We stayed over night for valentine's day and despite the weather it was an absolutely fantastic experience. The day we arrived there was a torrential storm so we were worried we would not get to see any of the animals, however after the lovely champagne reception we headed out with our guide who kindly took us into lots of the inside areas of the cats' habitat. On reflection I think the storm actually helped us because all of the animals were inside so we got to see them up close. We even helped medicate one of the tigers by feeding him chunks of meat that had been injected with his medicine.
That night we went for dinner in the restaurant and the food was gorgeous. The duck starter in particular was excellent and had loads of meat and overall was as good a meal as I have had in some 4/5 star hotels. The lodge we stayed in was beautifully decorated with a safari theme and was a really good size with massive living room as well as bedroom and bathroom. A complimentary bottle of wine was provided, along with valentine's day decorations including rose petals on the bed was a lovely touch. There were gale force winds outside but we still managed to get a good night's sleep and the lodge survived the battering.
The next morning we awoke to sunshine which was a great relief. We had breakfast in the restaurant and the lions were out and prowling. They came right up the walkway and up to the glass window of the restaurant and even posed for photos! It was so much fun having breakfast so close to these amazing animals.
We then headed out for a tour and got to see all the animals we had missed the day before. We got to watch the family of white lions playing together and could go right up to the fencing where the young ones would climb up and say hello. Mum and dad would also come right up to you and give a growl to make sure you were not thinking about stealing one of their babies! It was a privilege to see and the highlight of the weekend for me.
You can tell that the animals are really well looked after and because the sanctuary is not open to the public you can see they are really relaxed and content. We got to see all the animals except for the jaguars who were being stubborn and did not come out and then got to choose which animal to hand feed. As we had fed a tiger the day before we chose the lions. We fed the ones that had had breakfast with us and were shown how to feed them safely by our guide. It was an experience I will never forget and I even managed to get one of the lions to stand up fully stretched out to take one of the morsels.
I would not hesitate to recommend this trip as it really is once in a lifetime stuff. The staff are excellent and you can tell they love the animals. We had a fantastic time and there is the added bonus of knowing the money you spend goes towards keeping open the wonderful sanctuary so they can continue their outstanding conservation work.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The overnight big cat safari experience - a hidden gem in the village of Smarden in Kent, UK. The Big Cat Sanctuary is a 34 acre peaceful conservation site whose primary objective is conservation and offering sanctuary to homeless or rescued cats. On our big cat safari experience you will get up close and personal seeing our amazing and diverse collection of cats from the world's smallest Rusty Spotted cat to the world's most endangered Amur leopard and also learn about the conservation work we do both at the centre and overseas. We operate by way of personal experiences only, this is an incredible experience in which you will encounter all we have to offer at our at the sanctuary with an overnight stay. The agenda for guests to the overnight big cat safari experience is below: You will arrive early afternoon for afternoon tea with a glass of bubbly on our terrace over-looking one of our lion enclosures, after this you will enjoy a 2 hour VIP tour in which you will learn about the various species of Big Cats at the sanctuary. During the tour you will get the opportunity to get up close and personal with the cats, you may go in with our African Servals,these activities vary depending on what is happening with our cats at the time of your visit. In the evening, you will firstly be greeted with pre-dinner drinks and enjoy a sumptuous 3 course meal cooked by our resident chef which you will enjoy in our conservatory which adjoins our African lion enclosure, they 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 with the target training of one of our cheetahs and also an opportunity to hand feed one of the Big Cats which for most people is most memorable. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- The Big Cat Sanctuary's Overnight Lodge Experience Smarden, Kent