I was really excited to get an invite to stay at Port Lympne Reserve. Despite living in Kent for nearly four years, being just around the corner to the reserve, we have never been. It’s one of the things I’ve had on my list of must dos. So getting the invite to not only visit but to stay too, was brilliant. We counted down the days for our visit.
It had been arranged for us to arrive earlier than the check in time of 3pm. Port Lympne had arranged for us to go on a private safari which Hubby and I were definitely very excited about. P2 wasn’t overly impressed at the idea after our car safari af Longleat. Port Lympne offer a safari truck in the cost of entry, it seats 50 people which I think is incredibly. For an extra cost you can arrange a more private one or an experience safari like feeding the giraffe.
Our safari driver was so lovely. She asked us all to ask her lots of questions and I’m pretty sure she soon regretted that request, as P2 asked so many interesting questions. P2 also did really well answering some too. All of the girls were absolutely fascinated. We got to get really close to the animals and learn so many things about them and about Port Lympne. Did you know Port Lympne was set up by a man who was very good at gambling? He created the Aspinall Foundation to help endangered animals. People mistake the reserve for being a zoo but actually Port Lympne is a breeding sanctuary for rare and endangered species. I love that they are helping to raise awareness of the issues that surround these beautiful animals and of course they are actively doing something about it by being the most successful breeders of clouded leopards and de brazza monkeys, and one of the most successful breeders of western lowland gorillas and fishing cats in the world.
After our safari adventure we was able to check in to our accommodation. We had been invited to stay at the brand new Hog Deer Creek. Port Lympne has many short break options where you get to stay right alongside some amazing animals including Tigers, Rhino and Giraffes. The Hog Deer Creek consists of five Shepherds Huts inside the Asian area of Port Lympne Reserve. As part of your short break you are given your very own golf buggy to explore the reserve in. I have never stayed in a Shepherds Hut before so was very excited and I’m pretty sure Hubby was just very excited about the golf buggy! There’s a special route for the golf buggy and you are allowed to roam about the reserve before and after the reserve is open.
We approached the Hog Deer Creek in a convoy of golf buggies lead by one of the brilliant Port Lympne staff. The golf buggies are named after the accommodation you are staying in, so it’s super easy to remember. Our Shepherds Hut was a beautiful grey colour and was in the middle of the five on site. We were the only ones with a decking, the others had a stoned area for sitting. The hut had beautiful flowers inside the window boxes. But what was most spectacular was the fact we were a stones throw away from the water hole that had water Buffalo’s wallowing in the water, the girls were definitely amazed by that.
I filmed a complete hut tour which you can view in the video right at the bottom of this post. The Shepherds Hut comfortably sleeps four people. It has a double bed which is topped by two single bunk beds. The girls loved this concept although the beds on top did slightly terrify me as the sides were not that high, like the ones the girls have at home. Port Lympne provided a complimentary hamper of milk, a few juices, prosecco, biscuits and teas/coffees for the coffee machine. The living area was really spacious with a comfy sofa and a TV too. The bathroom was also shockingly spacious and the interior throughout was just divine!
Port Lympne kindly took our bags to the hut before we arrived in there which was very handy, especially with juggling three children. They also offered this service for checking out too. So after getting to know the hut for a short time we decided to head out on the golf buggy to explore the reserve. We started with the Dinosaur Forest. P3 absolutely loves dinosaurs so I was excited to have a wander. Poor P1 was struggling with her walking after damaging her foot the weekend before, I was quite grateful to have the golf buggy as Port Lympne is a huge 600 acres in total and a lot of walking is required if you wish to see everything as a day visitor. The Dinosaur Forest takes you through the different ages of dinosaurs and each statue has a fantastic information sign to accompany it. The girls loved it and I believe it is a relatively new addition to Port Lympne.
There are several places to eat at Port Lympne. We had a table booked for the evening at Babydoll’s which is a wood fired pizza restaurant. The outside setting was so tranquil and the interior inside the restaurant was stunning. However, I did find it to be not very child friendly with no colouring or a children’s menu available. The staff were brilliant though and made sure the pizza we chose for the girls had no spicy ingredients. They were very accommodating but kids being kids just didn’t enjoy the food here. Hubby and I did though and between taking P3 to the toilet a million times and dealing with a tantrum too, had a brilliant meal. The desserts menu went down a treat with everybody though, especially the chocolate brownie/cake with ice cream. We ended up ordering two. We actually later found out that the Pinewood Cafe offers a much better selection of child friendly meals including turkey dinosaurs which I’m gutted we didn’t realise beforehand.
