The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience
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The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience

Headcorn Road Ashford, Smarden TN27 8PJ England
Traveller (937)
Tiger Lodge
Room & Suite (56)
Dining (39)

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About

5.0
#1 of 1 lodge in Smarden
4.9 of 5 bubbles
Location
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Cleanliness
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Service
4.8 of 5 bubbles
Value
The Big Cat Sanctuary is a Conservation Charity, situated in rural Kent. Our site spans 32 acres of grassland and is home to over 15 different species of Big and small cats. We endeavour to provide peace and tranquility for our resident cats, in habitats tailored to each species to ensure that we provide them with the best possible lives in captivity. The Overnight Big Cat Safari is a luxurious experience, which enables you to enjoy all aspects of the sanctuary during an overnight stay. The itinerary for your stay includes the following: Soon after arrival, you will enjoy a Cream Tea with a glass of bubbly in our conservatory restaurant, overlooking the Asiatic Lion Enclosure. This will be followed by a tour of the site, during which you will learn about the various cat species that are resident at the Sanctuary. In the evening, you will firstly be greeted with pre-dinner drinks and enjoy a sumptuous 3 course meal cooked by our resident chef, our adjacent lion couple are curious and regularly check out what you are eating for dinner! Once the evening meal is over you will retire to the comfort of your luxury lodge accommodation, most likely to the roar of our lions! The next morning you will have a choice of full english breakfast or continental style. Your morning will continue witha second tour of the site, during which you will have the opportunity to hand feed one of our Big Cats, which for most people is one of the most memorable parts of the stay.
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Property amenities
Free parking
Secured parking
Free High Speed Internet (WiFi)
Wifi
Free breakfast
Bar / lounge
Gift shop
Non-smoking hotel
Restaurant
Complimentary Instant Coffee
Complimentary tea
Complimentary welcome drink
Special diet menus
Wine / champagne
Room features
Bathrobes
Housekeeping
Seating area
Sofa
Bottled water
Coffee / tea maker
Flatscreen TV
Complimentary toiletries
Private bathrooms
Minibar
Refrigerator
Electric kettle
Hair dryer
Room types
Non-smoking rooms
Good to know
HOTEL STYLE
Romantic
Languages Spoken
English

Location

Headcorn Road Ashford, Smarden TN27 8PJ England
Getting there
Somewhat walkable
Places to stay are graded on a 0-100 scale. The higher the grade, the easier it is for travellers to find restaurants and things to do within walking distance.
Grade: 52 out of 100
52
Lydd Intl Airport
18.8 mi
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Southend Municipal Airport
28.5 mi
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487Reviews10Q+A57Room tips

Reviews
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Detailed Reviews
Anne S wrote a review Mar 2020
Leeds, United Kingdom575 contributions168 helpful votes
4.0 of 5 bubbles
On arrival we were shown to our lodge. We were given the impression that we had to take ever thing we needed from our car immediately as we would not have access to it later. This later appeared not to be the case. The lodge was gorgeous, much more spacious than we had imagined and very welcoming. Given it was a very cold and wet couple of days it was very warm and cosy. They did a safety briefing as soon as we arrived. We were served a lovely afternoon tea once we had settled into our lodge. My husband is a plain eater and once the staff spotted that he wasn't eating the sandwiches served with the afternoon tea they brought him some plain ham sandwiches which we thought was a lovely touch. The restaurant actually overlooks one of the lion enclosures so we'd already had our tea "next to" a lion which was sitting just outside. Then it was our first visit to see the big cats which took around 2 hours. Our guide, (Gemma), was very friendly and knowledgeable and gave us plenty of time with the cats she showed us. We saw Maya the black leopard who was hand-reared from 3 days old. Then it was time to get ready for the 3 course dinner served in the restaurant. We had pre-ordered our menu choices and everything arrived as expected. The chocolate fondant was a little disappointing as it didn't "ooze" but overall the meal was very nice. Overnight you could hear the lions roaring from the lodges which was very atmospheric. The following morning after a lovely cooked breakfast it was off the see the rest of the cats which included Willow the cheetah which was also hand-reared at the sanctuary. This time each person was allowed to feed a lion, leopard or tiger with a chicken leg. This was very exciting as the keeper encouraged you to hold the chicken quite high up so the cat stood up at the bars in front of you. The check out process was easy and we weren't rushed off the site. Although it had rained heavily throughout our visit we still really enjoyed the experience. The only thing that stopped us giving a score of 5 was that even with a Secret Escapes offer it did feel expensive.
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Date of stay: March 2020
5.0 of 5 bubblesRooms
5.0 of 5 bubblesLocation
5.0 of 5 bubblesService
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Response from TheBigCatSanctuary, Public Relations Manager at The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience
Responded 1 Apr 2020
Thank you for reviewing your recent Overnight Big Cat Safari at The Big Cat Sanctuary. We are really happy to hear that you enjoyed the whole experience, from the food and accommodation to getting up close to the big cats themselves, thank you so much. The quality and uniqueness of the experiences we offer our guests, together with providing the best possible lives for our big cats (a costly business!) is, we appreciate, reflected in the price. It also enables us to focus on our four pillars – Welfare, Breeding, Education and Conservation. We can’t tell you how much your support is appreciated and what a difference it does make to both the big cats here and in the wild. Thanks again for taking the time to review and recommend us; it is much appreciated and we hope to see you again in the future.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.
GeoffandHelenA wrote a review Apr 2021
Malden Rushet63 contributions18 helpful votes
+1
5.0 of 5 bubbles
We finally got to have our pandemic–postponed trip, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The COVID-safe measures made it very comfortable indeed. It is not cheap to visit, but it was well worth it and we felt it was good value for what we got.

