it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do but it definitely wasn’t something I would volunteer for. I agreed on one condition, the keeper kept the head of the snake as far away from me as possible.
So that’s me, holding a 12ft long reticulated python. We also got to meet the famous Mark O’Shea who’s a bit of a Steve Irwin type character in the reptile world and has presented a few TV shows on snakes (and survived quite a few snake bites as well).
With that, our guide gave us a gift bag and an all access wristband and sent us to explore the rest of the park on our own. They even have a rollercoaster and log ride at the park and I think we were probably the oldest couple there without kids. Felt a little out of place but still had fun! We walked through the lemur enclosure and fed some very frantic goats.
I was so impressed with West Midlands Safari Park and will definitely go back one day. If you have the chance, I really recommend the VIP tour. Our guide took awesome care of us and even with all the nature shows I’ve watched, I did learn quite a bit from her and the other trainers we met.
Matt did such an awesome job to arrange all this. Have I mentioned before that he’s the best husband ever? Cause he really is. He could not have planned a better day for my birthday – it’s going to be a hard one to top!