Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP) is without a doubt one of my favourite places to visit. The sights are memorable, the food is delicious and the gift shop has endless choice. I only have to travel 30 minutes from my house to get there, the car park is free and the annual pass I’ve had for two years means free entry whenever I want. Having visited on my own and with friends, family and my other half, I can definitely say YWP is a day out for everyone to enjoy. There’s just something wonderful about spending a day with animals in the fresh air and having a tasty bite to eat in the Safari Café (I recommend the chicken burger with smoked cheese)! I’ve now visited the park around ten times and it never fails to provide a fun and entertaining day out come rain or shine.
Once a riding school and farm, YWP is now the UK’s no.1 walk-through wildlife adventure. The park has worked continuously since opening in 2009 to improve conservation and welfare for animals around the world and now houses over 400 animals and over 70 different species. The Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation was created in 2013 to educate and inspire people to support conservation and animal welfare with fundraising events held regularly at the park. YWP rescues many of their animals from zoos or parks that are unable to care for them, for example the famous Lion Rescue and Project Polar.
YWP has ample parking with several aptly named car parks available. Fortunately, I have never had to use one of the over-spill car parks as I always get there early, however it’s reassuring to know they are prepared for high numbers come summer time and their Christmas Market weekend. YWP were very clever when designing their park (to say the least) as the shops, café and information centre are all accessible before you pay to enter. This means popping in to buy gifts for your friends and family, a light bite to eat in the café and renewing your annual pass are all easy to do without having to queue to enter the main park.
Of course the most exciting part is actually entering the main park and walking through the gateway to meet those cheeky meerkats who will be waiting to greet you. Meerkats are so enjoyable to watch as they dig, play and forage for food – they’re certainly one of my favourites to watch at the park! When taking part in the Meerkat Experience, I learned that the meerkats and mongooses are currently in two groups to develop and improve their social groups. Their enclosure is well designed with three different interconnectable sections which the two families have access to at varying times to provide a changing and enriching environment. The meerkats in particular are always on the lookout for a tasty snack and making a new tunnel in the sand which has to be raked every morning by the team. We enjoyed feeding them carrot and sweetcorn on the Meerkat Experience whilst enjoying a very personal encounter with them.
For some reason I always take the same route throughout the park and visit Lion Country after snapping some meerkat moments on my camera. On various visits to the park I have been lucky enough to see the lions playing with homemade enrichment made by the rangers, including a hessian bag with zebra manure which the lions really seemed to love – each to their own! Similar to the meerkat enclosure set-up, there are three separate territories within Lion Country for the three established prides. Opportunities to view the lions are endless; YWP have designed a fantastic system throughout the animals’ homes. The public walkways are positioned at a height that is level with the animals to allow us to observe in awe as we watch with no glass, bars or mesh between us and them. This is the case for the vast majority of the enclosures within the park. It really is refreshing to see the park putting animal welfare first whilst considering how to create the best experience possible for it’s visitors. It’s certainly a paradise for photographers and it’s my top spot to visit for photography lessons with Kieron.
After Lion Country, I tend to take a walk Into Africa to see rhinos, gazelle, zebras, giraffe, ostriches and much more. The Eastern Black Rhinos are a fairly new species to arrive at the park and I was lucky enough to get a good view of them on my latest visit. Once again their home has been designed specifically for them and there is plenty of room for Hodari and Dayo to run around and make mischief. Just around the corner from the African section are the leopards and tigers – two of my favourite species at YWP. I must have spent hours watching these big cats (when they’re not too shy!) as they are simply beautiful. I was fortunate to see the three tiger cubs when they were very young and visited them every 4-6 months as they grew up. On my last trip, it was clear to see just how grown up and mature they are now, as nobody was up for playing in the rain!
My absolute favourite section in the park is Project Polar. I had never seen a polar bear until YWP rehomed Victor back in 2014. Since then, the park has rescued Pixel, Nissan and Nobby from various zoos across the world to provide them with a better home. These bears are now very content living in their purpose designed 10 acre enclosure. YWP is the only park in the UK where you can see polar bears and they always prove to be popular.
Next, I tend to take a wander through the South American Viva to see Spider Monkeys, Mara and other mammals before visiting my favourite giant otters, Alexandra and Mora. The otter sisters are the cheekiest duo at the park from what I have seen. Recently, I took part in the Giant Otter Experience at the park; I fed them and learned so much about the largest species in the weasel family. Their characters are wonderful with boundless energy and they have a large array of sounds to communicate with each other too.
Exploring Lemur Woods is another of my favourites. The photo opportunities are brilliant and you can get very close to the animals. The lemurs have also been treated to a new house this year which is now all finished. We attended the park on a wet day and the lemurs were enjoying a group cuddle on their sign – the perfect welcome for us!
Shortly after Lemur Woods, the African Dogs can be found. As with the tigers, I was lucky to see the African Dog puppies at a very young age and have seen them several times as they have grown up. This family is not to be missed when you visit the park! The baboons are just next door to the dogs and can regularly be heard having a squabble, so if you can’t find either of these two species, just use your ears. When you arrive at the baboon enclosure, you’re sure to witness some family politics or a disagreement of some sort! Finally, to end my visit on a high, I visit the wonderful wallabies. This walk-through exhibit allows you to stroke the wallabies if they wish to come for a fuss and is one of the most interactive areas within the park. It’s sure to leave a smile on your face!
YWP really is one of the best wildlife parks I have been to, and I support it’s aims and visions. It’s brilliant to visit a park that puts so much time, money and effort into designing such enriching homes for their animals. All of the animals in the park are able to carry out their natural behaviour which is beautiful to see. What’s even better is the education behind everything at the park, from exhibit signs to animal talks, and the staff determination to educate visitors about climate change, conservation and animal welfare.
Top Tips for YWP:
1. Take a look at the website before you visit as it’s very informative and will help you plan your trip. I can now highly recommend booking an animal experience in advance to enjoy at the park.
2. Entry prices to the park and opening times can be seen here. In my opinion, prices are very fair as the park is a decent size and it is easy to spend the whole day there. Membership options are also available and as previously mentioned, I tend to buy an annual pass as I visit frequently.
3. Consider your food options seriously – I never know where to eat! There are plenty of picnic areas on a sunny day to enjoy a sandwich, or alternatively you can dine at the safari cafe or enjoy a hearty burrito at Caramba. There are options for all at a reasonable price situated throughout the park.
4. Take some spending money. A variety of shops are available on entry to the park including the YWP gift shop, home furnishings and delicious craft beers.
5. There are a couple of play areas in the park for children to enjoy and burn some energy. The new Adventure Oasis Play area is fantastic and even Kieron was tempted by the zip wire on our last visit.
Have you visited Yorkshire Wildlife Park? Is it on your list of places to visit? What’s your favourite part for those who have been before? I’d love to hear your thoughts.