The lodge we stayed in was just beautiful, and all the gardens and animal enclosures are very well-kept and tended. Laying in bed and listening to the male lions “chat” throughout the night was a privilege and experience we will not forget!

Staff could not have been more helpful, and the chef and kitchen team produced top quality food throughout our stay. We had a lovely afternoon tea with a glass of bubbles on arrival, a superb three course dinner, and a very generous continental and cooked breakfast. At the moment food is served outdoors of course, but efforts have been made to heat and add lights to a very pleasant Veranda area.

The cats are as beautiful as you might imagine, all healthy and well looked after. We did our homework about the ethics and standards before we booked, and felt that the best possible care and quality of captive life is being offered to every animal we encountered. Pictures speak for themselves, and we forward to returning again one day.
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Date of stay: April 2021Trip type: Travelled as a couple
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
figofigo2015 wrote a review Jan 2020
Stockport, United Kingdom15 contributions6 helpful votes
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Staff, accommodation and food were all excellent. But of course the highlight of this wonderful overnight experience were the cats - big, medium and small but all adorable. There were 12 guests in total and we were split into 2 groups of six. So there was a real opportunity to get up close with the beautiful animals; 2 hours the first afternoon and 2 hours the next morning, including being able to hand feed one of the big cats.
In between were a lovely afternoon tea, a super dinner and a great breakfast all right next to a pair of relaxing lions. And the unusual but thrilling experience of being woken by lions roaring at 4am. For once we didn't mind the early call!
It's an expensive experience but the money goes to support the excellent work of the Big Cat Sanctuary and the various projects it supports to help threatened species. We were so enthralled that we have since become members and adopted a wonderful pride of lions. We will certainly return.
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Date of stay: October 2019
5.0 of 5 bubblesRooms
5.0 of 5 bubblesService
5.0 of 5 bubblesSleep Quality
Room Tip: All 8 lodges are excellent.
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Response from TheBigCatSanctuary, Public Relations Manager at The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience
Responded 12 Feb 2020
Thank you for taking the time to review your Overnight Big Cat Safari. We are so glad to hear how much you enjoyed seeing and learning about all our cats both big and small and that you also appreciated the quality of the food, accommodation and customer care during your stay. Thanks so much for supporting both the big cats here and in the wild with this experience and further by becoming members and adoptors too - we can't tell you how much it is appreciated and what a difference it makes to the cats here and the support we offer to those in the wild. We hope to welcome you back to The Big Cat Sanctuary in the future.
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gazSouthamptonUK wrote a review Jan 2020
Southampton, United Kingdom181 contributions41 helpful votes
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Stayed in a 2 bedroom lodge. It's really large & well appointed. Incredibly warming winter, although given the meals & activities one diesnt spend much time in it bar sleeping.
Great well presented food for dinner, breakfast & afternoon tea.
The keepers have an amazing knowledge of the cats & their life.
Not ideal in the depth of winter on the first say as the tour of part of the park is in the dark when it gets alot colder. Lanters are provided to find your way on the tour & theres lighting within the cat night enclosures Need plenty of layers & waterproof warm boots.
The following morning was even better as it was light & warmer.
All staff were super friendly & helpful.
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Date of stay: January 2020Trip type: Travelled with family
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Response from TheBigCatSanctuary, Public Relations Manager at The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience
Responded 12 Feb 2020
It's great to hear that you appreciated the quality of our lodges and food and also our keepers' incredible knowledge of all aspects of our cats. Thank you so much for taking the time to write a review and the advice to other guests for winter visits. We're so glad that you were made to feel welcome by our staff too.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.
Ruth R wrote a review Jul 2020
Drakes Broughton, United Kingdom37 contributions12 helpful votes
5.0 of 5 bubbles
All the staff were fantastic. Lodge was lovely,loads of room,complimentary slippers,use of dressing gowns,tea,coffee,orange juice, water. Upon arrival we were greeted & shown to our lodge,then we went & had a complimentary glass of bubbly along with Afternoon Tea. We were then taken on our first 2hour tour to see the cats. The evening we had a beautifully cooked 3 course meal with complimentary drink of your choice. If you had the Cheese & Biscuits for dessert you were offered a complimentary glass of Port. Inthe morning you went for a full english breakfast you ordreded the night before then you went for your 2nd tour of the sight & told which cats were available for hand feed. Absoulutley fantstic stay, highley recomend,a once in a lifetime experience. All the cats were very relaxed,chilled out.