The girls were really tired after our dinner but Hubby wanted to make the most of the golf buggy so we went for a drive around the reserve. It was past closing time now and everything was empty. It honestly had the feeling that we’d broken in and was doing something naughty. Most of the animals had started to go inside for their bedtime but we got to see some of the monkeys huddled up close together. It was adorable. I also ended up hurting my knee being stupid with Hubby which you can see on the video below. The girls got to use the play area equipment freely with nobody else there. It was really strange in a really uplifting way.
We arrived back at our Shepherds Hut and settled down on the decking to watch the sun set. The view is amazing across the countryside and it’s hard to believe you are in Kent still. It’s so peaceful. I tried out the coffee machine as I am determined to find a coffee that I actually like. The girls played in the creek that runs down into the water hole. Bedtimes for us are always pretty hectic, trying to get three children ready and calmed down is a mission but everything felt calmer at Port Lympne. We snuggled into the double bed with the lights dimmed and read a story. It did take P1 absolutely ages to fall asleep because she couldn’t read her book like she usually would as we were all in one room. In fact Hubby had even fallen asleep before she did and I was definitely losing my patience at 10:30pm!
Our night was quite restless if I’m honest. P3 doesn’t sleep well on the blow up ReadyBed that we have so she kept crying out randomly throughout the night, P2 also woke up at 5am and the television randomly switched itself on half way through the night too startling me. Despite this, the bed linen was the most comfortable thing I’ve slept on in a while. The actual duvet was fluffy and the pillows just perfect. The linen was pure luxury and Hubby suggested we find out where it is from, which is saying something as bed linen is my domain and definitely not his! We took the morning slow, with complimentary ginger biscuits to tide the girls hunger until our scheduled breakfast. The shower was really powerful and the complimentary shower products left my hair and skin smelling and feeling amazing. The girls also explored outside where some more animals were there to greet them.
Our breakfast was booked for 9:15am in the Port Lympne Restaurant & Bar which is located inside the mansion house near the hotel. The mansion is seriously grand and absolutely stunning. The restaurant room was entirely decorated from head to toe with paintings of animals. P2 requested we sit by the tigers. The lighting was pretty dark but it gave a old fashion feel to the experience. At first we had the whole room to ourselves. There is a lovely selection of cereals and fruit for you to help yourselves with, and of course some juice drinks. The girls had a little fry up between them and Hubby and I also picked a Full English breakfast too. We were actually surprised at the size of the adult meal and Hubby had to order a second one for him to satisfy his hunger. The food was really well presented and very yummy, it fueled us for our busy day.
We took another drive around the reserve on our golf buggy after breakfast before heading back to the Shepherd Huts at Hog Deer Creek. Check out time is 11am which is definitely a preferred checkout time for us as a family. We packed up our many belongings, why does it always feel like I pack for a month when we go for just one night?! More animals had arrived at the water hole to entertain the children whilst we were busy. I felt sad about leaving. This trip had been honestly magical and such an amazing experience to be staying among the animals. It definitely had to be the next best thing to a safari abroad in Kenya surely?
When you book a short break at Port Lympne you get free entry to Port Lympne and their sister park, Howlett’s from the time they open on your day of arrival and the time it closes on the day of departure. With this in mind, and the fact we had seen everything at Port Lympne, we decided to head to Howlett’s once we had checked out. The girls first wanted to spend some time in the dinosaur themed play area which we hadn’t had the chance to do the day before. Both P2 and P3 were a little grumpy most likely from the disturbed night they had.
Howlett’s is not far from Port Lympne. It took us about 30 minutes to get there. P2 and P3 fell asleep and I felt positive that we would now have a nice day out as a family. The sun was also shining and it felt warm too. I was very wrong. P2 was happier but P3 ended up having a mega tantrum which thankfully we found more amusing than annoying. We worked through it and tried to enjoy our trip at Howlett’s. I do like that animal park as the animals always seem happy and well looked after. The girls really love getting close to the elephants too.
We had a simply amazing short break at Port Lympne. It has made me want to do it all over again. We were able to bond as a family and laugh so much. The short breaks are quite expensive but I can really appreciate why. It costs Port Lympne millions of pounds each year to feed, maintain and look after the reserve and they rely on the visitors to help with the continuation of breeding rare and endangered animals. It’s so important and I now wouldn’t question the cost. We had a brilliant time and you can see a more in depth video of our short break just below this rare moment of P2 and P3 holding hands together.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.