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“never believed we'd get so close to the big cats!”

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The Big Cat Sanctuary's Overnight Lodge Experience
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 17 August 2014

We recently did an overnight lodge stay at WHF and what an experience. The staff looked after us so well and the keepers - Freddie looked after us throughout - really knew their stuff and care about the animals they tend to. We were made so welcome from the time we arrived - afternoon tea with a really good Prosecco - and then unpack in your lodge before a two hour tour. We covered half of the park - mostly smaller cats but still beautiful. We'd never heard of, let alone seen, Asian fishing cats, rusty spotted (small but so powerful), cloudy leopard (really amazing features and snake-like!) plus a little time with the snow leopards - my favourites - and Poona and the tigers. Then back to the lodge to change. The lodges were fabulous (I'd love one in our garden if it were big enough!) We were in Lion lodge which overlooked the platform and enclosure the 'boys' were sleeping on. Good size lounge area, lovely bathroom and bed soooo comfortable you thought twice about the tour! Well-stocked with tea/coffee, soft drinks, beers, wine and toiletries. unpack, a quick relax and change and back over for pre-dinner drinks. Again, nothing too much trouble for the team at WHF. Dinner was pre-ordered and was ok - we didn't go hungry and you don't go for the food.
We stayed in the bar after dinner with three of the other couple and again, nothing was too much trouble for the staff, even through they needed to be back on duty early next morning. slept very soundly and woke to the roar of the lions - unbelievable! back over at 8am for tea and pastries then off for the highlight - feeling the big cats. We visited cheetahs, pumas, black jaguars, a white lion pride and fed the snow leopards (Layla was so gentle!), the jaguar, tigers and Manzi, WHF's version of Mustafa! we went in with the servals and fed them and the Mia the cheetah (scary but brilliant!). such an amazing experience. we got much closer than I'd imagined and it was a fab experience. we've looked at safaris and will do one but I don't believe we'll ever get as close to the cats as we did here. the team at WHF do an absolutely brilliant job - mostly with volunteers - and deserve our support and fundraising. i'd like to see bigger enclosures but appreciate the financial situation. keep up the good work guys!

Thank SurreyPRBird
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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302 - 308 of 334 reviews

Reviewed 16 August 2014

Great accommodation, great food, great staff ... oh, I almost forgot .... GREAT CATS! I booked an overnight stay there for my partner's 60th birthday and we both loved it. Being able to stroke a tiger, a serval and a cheetah (actually going in their enclosures for the last two) and hand feeding a tiger and a white lion have to be one of the coolest things I have done in my life, up there with swimming with dolphins! Highly recommended as a present for a special birthday or anniversary. It is a bit pricey, but i booked through Secret Escapes, so it was more affordable. Anyway, worth every penny for the experience and, more importantly, because it is for a good cause: the conservation of these magnificent animals.

  • Stayed: August 2014, travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Service
Thank jojo50London
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 August 2014

A huge thank you to the whole team at WHF. From the minute we arrived for our overnight stay it was like being with old friends. The staff could not do enough for you and our Lodge was perfect. We started with a very substantial & delicious Afternoon Tea which after a journey from Leics was most welcome. Ricky & Briony were our Keeper guides for the afternoon & managed to make us ignore torrential rain during our tour by keeping is us totally involved & looking after us. Being in with the servals was such a privilege, what beautiful creatures. The setting for pre dinner drinks & dinner was breathtaking, a window away from two male lions who were so chilled. Dinner was delicious and we retired to our lodge happy & full. The beds were so comfortable & it was lovely to snuggle down & hear lions roaring. The next morning started with pastries & coffee & the completion of our tour, training the cheetah & feeding a tiger & jaguar, wow we couldn't believe it was happening to us. We ended with a delicious brunch & then sadly goodbye to all our new friends. We were so sad to leave and cannot recommend the experience highly enough. Thank you to all human & feline for 24 hours to remember. We saw creatures that we never knew existed.

Thank TigerMad15
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 August 2014

I booked the overnight experience for my Hubby's 40th birthday and it was FANTASTIC! The location is beautiful, the lodges were gorgeous, every member of staff and all of the volunteers we met were brimming with passion, enthusiasm and a real love for all of the cats, the food was deeeelicious and very generous - Sophie is a sweetheart, as for all of the cats, well, they were beautiful, clever, lazy (I am thinking of the lions here - ha ha!) and captivating. It was so difficult to take our eyes off of them - they are simply stunning to watch. Do take a camera and capture the moment but don't forget to enjoy it too - it is a real privilege to get so close to such majestic cats.
I also wanted to add that the other couples we enjoyed the experience with were lovely, friendly and by the time we left, it felt like we had all known each other for years - who couldn't bond after watching lions showing off over dinner :)
Huge thanks to Bryony and Becky who were our guides - sooo knowledgeable, friendly and patient :) Thanks also to Sophie for the 'Happy Birthday' and paw prints on Gray's birthday dessert - fabulous!
I recommend the Wildlife Heritage Foundation wholeheartedly and I would go back in a heartbeat. Everything about it was AMAZING and I can't wait to go back :)

