Our toddler knows a lot about jungle animals, but mostly from watching Rara the Noisy Lion. We decided that it was high time we took him to Yorkshire Wildlife Park to meet the real thing.
It cost us £31.00 to get in, as we were only paying for two adults. Under three's get in for free (and with less than six weeks until our little boy's third birthday, our timing was pretty cunning there). After tipping our hats to some meerkats, we had our lunch in one of the cafes on site - the most child-friendly one was in the same building as the soft play zone, which we deliberately gave a wide berth, given how difficult it can be to extract a toddler from these things. Nice facility to have if there's time or if it rains, but our priority was the animals. Jacket potatoes and sandwiches all round set us back about £15.00, which didn't feel too extortionate really.
The lions were on super form, wandering about, roaring and generally being far less lethargic and flea-bitten than some of the specimens we remembered from our youth. The baboons were also a real treat as there are currently three adorable baby ones which capered about so delightfully that we were nagged into coming back for a second visit on the way out. There were some people in high-viz vest chucking fistfuls of nuts at them at one point, but apparently you had to pay extra to do that. Fair enough, I suppose - it's hard to resent paying out for things when it most likely goes towards making the animals lives a little bit nicer.
Wild animals need a lot of space to live comfortably, and consequently the park is very spread out. A pushchair is definitely a must for all but the best of walkers. I almost fancied a ride in one myself.
Ordinarily the path around the park takes in a short trip through the wallaby enclosure, but on this particular day they were off limits. A sign nearby explained that this was due to the fact that several of them were undergoing veterinary treatment. Given the number of small children they must have encountered over the summer, we thought it was probably for nervous exhaustion.
The exit is through the gift-shop. It invariably is. That cost us about £7.99 for a splendid little toy lion, and one tantrum about the fact that today's purchase wasn't some kind of toy car or tractor. Toddler and lion bonded very well in the car on the way home, though. At least for as long as the former managed to stay awake.
This was a bit of a long journey for us (we are based in York, and the Yorkshire Wildlife Park is about 40 miles away, near Doncaster). It's well worth the journey, though, particularly as we don't really have anything to compare closer to home. I've always said Yorkshire needs more lions. And dinosaurs, come to think of it.
For further information, Yorkshire Wildlife Park's website can be found here.