Seeing animals up close and watching how they move about in their natural habitat always sparks a higher level of appreciation and understanding for the creatures. For thousands of years, humans have long had a strong connection with nature and animals, but in recent times, the connection slowly become weaker. Sadly, many people now have very little appreciation for animals, and thus, animals are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Safari parks offer a chance to see wildlife roam freely in wide and spacious areas. Most safari tours offer a driven tour, but some allow visitors to explore on foot. You can even feed some of the animals and get up close and personal. If you ever find yourself wanting to gaze up at a giraffe’s neck or hear a lion’s roar, a safari tour would surely do wonders for your curiosity.

14 Best Zoos And Safari Parks Across The UK

Visiting a safari park or a conservation zoo allows you to interact with a wide range of animals from different parts of the world without needing to travel abroad. These safaris and zoos are perfect for a free weekend with the kids or as an exciting destination with your significant other. You’d also be supporting protection, rehabilitation, and conservation efforts as most zoos and safaris serve as sanctuaries for endangered species and rescued animals.

1. Longleat Safari Park

Longleat Safari Park
“Longleat Safari Park”, by Mike Faherty, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Longleat Safari and Adventure Park is one of the best spots for a fun trip with the family. A nearby hotel ensures easy and quick access to the drive-through safari experience. Lions, rhinos, zebras, meerkats, wolves, and a large assortment of monkeys are just some of the interesting creatures you’ll encounter. A boat safari also takes you to see sea lions and gorilla nesting grounds. You also get to walk among free-roaming deer and give them tasty treats.

2. London Zoo

London Zoo
“London Zoo”, by Unknown, licensed under CC0 1.0

If you’re looking to encounter as many animal species as you can, then you’re going to want to head over to the London Zoo. An entire weekend may not be enough to fully explore the 36-acre conservation centre that houses over 650 species. Some highlights include lion feeding, a brand-new giraffe experience, and a trip to the tiger territory. The zoo even offers a volunteer service, allowing visitors to be keepers for a day! Kids can also sign up for a junior zoo academy where they learn all about animals.

3. West Midlands Safari Park

West Midlands Safari Park
“West Midlands Safari Park”, by Robek, licensed under CC BY 2.5

For a more exciting wilderness experience, you can visit the West Midlands Safari Adventure Park. This safari offers various feeding and interactive experiences with animals and has a selection of animal-themed amusement park rides for kids and adults. The whole family will enjoy learning about the animals in the safari daily shows. The African Plains attraction has elephants, zebras, and giraffes roaming about. At the Wild Asia attraction, you’ll get to interact with different types of buffalo. Their immersive virtual reality jungle boat ride is also a great way to end your day.

4. Blackpool Zoo

Blackpool Zoo
“Blackpool Zoo”, by Immanuel Giel, licensed under CC0 1.0

If you’re deciding between going on a safari experience or spending a weekend at a beach resort, then you might want to check out Blackpool Zoo, a zoo experience like no other. This zoo is renowned for its sandy beaches and traditional resort feel. Trip highlights include Giraffe Heights where you’ll get to walk among giraffes and look at the world from their perspective; the World of Wings where exotic birds from all around the world show off their beautiful colours; and the Children’s Farm petting zoo for the young ones. There is also an ape enclosure where you get to interact with gorillas and orangutans.

5. Blair Drummond Safari Park

Blair Drummond Safari Park
“Blair Drummond Safari Park”, by Sahaib, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Blair Drummond Safari is home to over 350 animals from penguins to giraffes, and everything in between. Here, for a fee, you may also become an animal keeper for a day and get to go up close and personal with the many creatures in the park. You can spend the day with big cats, reptiles, birds, or apes, and once you’re done, you can join a special show with informative talks and demonstrations. With a myriad of activities and attractions to choose from, this wildlife preserve guarantees entertainment no matter the age.

6. Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo
“Chester Zoo”, by Mike Peel, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

If you’re thinking big, then look no other than Chester Zoo. With over 20,000 animals, Chester Zoo is the biggest in the UK. One major highlight of the zoo is a group of Black Rhinos, a critically endangered species. For many, that alone makes the whole trip worthwhile! The zoo has everything from birds, reptiles and fish, to land mammals of different sizes. You’ll find some of the most exotic animals here, some from halfway across the world.

