Just a few minutes from Southampton Airport is Marwell Wildlife, which houses an impressive variety of large and small animals in modern enclosures. It’s popular with small children and adults alike, with enough going on to keep the whole family interested for hours.
An even 3km path, perfect for pushchairs, takes you around the park, or there’s a choice of the tractor pulled or steam train, to take you from one spot to another. Animals you can expect to see are penguin, leopard, giraffe, ostrich, tiger, Meerkat, Rhino, Lemur, Zebra, as well as smaller animals in ‘tropical world’ and a variety of birds.
We were particularly impressed by ‘World of Lemurs’ where there were many different types and they were active and obviously very happy playing in their surroundings. However, in our opinion the Giraffes stole the show. Their sheer size has you stood in silenced wonder, as they move about in their inside and outside enclosure. We were lucky enough to catch feeding time and seeing so many of these animals together, including some young babies (still around 6 foot!) was mesmerising. Watching Giraffes is one of the most relaxing things I’ve ever done.
During our visit we took two of the regular talks, one about the Meerkats and the other the Penguins. Each took place at the animal’s enclosures giving us the opportunity to keep watching the animals whilst also listening to the talks. The talks are aimed at children and are delivered with enthusiasm and plenty of references to the behaviour visitors can see the animals exhibiting, which helps keep young ears interested. The talks lasted around 15 minutes.
Dotted around the park are small food and drink outlets with the main café located close to the ever popular Meerkats. The café serves a good range of cold and hot items, with all the usual kids favourites like beans and sausages, but with the unexpected addition of items such as stuffed butternut squash or chicken stuffed with Roquefort, cheddar and fig. With a drink, an adult’s hot meal comes to around £10. On a nice day there are plenty of grassy areas to spread out and picnic on, otherwise there are two enclosed marquees where you can take and eat your picnic.
Look out for special events at the park. We visited during Halloween, and along with spooky decorations around the park, they had turned the train into a ghost train, complete with spooky passengers and were offering pumpkin carving for £5 per pumpkin. All the tools and tuition were provided in a special area that was well attended with staff ready to help.
Marwell Wildlife is open every day (except Christmas and Boxing Day) from 10am. For further information visit http://www.marwell.org.uk/.