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Date of stay: July 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Tom Gates wrote a review Apr 2020
1 contribution1 helpful vote
5.0 of 5 bubbles
What a fantastic experience ! we stayed in Lion Lodge overnight and we could see the lions from the kitchen window about 30 metres away! Their roaring kept us awake but what an experience!
The lodges are superb as are the meals. We had afternoon tea, dinner and breakfast - all of the highest quality. Breakfast was extra special with the lions coming right up to the window where we sat.
The 2 tours were absolutely fascinating with a very knowledgeable tour guide and hand feeding the big cats was an unforgettable experience.
All of the staff are so friendly and helpful.
I would recommend the overnight stay to anybody - it's not cheap but it's an experience you will never forget. I will definitely be doing it again at some time when life returns to normal.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Response from TheBigCatSanctuary, Public Relations Manager at The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience
Responded 14 Apr 2020
Thank you for taking the time to review your recent Overnight Big Cat Safari here at The Big Cat Sanctuary. We are thrilled to hear that you enjoyed all the varied aspects of your visit so much and found them to be of such a high standard - from the food and accommodation to our stars, the big cats themselves! Thank you for supporting our work by visiting us, we hope to be able to welcome you back to the Sanctuary in the near future.
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Navigator619282 wrote a review Oct 2020
30 contributions6 helpful votes
+1
5.0 of 5 bubbles
An amazing experience. The lodges are very cosy and comfortable with all you could need; the meals were fantastic, tasty and the service throughout second to none.
The tours we did were fantastic too. We learnt a lot from our ranger tour guide about the cats their habits and background as well as some of the wider conservation projects the sanctuary work on. The hand feeding of a tiger is an experience I will never forget. Cannot rate this highly enough. If you can go do it.
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Date of stay: October 2020Trip type: Travelled as a couple
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Andrew713 wrote a review Apr 2021
Kent, United Kingdom26 contributions20 helpful votes
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Stayed in one of the spacious lodges to enjoy the overnight experience. Food was very good eating outside under small heaters socially distanced from other guests. Guides were extremely knowledgeable but gave us plenty of chance to ask questions rather than tell it all without interaction, which we appreciated. COVID precautions dealt with well. An amazing collection of large and small cats looked after caringly and in large enclosures than in many other places. Hand feeding a large cat on its hind legs makes one fully appreciate the size of the animals. Would return.
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Date of stay: April 2021
5.0 of 5 bubblesValue
5.0 of 5 bubblesRooms
5.0 of 5 bubblesService
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
JofNinfield wrote a review Jun 2021
Bexhill-on-Sea, United Kingdom167 contributions98 helpful votes
5.0 of 5 bubbles
What a wonderful experience from start to finish. The lodge (tiger) was comfortable and well equipped, not that we were in it for very long. This is a relaxed, but packed time. Everyone was very helpful and friendly. The two tours of the sanctuary with a hand feed each time were brilliant, with knowledgeable keepers. The weather was cool, so all the cats appeared for us. Eating with a lion looking in at you, at your level, with only glass between you is something else. The lodge where one eats has been cleverly designed so that all the tables are at the long glass window that separates you from Kasanga, the lion in residence in that enclosure. Afternoon tea was lovely, the evening meal was good rather than great, and breakfast was good too. But I won’t even think of deducting a star because overall this was a fantastic, never to be forgotten, experience.
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Date of stay: April 2021Trip type: Travelled as a couple
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
helen p wrote a review Oct 2020
Cambridge, United Kingdom90 contributions71 helpful votes
5.0 of 5 bubbles
This was just wonderful. The stay started at 2:30 with afternoon tea with a glass of sparkly overlooking the African lions. We were split into 2 small groups (ours was just 6 people) & then the tour - where the keepers were friendly, knowledgable & clearly passionate about the sanctuary. We had the opportunity to feed a leopard which was magical. The animal enclosures were clean & appeared spacious with plenty of enrichment for the cats. Our lodge (puma lodge) was clean, comfortable, spacious & felt really Covid secure. In fact the whole visit felt Covid safe. The evening meal choices were made prior to the visit & did not disappoint. All were tasty & appetising. Breakfast, again was chosen prior & was hot & plentiful. Through all meals the staff were great. The lions showed off their powerful roars to greet us which was a great start to the day. Then on for another tour which again did not disappoint & the opportunity to hand feed a big cat. Each person in the group was offered the ability to feed the individual big cat of their own choice which was great. Our guide made sure we all had opportunities to take all the photos we wanted & ask questions.
This whole experience was just great & to be highly recommended - you won’t be disappointed.