Thank Emma B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 July 2014 via mobile

What a great place!
We went for my wife's birthday present and stayed overnight in one of the four lodges. It was a great from start to finish.
We were met by Jo before we had parked, who made us feel at home straight away, and then went for our champagne tea reception next to a pair of lions! Chef Sophie came to say "Hello" and double-check our meal orders before telling us all about the cats from her perspective. Then we were shown to our lodge.
The lodges have everything you need for the stay, are clean and tidy, and in a good state of repair. From the front of the lodge you can see two lions in their enclosure watching the world go by. They were particularly interested in parachutists from the nearby airfield!
We were then taken around half of the park by Freddy where we saw the lions, lynx, servals, leopards and others. We went in with the Servals and stroked one which was a privilege for us.
At 7 we met for cocktails before having dinner, all next to the lions who did no singing or dancing (I think the film Madagascar is made up) but they were magnificent to watch while we ate and talked about the trip that far. Tanith made the dinner a great experience, telling us of her views and experiences of the park. She is the perfect host.
In the morning we had a coffee and pastries with the lions and went to see the rest of the cats with Freddy before Sophie's breakfast. This time we saw tigers, pumas, cheetahs, white lions and Amur tigers and leopards but stroked a puma and a cheetah! We also fed a tiger and a lion!
An amazing experience. Worth every penny. We have awesome photos and better memories to prove it.

Stayed: July 2014
1  Thank x_Boots_x
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 July 2014

My partner and I booked this overnight "experience" through Secret Escapes and it was wonderful. From the moment we arrived - we had been given detailed directions - we were delighted to be there. The staff were excellent - friendly - nothing too much trouble. There were four couples enjoying this experience - we all had our own lodges - which were beautiful - spacious and very well designed. The "cats" were truly special and it was a privilege to be there and see these wonderful animals. To be woken the next morning by a male lion having a "roar" and actually seeing him was unbelievable. They are doing a wonderful job and it was everything and more that we had hoped for. We will never forget it.

Thank Janie000
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 June 2014

I can only really repeat what has been said already. It's an amazing experience, staying in first class accommodation with first class food and the bonus and why you are really there over 50 cats some huge some small but all top predators.

It's not a turn up, pay and come in like some. Attendance has to be pre booked. We had booked for an overnight stay, one of the options.

Met by Freddie in the car park at 3pm and we were taken to the Heritage Lodge (the main building) to look out 20 yards to Kafara and Tiny snoozing, which apparently male lions do a lot of. Champagne, sandwiches, scones with cream and jam and cake in the conservatory/indoor eating area which is in the lion enclosure. Magic.

We were then shown to our overnight accommodation Amur Tiger Lodge. Luxurious adequately describes it. Unfortunately you don't spend much time there. From 4pm on our first trip round part of the site. Cameras never stop clicking it's impossible not to take photographs of these beautiful creatures. Also had time to play with the servals, small but strong.We were back at our lodge by 6 then to the conservatory at 7pm for a pre dinner drink then a sumptuous 3 course dinner with an excellent member of staff, who's name escapes me (I'm sorry) but is passionate about the lions, providing first class service. Kafara obligingly walked past the conservatory windows a few times and although there's glass it's an amazing sight to be face to face with a lion. They are big!

Back to the lodge tired and sleepy but still on the veranda to hear the lions roaring before a comfortable bed beckoned.

Morning! Not heard the lions through the night but a warm pastries breakfast then off again. This was the day - feeding a tiger through the mesh fence, stroking Mia the cheetah, no fence, in her enclosure. Feeding Sophia a white lion, definitely through the fence and finally, through the fence, stroking a Sumatran tiger and Tamair the very large, elderly, hybrid tiger and I still wouldn't fancy my chance, those claws and paws are huge.

Tour over back for the cooked breakfast. I eat an English fried breakfast only occasionally. This is probably the best I have ever had, you can always tell when it's freshly cooked. Thank you Sophie for a delicious dinner last night and breakfast this morning.

Sadly it's time to leave. The weather has been kind. There were 8 people on the overnight experience and we all had a thoroughly amazing time.

If you like big cats and can afford it visit, you won't be disappointed.

Thank jonboy123
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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Additional Information about The Big Cat Sanctuary's Overnight Lodge Experience

Address: Headcorn Road | Ashford, Smarden TN27 8PJ, England (Formerly Overnight Lodge Experience at Wildlife Heritage Foundation)
Region: United Kingdom > England > Kent > Smarden
Bar / Lounge Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 2 Speciality Lodging in Smarden
Number of rooms: 4
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

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