The Best Safari Parks in the UK

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(Last updated on: 19/03/2021)

If you are looking for the best safari parks in the UK to visit, look no further!

Safari parks are a great way to see animals in a habitat that provides them with a more natural environment than traditional cages in a zoo. They are fun, educational and more ethical than many zoos. So what are you waiting for? All you need to do is decide which safari park in the UK to visit…

What is a safari park?

In a similar way to a zoo, a safari park is somewhere you can go to see large animals that would usually be in the wild. Safari parks tend to be larger than zoos. However, they are smaller than a game reserve.

The best safari parks in the UK and beyond will have a wide range of animals from different continents. Animals tend to roam freely, and many will come right up to your car window to say hello – this is why it is vital that guests follow the park guidelines when visiting.

The UK is home to some fantastic safari parks.

Safari parks are a drive-through wildlife attraction. Depending on the location, guests will either drive their own car through the park or ride larger vehicles provided by the facility. These are likely to be jeep-style cars, or minibuses.

Often, safari parks will have ‘walk around’ areas too. These sections are more like a zoo. Animals which are considered to be too dangerous (or too small!) to roam freely will be located in safe enclosures that guests can walk up to. You’ll find cafés, toilets, play areas and shops in the walk around areas of a safari park.

Many of the best safari parks in the UK (and elsewhere) have conservation programmes too. This ensures the animals are protected as well as being bred so the species does not become extinct. Entrance fees go towards these programmes. On top of this, many safari parks have other tourist attractions combined. This might be a golf course, theme park, cable cars, hotels or something else entirely!

The best safari parks in the UK

The UK is home to eight safari parks. These are:

  • South Lakes Wild Animal Park, Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria
  • Knowsley Safari Park, Knowsley, Merseyside
  • West Midlands Safari Park, Bewdley, West Mids
  • Whipsnade Zoo and Safari Park, Dunstable, Bedfordshire
  • Woburn Safari Park, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire 
  • Howletts Wild Animal Park, Canterbury, Kent
  • Longleat Safari Park, Warminster, Wiltshire 
  • Blair Drummond Safari Park, Stirling, Stirlingshire 

With seven safari parks in England and one in Scotland, there is a variety to choose from when looking for the best safari parks in the UK. Below you will find a breakdown of three of the best parks. Whether you want to cruise with the crocodiles or zip past some zebras, a trip to a safari park is a great day out!

#1 Knowsley Safari Park

Knowsley Safari Park is home to a variety of exotic animals.

Located in Knowsley, Merseyside, this is one of the best safari parks in the UK.

Knowsley Safari Park opened in 1971, and has a land area of 550 acres. There are over 700 animals here. With links to Liverpool, Chester and Manchester universities as well as great conservation projects, the safari park contributes a lot.

Knowsley Safari Park offers  self-driven experience, and the 5-mile safari drive is the longest in the UK. Broken up into 11 different zones, you’ll be able to spot lions, rhino, camels, bison and so much more. The zones are:

  • Zones 1 and 11: Eastern Asia, home to Père David’s deer, Kiang, Yak and Bactrian camel.
  • Zones 2 and 8: Southern Asia, home to Nilgai, Chital, Eld’s deer, Barasingha and Blackbuck.
  • Zones 3, 4 and 6: the African Savannah, home to Southern White Rhino, Wildebeest, Eland, Roan antelope, Lechwe, African Forest Buffalo, ostrich, waterbuck and Plains Zebra.
  • Zone 5 – the African Woodland, home to Bongo and Blesbok.
  • Zone 7 – the African Savannah, home to the Olive baboons only.
  • Zone 9 – Eurasia, home to Fallow deer, European Moose and European bison.
  • Zone 10 – the African Savannah, home to the lions and the Somali wild ass.

The tour gives you the option to skip section 7: the baboons. This is because some guests don’t want to risk any damage their vehicles, as these clever and curious animals have been known to pull wing mirrors off, open roof boxes and more!

With tickets starting at £13.50 and free entry for under 3s as well as an annual pass option, Knowsley Safari Park is a great day out in Merseyside. It is easily one of the biggest and best safari parks in the UK, too.