7. Howletts Wild Animal Park

Howletts Wild Animal Park
“Howletts Wild Animal Park”, by Michael Haslam, licensed under CC BY 2.5

Now, for a safari wilderness experience that’s a bit closer to the heart, we take a look at Howletts Wild Animal Park. This animal preserve focuses on rare and endangered species. It’s home to African elephants, endangered gorilla species such as the Western Lowland Gorillas, Snow Leopards, Eastern Black Rhinos, and more than several dozen other primate species. The park constantly releases rehabilitated animals back to their natural habitat, but efforts are also being made to increase the number of some of the endangered specimens.

8. Woburn Safari Park

Woburn Safari Park
“Woburn Safari Park”, by Mark Anderson, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Woburn Safari Park is an incredible drive-through experience that transports visitors to the African Savannah. The close to 90-minute circuit circuit allows you to drive around and encounter over 80 endangered and rare residents. After the drive, you may continue on foot through more attractions and finish the journey at a play park for the kids. From giants to big cats to grazing herbivores, Woburn Safari has something for everyone. For those who want to spend the whole day on the safari, there are lots of lodgings around that offer affordable overnight stays.

9. Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo
“Edinburgh Zoo”, by N Chadwick, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’re in the Scottish capital and find yourself fancying a wilderness experience, a trip to one of the UK’s oldest zoos might bring a smile to your face. The Edinburgh Zoo has been around for over a hundred years and still houses some of the most unique animals in the country. Here, you get the chance to meet Kalari, Tanami, and Inala, the only three Queensland Koalas in the whole of Britain. Edinburgh Zoo is also the only zoo in the entire UK that has giant pandas. If you’re thinking about visiting these cuddly black and white bears, you may want to hurry, because they will be returning to China soon.

10. Knowsley Safari Park

Knowsley Safari Park
“Knowsley Safari Park”, by Mike Peel, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The two-hour five-mile 500-acre Knowsley Safari Park adventure ride will give you and your family a wilderness experience you’ll surely be talking about for days. Monkeys will be joining your bus route, swinging among ropes and ladders. Zebras, lions, and rhinos may even walk up to your vehicle for a curious sniff. After the ride, you can continue on foot and meet some tapirs, capybaras, and wildebeests.

11. Port Lympne Safari Park

Port Lympne Safari Park
“Port Lympne Safari Park”, by Serge Ottaviani, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Over 900 animals of different species share a massive 600-acre space at the Port Lympne Safari Park. Apes, big cats, and massive African Savannah animals are some of the most famous attractions in the park. Families and individuals visiting from afar will be glad to know that the park offers accommodations, an added convenience for anyone who wants to stay late. The park also offers shows and talks aiming to educate kids and adults about animal behaviour and conservation.

12. Marwell Zoo

Marwell Zoo
“Marwell Zoo”, by Khendon, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’re looking for a fun safari experience for the kids, the Marwell Zoo should be your top pick. The animal preserve showcases everything from fuzzy little otters, penguins, and gibbons, to mean-looking rhinos, crocodiles, and snow leopards. The park houses around 150 endangered animal species and entertains guests with informative shows. Kids will love the five adventure playgrounds and wide-open 140 acres of parkland perfect for family picnics.

13. Drusillas Park

Drusillas Park
“Drusillas Park”, by Dzp, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’re looking for a zoo that’s a bit more manageable size-wise, you can check out Drusillas Park, considered to be the best small zoo in the UK. The zoo offers adventure plays with animals and rides. Lemurland and Lory Landing are great walk-through enclosures where kids and parents can interact with monkeys, gibbons, and meerkats. Though relatively smaller than the rest of the parks and zoos on this list, Drusillas Park makes up for its small size by the amount of fun activities parents can have with their kids, like the classic Jurassic Jungle and Get Wet attractions.

14. Whipsnade Zoo

Whipsnade Zoo
“Whipsnade Zoo”, by Steve Daniels, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

With 3,500 animals on 600 acres of land, Whipsnade is officially named the UK’s biggest zoo. Among the most famous attractions are brown bears, Amur tigers, endangered penguins, and Asian elephants. The zoo also has plenty of outdoor play activities for children and an art exhibit for knowledge-hungry kids.

Final Thoughts

While a lot of the options presented on this list highlight humane treatment, preservation, and education, it would be a good idea to keep your eyes open for any cases of exploitative behaviour. Animals can easily fall victim to harsh handlers and can suffer dearly behind closed doors. Safaris strike a healthy balance between wildlife conservation and educating people on how these animals are to be treated and respected. If you’re an animal lover looking for a fun and exciting way to spend your vacation, consider a visit to a safari zoo soon.

Featured Image: “West Midlands Safari Park”, by Robek, licensed under CC BY 2.5

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