Trip Start Jun 20, 2012
Trip End Aug 05, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Longleat safari park inspired me. There is so much change I want to see brought through in animal care standards, but mostly I was impressed by this experience and the attention to the animals' comforts and needs.

I'm not sure how much I like the idea behind the drive-through, although from the visitor's point of view it adds a thrilling and authentic level to seeing the game.

There were boldly coloured pheasant standing watch as we drove towards the entry and rabbit could be seen in the distance, feeding on the hills.

The deer drive through was better because of the domesticable nature of fallow and red deer. The animals are left with large open grasslands and could be seen running as a herd before trotting over to the cars to see what they would be fed. Their hard, furry antlers felt familiar under my hands and there's such peace behind their large, open brown eyes. I pictured myself walking amongst them in the early morning as I feed them. It made me yearn for this future and gave me a drive to see it come to be. With you, my little one.

The monkey drive-through was exciting; with monkeys of all ages leaping fearlessly only our car and trying to pull anything fun-looking off.

The tigers, cheetahs and lions had been given great space in their enclosures, but I wondered if their pacing of their perimeters was because they could sense each other so close-by? The lions are apparently breeding and adapting to England so well that some of their females take contraceptives to help control the numbers within zoos. The males wouldn't be fixed because they would lose their impressive manes as a result.

Watching the Canadian wolves play was intriguing; they're such regal, serious beasts one moment and next they're rolling together on the floor. They capture well the nature of a haunted wood or a misty night. I found it interesting to learn about the different behaviours within each pack. That wolves mate for life is beautiful and that they display strong friendships even between the conflicting levels of hierarchy.

After the drive-through there were themed sections with different animal groups in each. First was the 'Jungle Kingdom' with porcupines, meerkats, bearcats, chipmunks, prairie-dogs and a giant anteater with her baby clinging to her back. I got to watch the anteater's long tongue at work as she hunted for her food which they feed to her within a constructed ant/termite mound. she was fairly magnificent and her little one was precious.

The 'Jungle Cruise' could hold about 50 people and the line snaked back at least twice that size. Somehow I was first in it and had a perfect view of the sea-lions playing together and calling to be fed as the circles the boat. Nico, who at 51 is Europe's oldest gorilla, was out on his island bathing in the sun. His back is impressively silver from old age, but otherwise he's apparently just as fit as he's always been. We only saw the hippos from a distance, as they have been sleeping in the sun uphill from the water's edge for a few days now. They still managed to be extremely impressive with their size and capacity for destruction.

The 'Monkey Kingdom' housed: the red panda; many marmoset who were free to leave their enclosure and venture all over this section; Siberian chipmunks; Siberian weasels; the tortoises and the bird aviaries and walk-throughs.

Within the 'Animal Adventure' hall, I was able to meet the endangered chinchilla, a pygmy hedgehog, a scorpion, a huge and hold-able python and a Chilean rose tarantula named Chilli. She is only 4years old and so half grown, but she was still at least half the length of my hand and terrifyingly active. I held her. I held her!

I spent over an hour happily lost in the Longleat hedge maze, dreaming of the great adventures we could have with our children one day; lost in a maze just like this. I met an English guy who had come with his 3year old girl and we braved the excitingly complex maze together. There were ramps and a tower interspersed amongst the hedge paths and whilst these gave you a chance to look atop the whole maze, they did little to steer us in the right direction. By the time we stumbled out the exit we were impressed that we'd managed it at all. There seemed to be no way of forming an ordered pathway through so we had simply charged blindly ahead, becoming more confused by the minute. It was great.

'Deer Valley' was a large paddock which offered the opportunity to feed and play with fallow deer. Their antlers are incredible.

I sat down to a picnic of bananas, orange, bread and cheese outside the black vulture exhibit in the 'Hunters of the Sky' section. I had watched parts of the show whilst exploring the maze, so I didn't feel the need to go for the next one. They're on every two hours and apparently every show fills out.

The 'Adventure Castle' gardens and the 'Postman Pat' village were just for under-12s so I only got away with having a quick peek in each.

Next I headed to the Lady of Bath's kitchens and was able to try some blueberry wine and some ginger wine. The blueberry was delicious and easy to drink, whilst still having the warming quality of a red wine and the ginger wine was strong and whilst tasty seemed to have more the power of a liqueur. The Longleat house has been kept in great condition and the rooms, art and original clothing pieces made for an interesting experience. The sheer size of the home was overwhelming and impressive.

I finished my time off with a walk through the 'Bat Caves' and another visit to the anteater. The bat 'caves' is a large hall decked out as a rocky mine shaft and the fruit bats have free reign of the place as you walk along a snaking path through. I especially enjoyed getting to listen as one bat sunk his tiny teeth into a slice of apple; the sound was so peculiar, almost like the bat was purring whilst the apple flesh squeaked under his gnawing.
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withintheforest on

This post made me smile, gasp and feel warm inside. Zoos with you are the most fun. An anteater, its tongue and its precious offspring?! Amazing! I loved the sound of the Canadian wolves - I want to research more about them when I'm not on Kaegan. You held a spider! I wish I could have seen your face! And the maze... A childhood dream come true. This all sounded exciting. I hope we can return there some day together. Perhaps for inspiration for our own property?

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