#2 Longleat Safari Park

best safari parks in the uk
Longleat Safari Park attracts visitors from all over the UK.

Located in Wiltshire, Longleat was the first drive-through safari experience outside of Africa.

The safari park opened in 1966. The safari park is situated in the grounds of Longleat House, a stately home. With an area of 9000 acres, Longleat is one of the best safari parks in the UK. It is split into different sections which you can drive through in your own car – or book a VIP experience to jump into a jeep, feed the lions and more!

The route goes something like this: first you’ll drive through Bongo Pass and then see some Eland Deer, before driving through African Village. You can get out here to access the East African Viewing Platform as well as toilets, shops and refreshment areas. Get back in your car and continue the drive to see giraffes, wildebeest, zebras and vultures. You can also choose whether or not to go through the monkey drive-through section!

Carry on to see elephants at Anne’s Haven, then go round to Big Game Park where you’ll see camels and other game animals. Next you’ll see more deer at Deer Park, before heading round to Tiger Territory. Then it’s on to Lion County, Cheetah Kingdom and Hyena Hideout. The last stop is Wolf Wood. Then you’ll come to the end of your Longleat drive-through safari route.

There are so many animals to see here. They are well looked after and a joy to experience. With a range of price points on offer, an annual pass option and various group booking options too, Longleat is a popular day out in this part of the UK. You can even get married here!

Longleat has its own miniature railway, which is well-loved by visitors and famous within the train community. It is one of the busiest in the country, and well worth riding while you’re there. The 2 km journey takes you through beautiful scenic woodland as well as along the edge of Half Mile Lake.

#3 Blair Drummond Safari Park

best safari parks in the uk

The only safari experience in Scotland is also one of the best safari parks in the UK. Located in Stirling, it is set across 120 acres.

The park is home to over 350 animals, and is open from mid March until the end of October annually. Opened in 1970 with the help of Jimmy Chipperfield (who opened Longleat, too) it was one of the UK’s early safari parks.

There is a safari bus option or you can take your own car as you venture through the different areas of Blair Drummond Safari Park. There are four reserves here:

  • The African Reserve, home to non-carnivorous native African species. These include Grant’s zebra, guineafowl, Kudu, Ankole-Watusi cattle, Lechwe and Southern white rhinoceros. 
  • The Lion Reserve, home to African lions and African lions only. This section is part of a European breeding programme.
  • Barbary Macaque Reserve, home to the monkeys – specifically Barbary macaques, re-homed from Gibraltar in 2014. This section is optional, so guests who want to ensure their car is protected can skip this area.
  • The Asian Reserve, home to herbivores Asian species. These include Bactrian camels, Eld’s deer, Axis deer, Nilgai and Père David’s deer. 

There is also a walk around area at Blair Drummond. Head over a bridge to Lemur Land to see a whole variety of lemurs: ring-tailed, brown, black and black-and-white ruffled lemurs live here. They roam free here. With feeding tables around the walkway, you can get up close and personal with these lovely lemurs. You’ll also spot some Somali sheep, two African spurred tortoises and some red river hogs here too!

Hop onto the boat safari to see Chimp Island, and say hi to Gondola the African elephant while you walk around the park. You can also watch bird of prey displays, and visit the farm. Here you’ll be able to see, feed and pet various animals. These include pygmy goats, llamas, horses, ponies, pigs and many more – with exotic animals like Humboldt penguins and common dwarf mongooses too…

This is certainly one of the best safari parks in the UK for breeding and conservation. In 2016, the park welcomed two Pére David’s deer in the world – they are now extinct in the wild. Similarly, the rhinos here are part of a breeding program as are the lions. The rhinos have had five calves, and two of the current female lions were born here too.

The best safari parks in the UK

So there you have it- the 3 best safari parks in the UK. Not convenient to visit any of these? Well, there are 8 in total, so you should be able to reach at least one without too much difficulty. During times when you can’t see these animals in their native homelands or if you are embracing a staycation, a visit to the best safari parks in the UK can make a fantastic addition to any travel itinerary!

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Dr Hayley Stainton

Hi, I'm Dr Hayley Stainton

Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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