Self professed as being the fastest growing zoo in Kent – a statement which I think is pretty easy to justify. You don’t need to be away from the park for long to see something new upon your next visit.
Some of the locals still remember this as the old Wingham Bird Park opened in 1986… However that park started to get pretty run down and the new people took the park over as Wingham Wildlife Park in about 2008… What a difference in that time! This is now a much more professionally run park with what can only be described as an impressive collection, worth being proud of.
The park boasts over 200 different species, which is quite easy to believe, as there must be a good 50 species or more just in their reptile house, which is where I will start with the first of their stand out exhibits. The reptile house itself is one of the oldest parts left of the park so naturally it has a little wear and tear – but who’s there to look at the floors when you have the biggest selection of crocodiles on display anywhere in Kent under one roof, and the only gray’s monitors I have ever seen… especially the male is a very impressive animals – try and get there on a Saturday afternoon to see the monitors and crocs get fed.
The tropical house which is next door is yet another haven for species being homes to all sorts of lorikeets (I counted at least 3 species) as well as various other parakeets, fish and quite a few different butterfly species. It’s quite a big area with a lot of live plants – beware in spring if you suffer from hay fever, and look out for the dive-bombing lorikeets, they’re like stunt pilots!
Considering it used to be a bird park there aren’t that many bird species on display – or perhaps you just don’t notice it too much with the way they are set out. It does however have some impressive individuals within that selection from various macaws to flamingos and major Mitchell cockatoos to the only penguins in the area. You can actually pay extra to hand feed the penguins, which seems to be very popular – they seem to have one almost every time you see their feeding talk, which is twice daily.
There are 2 types of species which seem to really stand out though and there are similarities between the collections of each. These are the carnivores and primates.
From both there are conservation sensitive species like red pandas and mandrills as well as rescue projects with both. With the carnivores they did a big rescue project for Clarence and Brutus (2 amazingly beautiful lions by the way) from a French circus, whilst the primates have had a lot of projects carried out with their Barbary macaques for example, or a large project from Israel which involved their capuchins and squirrel monkeys! However, all of these aside, they have very impressive collections of both – it is very exciting to see someone working with the spix night monkey (which they also have a conservation project for)… As far as I know you can’t see this species anywhere else in the world, unless you want to trek in to the Peruvian rain forest.
One of the nicest things about this park is that the correlation between the size of gaps in wire fencing, distance of stand off fences, number of visual barriers and just how calm the animals are (I didn’t see any really nervous animals here which was brilliant), means that you can get some amazing photos of the animals – and you don’t need to be a professional with £1,000+ lenses.
Who’d have thought I would be writing about a dinosaur exhibit when reviewing Wingham Wildlife Park – which one of their adverts out and about describes as the biggest collection of moving dinosaurs in Kent! And they really do move a lot. I have seen dinosaurs at a couple of zoos and they are usually static, these things even look like they’re breathing and blink their eye lids… I was very impressed with the quality of these dinosaurs. They are set out in an area with plenty of grass and plants – although I think it will look much better in a few years, once they have grown properly.
Now let’s start with saying that compared to the high street, their food certainly isn’t cheap… However in comparison to other tourist attractions, its not bad at all. In fact its refreshing to see food that isn’t displayed behind a piece of glass and slapped on to a plate for you there and then. You have to wait a bit for your food here but its made to order – even the sandwiches!
I would highly recommend getting the tuna baguette, and then getting a portion of chips on the side (although their baguettes and sandwiches do come with crisps and salad), so that you can stuff some of the chips in to the baguette as well… Delicious!
Whilst I don’t have kids myself it’s hard to ignore the huge play areas which they have here… Especially if you’re eating at the park in the off season, as the main restaurant is in their indoor play area, the lions den. You’d think that would be a pain for people who don’t have kids, but actually it’s not that bad as the play area is separated from the eating section so you don’t have any kids running around your table.
The indoor area though by the way is huge and spread over 3 levels… I’m sure kids love it!
Outside this building is the outdoor play area which is probably equally as big but made of wood. Once again it is separated from the main park like it is indoors so even when you walk past it to see the cheetahs, tapirs, aldabra tortoises or dinosaur section, you won’t have hundreds of kids bumping in to you.
There are always more improvements which need to be made (no matter where you go) and its nice to see these being put in, especially as the management at Wingham Wildlife Park seem to listen to their visitors and what goes on TripAdvisor… I know there were always a lot of complaints about the paths and car park, which are now tarmac! I think things to complain about are really starting to run out… fast! Just waiting now for their chimps to arrive – the enclosure is not only huge but incredibly impressive – one of the nicest I have seen, and it’s a shame to see it sitting empty!