Howletts Wild Animal Park in Bekesbourne near Canterbury, Kent is one of two wild animal parks in the area run by the Aspinall Foundation, a conservation charity; the other being Port Lympne in Hythe.
Both of the parks run breeding programmes for some extremely endangered species, with an aim to releasing them back into their natural habitat. Howletts is home to over 400 animals including a large herd of elephants, several groups of gorillas, lions, rhinos, tigers, monkeys and wolves.
Howletts have a brand new exhibit, Animals of the Ice Age, and we were invited along to take a peek!
It wasn’t our first trip to Howletts; before children we had been a few times, and when my smallest was a very small baby (I’m talking two weeks old) I have a fond recollection of him pooping all over me while feeding and having to wash my clothes in the porta-style toilets by the elephant enclosure.
That year, we decided to buy an annual pass so revisited until the kids were too old to be pushed around in a double buggy. However the children’s appreciation for animals has increased a lot since then, so we thought we’d take them back sans buggy to see what they thought.
Howletts Animals of the Ice Age exhibit
The new Animals of the Ice Age exhibit opened during the spring. It’s a new thing for the park; the life-sized models of Ice Age beasts can be found woven in amongst the monkeys of the Woodland Walk.
The models were impressive, particularly the huge Megatherium (slothbearthing climbing a tree…). The descriptions of the animals were great and the children were really engaged the whole way along the trail in fact, in their usual style, they far preferred the model animals to any real ones that were in the park.
If you’ve got children who are in any way interested in Ice Age animals, or who might want to know who was around after the dinosaurs, then they’ll definitely enjoy Howletts Animals of the Ice Age.
What else is there at Howletts Wild Animal Park?
Of course there are lots of animals to see!
Howletts isn’t technically a zoo but a Wild Animal park, with an emphasis on providing the animals with a natural environment to encourage breeding.
This means that unlike many zoos the animals are provided with a good amount of cover, but it doesn’t mean you won’t see them, you just have to look carefully!
Here are some of the animals we encountered on our visit to Howletts.
The Lemur Walkthrough is without a doubt the best I’ve seen; large and full of trees. The lemurs however don’t run off to hide, especially when food is on offer so I definitely recommend you visit at feeding time!
The park is home to a large number of big cats including lions, tigers and leopards.
To date, 104 Javan Langurs have been born to the large groups at the Aspinalls Wild Animal parks.
Forty-one critically endangered black rhinoceroses have been born across the two Wild Animal Parks. The rhinos at Howletts have very large paddocks but they aren’t shy so you’ll definitely be able to spot them!
The parks have successfully bred and raised 20 African elephants, some of which you’ll be able to see at the park in their large paddock. They’re surprisingly playful for such large animals!
The Aspinall Foundation has successfully bred 138 gorillas, some of whom have been released back into protected areas. They are some of the most fascinating creatures to watch if it wasn’t for the children who as I’ve mentioned seem to prefer animals of the non-moving kind!
There is also a large play park with obstacle course and sandpit which of course the kids wanted to spend all day in!
There is a cafe and a large restaurant in the park serving food, as well as lots of stands which are open during peak times. There are plenty of benches and space to sit if you choose to take a picnic.
We had a lovely day and would definitely go back to Howletts. We’d also love to visit the sister park Port Lympne during the summer as the children have never been!
Tickets cost £21.95 for an adult and £18.95 for a child aged 3 or over. You can save money by buying online. All proceeds are used to support the Aspinall Foundation.
For information about opening times, entry prices and special events please visit the Howletts website.
We visited Howletts Animals of the Ice Age and Wild Animal Park free for the purposes of this review but all words and pictures are mine.
For more days out in Kent and nearby go here!