Back in April, my boyfriend Joe took us to Rome as an early present to celebrate our 5 year anniversary [‘When in Rome; http://fitnessdigestive.com/2015/05/02/when-in-rome/]. On Friday, we’d both taken the day off work and my present to Joe was a trip to West Midland Safari Park, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. I’d heard from a few people that this was the best safari to go to – that’s within driving distance – so I was really excited to see everything! With tickets in hand and the full Lighthouse Family album ready to go, we set off for Birmingham!
We arrived at West Midland Safari Park at around 11am and with a quick, and much needed, leg stretch and toilet break we wasted no time in starting the drive around the safari. We were given a map when we arrived which gave a rough plan of where the animals would be, but most of the time they were wondering around paying no attention to where they should be. It’s almost as if they didn’t care about the map!! Here’s a rough layout of the safari: The whole safari took us around 2 and half hours to complete; we were driving relatively slowly as we were in no rush and wanted to see as many different animals as we could. Luckily, as we went on a Friday morning, the whole park wasn’t too busy. All of the animals were so friendly, coming up to your window and sticking their head into the car; unless, of course, you shut your window before they had the chance to – which I did on a few occasions, along with a bit of girly screaming. You could buy food for the animals, but we decided against having animal slobber on our hands and just enjoyed the experience from a viewing perspective.
With temperatures reaching 26 degrees, a few of the animals were sat in the shade of the trees, but we still managed to see most of them close up. It was amazing to see animals like cheetahs, white lions and the critically endangered Sumatran tiger – it wasn’t quite the same without David Attenborough’s voice describing them all though…
Once we’d finished the safari, we stopped to have a bit of lunch – from the amazing picnic I’d put together, complete with minted couscous, chicken fajita wraps and carrot sticks. We then headed over to the zoo part of the park and wandered around. Needless to say, I headed straight for the penguin cove. With 10 minutes of just watching them and 100 pictures which all looked exactly the same, Joe rightly said we should probably move on and see something else. So we went to see the birds, reptiles and the land of the living dinosaurs exhibit.
Said to be the UK’s largest animatronic Dinosaur attraction, it has moving models of scale size dinosaurs from 4 time periods. Any dino-fan would absolutely love it! As Joe and I do not fall into this category, we appreciated the models and then headed over to the meerkat and leemur section. We stopped off to see some hippos along the way, but as they’re quite possibly the most boring animal ever, we didn’t hang around for long.
After the penguins, obviously, the meerkats were my favourite part of the zoo. They’re just so small, cute, and SO FLUFFY! There was little talks going on throughout the day on different animals, and we’d got there just in time to catch the one about the meerkats. A very informative zoo keeper gave some information about the animals, where they originate from and other facts, finishing off with a Q&A and the chance to feed the animals. We walked through the leemur trail and then made our way back to watch the sealion show. With a feast ice lolly in hand, we enjoyed a 20 minute talk and show with a Californian sea lion doing tricks and jumps.
I couldn’t leave the zoo without seeing the penguins just one more time, so once again Joe stood by as I watched the little amazing creatures swim about. We finished the sea lion show with time to catch the penguin talk where I rushed at the opportunity to feed the penguins, pushing past a group of 8 year old school children to do so. Throwing in fish for them and watching them hurtle towards the food was definitely a highlight of the day for me. I even managed to grab a selfie with one!
As Joe was under the impression I had made plans at a recommended Indian restaurant, we jumped in the car and I was navigating us to the ‘restaurant’. Being the hopeless romantic I am, I had in fact booked us in for a night at The Ramada Hotel & Resort for the evening. Over glasses of Prosecco, we found an amazing Greek restaurant called Eleon on my trusted Trip Advisor app and went there for a gorgeous dinner.
The restaurant was very contemporary; we were sat at the front near the window where there were a few small tables cut off from the rest of the restaurant. It felt like we had our own private area even though we could still enjoy the atmosphere from the larger parties in the restaurant. The food was exceptional and we both thoroughly enjoyed both courses. Grilled halloumi and calamari for starters, with a selection of 3 dips, followed by pork souvlaki for Joe, and chicken souvlaki for myself for mains. All the staff were attentive and friendly, polite and helpful. If you’re ever in this area I would definitely recommend going here; better than a lot of Greek restaurants in London!
The hotel was lovely – I’d paid a little extra for a suite room upgrade which had a beautiful lake view. The staff were polite and friendly, and the leisure centre was quiet and clean. It was a lovely hotel for a little break.
Following breakfast on the Saturday we went for a swim, sauna and steam room followed by afternoon tea at our hotel, another little surprise I had planned. We had a small selection of sandwiches and cakes as well as scones and tea.
As you can’t go to Birmingham without going shopping at The Bullring, we stopped off on our way home. Although, as it was 1pm on a sunny Saturday, it was ridiculously busy and spent most of the time browsing as we we reluctant to queue for 15 minutes to buy something. We gave in a couple of times; needs must, and all that jazz.
We went for a bite to eat before driving back to London at The Homemade Burger Co. Joe had been to the one in Wembley the week before and said it was the nicest burger he’d eaten. Given how much of a foodie he is, I had to test his theory. We both enjoyed a Greek burger filled with lamb, feta cheese and fresh tzatziki and a side of sweet potato fries. I can confirm that the burger was delicious – as were the fries!
We had an amazing few days away and were so happy the weather stayed dry and warm. If you’re a fan of the zoo I’d definitely recommend going to The West Midland Safari Park just for something different – it’s so much better seeing the animals walking around than just locked up behind a screen. It’s such a great day out for anyone of ANY age – there were families, other couples, older groups and school kids. The park also give you a free return ticket so you can experience it all again; I know we will definitely be using that very soon!
Note: all photos included on this blog post were taken by me on either my HTC One M8 phone, or on my Nikon D3200 DSLR. I’ve definitely missed my calling in life as an animal photographer! Maybe a career change is in order…