Though nothing can beat seeing animals in their natural habitat, safari parks can be a great substitute when time, money and other circumstances get in the way of your dream trip. Visiting a safari park in the UK can also be a good introduction to safaris for children and other first-timers, as well as a more ethical choice of day out for animal lovers than the zoo.
In this post, we explore the UK’s best safari parks to help you support conservation from the comfort of home.
The UK’s Best Safari Parks
Longleat Safari Park
Set in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside, Longleat Safari Park is a really family-friendly day out. In the main park, you can walk past enclosures housing everything from creepy crawlies to wild cats and primates.
At certain times of the day, you can join a jungle cruise out onto the estate’s huge lake where, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a pair of hippos in the shallows and the silverback lowland gorilla and his family on the island in the centre. Keep your eyes peeled! As part of the trip, you’ll also have the chance to feed the resident sea lions who splash and swim alongside the boat in hopes of gobbling down some fish.
Of course, the highlight of any trip to Longleat is the self-drive safari. Yes, Wiltshire’s plains are home to 3 of the big 5: lions, rhino and Anne the elephant, as well as cheetah, wolves, tigers and deer. As long as you drive safely and keep your windows closed, the animals are well accustomed to vehicles and can treat you to some incredible encounters.
Other experiences available at Longleat include giraffe feeding, a lemur walk-through and monkey mayhem, where the rhesus macaques are free to clamber all over your vehicle and remove whatever takes their fancy! You might decide to take the safari bus for this exact reason…
Longleat is committed to conservation right across the world. From breeding programmes to help restore populations of wild dogs and black rhinos in Tanzania to funding the conservation work of the Red Panda Network in Nepal, Longleat relies on donations and purchases from its visitors to support this critical work. By visiting, you’ll be doing a world of good!
My personal favourite safari park in the UK is Port Lympne in Kent. This game reserve is the closest you’ll get to Africa in the UK, thanks to its safari drives and various lodge-style accommodation to stay overnight in for the ultimate experience.
You can find out more about my own stay in the Port Lympne Hotel over on my travel blog, Would Be Traveller, next!
There are enclosures in the main park, housing beautiful animals like lynxes, gorillas and brown bears, as well as lions, tigers and cheetahs in larger pens. You can visit each of these areas on foot, and I recommend timing your visits alongside the programme of ranger talks. These give you the opportunity to hear more about the incredible animals and ask any questions you can think of!
Like Longleat, there are wide open plains that are home to giraffes, zebra and antelope, but the only way to see them is by joining one of the tours, where an experienced guide takes you and a group of others out into the wild on a safari canter. You’ll be lucky enough to see these animals roaming free (or as free as is possible in the Kent countryside), as well as rhinos, elephants, wild dogs and other rare species behind fences.
What makes this place really special is the Aspinall Foundation’s link to conservation efforts in Africa and beyond. Port Lympne has a hugely successful breeding programme that has returned various animals to the wild, including five eastern black rhinos, two cheetahs and over 60 gorillas.
At each enclosure, you’ll be able to read whether the animals inside are candidates for reintroduction, and there are dedicated teams at the park who will be more than willing to tell you more when you visit.
Woburn Safari Park
Over 80 rare and endangered species call Bedfordshire home, and you’ll be able to see them all at Woburn Safari Park.
Much like other UK safari parks, your visit may begin with a drive-through safari that will take you on a journey across the globe. From the comfort of your own car, you will drive across plains and through grassland to see rare horses, bison, wildebeest, camels, southern white rhino, buffalo, giraffe, monkeys and zebra.
Of course, my favourite area at Woburn Safari Park is the Kingdom of the Carnivores. Here, you could see Amur tigers, timberwolves, black bears and lions, each species separated into their own enclosures large enough that you’d still need to be lucky to spot them.
Once you have completed your 60-minute loop of the self-drive, your visit will be far from over, as your foot safari treats you to sightings of the smaller animals. Think parrots, meerkats, wallabies, otters, lemurs, sea lions, penguins, squirrel monkeys, red pandas and far too many more to mention.
By purchasing a ticket to Woburn Safari Park, you’ll be helping the team to sustain the population of animals kept onsite, as well as funding the critical conservation work they help to fund around the world. Various projects they support include the International Elephant Foundation, the Wildcats Conservation Alliance and Helping Rhinos. All very worthy causes, I’m sure you’ll agree!
Knowsley Safari Park
Knowsley Safari Park near Prescot in Merseyside boasts the UK’s longest safari drive over 550 acres.
Here you’ll have close encounters with African lions, white rhinos and bison from the comfort of your own car. Though if you’re nervous about damage to your vehicle in the baboon enclosure, book a spot on the baboon bus, which is kitted out with climbing ropes and ladders for the baboons to roam free on. You can’t get much closer than that!
There’s even more to see on the foot safari, including Amur tigers, giraffes, meerkats, bush dogs, birds of prey, sea lions and tapir too. What a treat! There are animal talks and shows scheduled throughout the day, so make sure you plan in advance to see everything you want to.
Knowsley has a dedicated conservation team tasked with educating visitors and the wider public about their critical projects. They also work on the ground with endangered species, including monitoring, anti-poaching activities and fixing fences to reduce human conflict in their natural habitats.
West Midland Safari & Leisure Park
This safari park in the heart of the Cotswolds makes a great day out or a holiday in and of itself. A stay in any of the luxury safari lodges promises an incredible encounter with animals including tigers, rhinos and elephants; but with a drive-through safari and village walk also on offer, you’ll have just as good a time without the expensive short break.
The safari drive can be done in your own car or as part of a guided minibus tour, where you’ll see African lions, giraffes, zebra, wild dogs, cheetahs and antelope. There’s also a Wild Asia area housing Indian rhino, swamp deer and blackbucks too.
There is arguably more to see here once you’re out of your car, including lemurs, ostriches, red pandas, hippos, meerkats, penguins, sea lions and… dinosaurs. Yes, really! Animatronic replicas of T-rexes, velociraptors and more growl and roar through the bushes in the Land of the Living Dinosaurs. There really is plenty to see and do here!
You’ll notice ‘Leisure Park’ has been appended to the name, meaning there’s more here than the animals. Virtual reality experiences, rollercoasters, log flumes and more can be found in the Adventure Theme Park, where rides are available for an additional fee.
As perhaps the most theme park-like safari park in the UK, you’d be forgiven for believing this makes conservation less of a priority for West Midland. But that’s far from the truth. From research projects to breeding programmes, your entrance fee and other purchases will be supporting endangered species and biodiversity across the world.
Blair Drummond Safari & Adventure Park
Located just outside Stirling, Blair Drummond is easily one of the best safari parks in the UK, let alone in Scotland!
As well as the famous safari animals like lions and rhinos in the drive-through area, Blair Drummond is also home to a huge variety of rare and fascinating species. Over 300 animals including Highland cattle, red ruffed lemur and llamas can be found on foot, making for a packed and wild day out.
Conservation is an important aspect of Blair Drummond’s work. Since 2014, the park has given over £192k worth of funding to conservation projects, with that money contributing to the salaries of anti-poaching teams, their equipment and fighting deforestation.
So there you have it: The UK’s best safari parks from every corner of the county. Which one will you discover first?