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Date of stay: October 2020Trip type: Travelled as a couple
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Answer from Ruth R
Drakes Broughton, United Kingdom37 contributions12 helpful votes
Not sure about Twin Beds. Wouldn't recommend for someone using elbow crutch as ground not very level,could be very awkward & uncomfortable under foot.
Amanda asked a question Aug 2019
Burton upon Trent, United Kingdom10 contributions20 helpful votes
Would the snow leopards be up for the hand-feeding experience or will they be occupied with the cubs and therefore unavailable?
Answer from TheBigCatSanctuary
Smarden, United Kingdom
Hello, thank you for getting in touch. Generally jaguars, tigers, leopards and cheetahs are available to hand-feed on an Overnight Big Cat Safari, however, this is always dependent on the cat. Please note, Maya the jaguar and Willow the cheetah are not included in the above options.
Answer from JandLtravels2903
Maidstone, United Kingdom12 contributions4 helpful votes
You need to arrive at the allotted time as the experience starts with a meet and greet and afternoon tea. Unless there was an emergency, why would you need to leave the site overnight as everything is provided for you. Guests are asked to vacate the lodge at 11:00am but the staff were more than happy for people to stay for an hour or so which we did as we went back and visited Maya and Willow one last time. All they ask is that you let them know when you leave for health and safety purposes.
Answer from bevjon2018
Norwich, United Kingdom10 contributions6 helpful votes
We were lucky enough to book through Secret Escapes at considerable discount, worth looking out for, but can also book direct through them, they do have different experiences on their site.
fijibird asked a question May 2018
Bishops Stortford, United Kingdom236 contributions
Is there anywhere that you are allowed to smoke on the premises? Thanks
Answer from JandLtravels2903
Maidstone, United Kingdom12 contributions4 helpful votes
As far as I can remember from the welcome visit when we arrived there are two areas where you can smoke. There is an area just by the entrance gate and I think someone was smoking just inside the entrance to the area where the lodges are.
podroz2 wrote a tip Dec 2023
Lincolnshire50 contributions30 helpful votes
5.0 of 5 bubbles
"It is a little pricey compared with some overnight stays but worth it! "
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Nobby Mcl wrote a tip Jul 2023
Goudhurst, United Kingdom35 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
"Be ready for any weather - comfy shoes, rain jacket"
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Karen V wrote a tip Jul 2023
3 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
"If you love big cats and want to see them up close and personal. Luxury lodges with everything needed. Do it, you won't regret it. Best for couples"
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DD B wrote a tip Apr 2023
Sheffield, United Kingdom13 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
"If you like big cats then you have to do this experience."
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Maria B wrote a tip Apr 2023
Brighton, United Kingdom19 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
"This is a real experience if it’s winter or soring bring your wellies quite missy with the great British weather"
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FORMERLY KNOWN AS
Overnight Lodge Experience at Wildlife Heritage Foundation
LOCATION
United KingdomEnglandKentSmarden
NUMBER OF ROOMS
8
Prices are provided by our partners for one room, with variable occupancy rules as provided by the property, and reflect nightly room rates, including all taxes and fees known to our partners. Please see our partners for more details.
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THE BIG CAT SANCTUARY OVERNIGHT BIG CAT EXPERIENCE - Updated 2024 Reviews & Photos

Frequently Asked Questions about The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience
Which popular attractions are close to The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience?
Nearby attractions include The Big Cat Sanctuary (0.01 miles), Sissinghurst Castle Garden (4.7 miles), and The Reindeer Centre (4.8 miles).
What are some of the property amenities at The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience?
Some of the more popular amenities offered include free wifi, free breakfast, and an on-site restaurant.
Which room amenities are available at The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience?
Top room amenities include a minibar, a flat screen TV, and a refrigerator.
What food & drink options are available at The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience?
Guests can enjoy free breakfast, an on-site restaurant, and a lounge during their stay.
Is parking available at The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience?
Yes, free parking and secured parking are available to guests.
What are some restaurants close to The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience?
Conveniently located restaurants include The King's Head, The Wishful Thinker, and The Pig & Sty.
Are there any historical sites close to The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience?
Many travellers enjoy visiting Sissinghurst Castle Garden (4.7 miles), English Heritage Sutton Valence Castle (4.5 miles), and Kent's Native Architecture Hall Houses (1.5 miles).
Is The Big Cat Sanctuary Overnight Big Cat Experience accessible?
Yes, it offers wheelchair access and facilities for disabled guests. For specific enquiries, we recommend calling ahead to confirm.
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