going local: hamster-pigs and more in howletts wild animal park in kent

Howletts Collage

This is just a quick post, partially because my daughter wanted to share with everyone the amazing hamster-pigs we saw today at Howletts Wild Animal Park (also, more officially known as capybaras. Miss C. thought they were rather cute, her brother was rather scared of them – I can’t blame him: there’s a bit of ingredients for a bad nightmare there when your hamster escapes and one of these super-sized lookalikes turns up on your doorstep! Either way, they are very captivating to look at!

This was actually our first visit to Howletts: it’s a wild animal park and part of the Aspinall Foundation – if that sounds familiar earlier this spring we visited their other park nearby called Port Lympne (see my post here). And since you don’t just buy a single visit ticket, but rather a season ticket we will definitely visit a few times this year…

European Buffaloes
European Buffaloes grazing

Zoos and animal parks are found pretty much everywhere nowadays and are rather trendy at the moment, but the quality varies a lot. What is great about these two places in Kent is that they have worked hard to make the habitat as natural as possible, and therefore you get to enjoy acres and acres beautiful fields and forests rather than just stare dull animals in smelly indoor facilities. The downside of course is that quite so often the animals may be hiding at the other end of their habitats.

The animal selection isn’t huge as this isn’t a huge city zoo, but there is plenty to do for at least half a day or more: a lovely playground, treetop zip line challenge for older kids, and animal adventure challenge for smaller ones. And there are lots of picnic areas if you don’t fancy buying the typical park food – we stopped in the cafe today and the scones and tea were pretty nice, I must admit…and the kids got the lunch pack for the little ones which comes with a sandwich, yogurt, crisps, juice, raisins, biscuits and a little colouring book with pencils.

Monkey time
Can we play in this nice playground too?

The little monkeys provided most of the entertainment, and as it was a rather hot day (for England) most of the big cat animals were sleeping or laying down when we entered around noon. However, later in the afternoon most of them seemed to be all eating, and moving  around, so we are going to assume that is a tip worth giving – like children, the animal also tend to nap on hot days and around noon! All in all it was a very nice trip: we got plenty of exercise walking around (I liked especially the forest loop and getting glimpses of the actual manor in the grounds)…

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