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You're having a giraffe! New arrivals at Chessington.You're having a giraffe! New arrivals at Chessington.
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Zufari at Chessington
Catherine Whyte took her children to Chessington World of Adventures to try out the park’s newest addition
I have never been on safari. Not for me the bumpy rides in open-topped jeeps, not for me the hours staked out by the watering hole, not for me nocturnal slumbers punctuated by faceless grunts and roars from the distant savannah plains.
That all changed last week. Well, sort of. Chessington World of Adventures brought out the big guns (not literally, obviously, because that would be wrong, very wrong) to mark the opening of its new Zufari – Ride Into Africa attraction.
According to David Smith, Chessington’s divisional director, this latest stage in the park’s development “is the biggest thing for 20 years.” The new 22-acre site comprises a third of the park’s size – quite a sizeable amount when you come to think about it.
Five new species have been shipped in from zoos around the country to fill the virgin Chessington savannah including flamingos, giraffes, Nile Lechwe (a sort of horned antelope), blesbok (another sort of horned antelope) and a gang of beefy rhinos. By the way, if you want to know how you ship a giraffe from one place to another, watch the video below. It’s very cute and a great prelude to the trip for the kids.
Being England, it was hardly the weather for going out on safari. Puddles massed as the rain fell. Happily, as all parents know, it takes more than a few drops of freezing rain to dampen a child’s spirits. Queuing however, is another matter. So make sure you download the free Zufari app – it’ll keep your kids amused, and you’ll retain your sanity.
Following a surprisingly entertaining introductory video starring a highly intelligent Meercat (no, not Sergei), we were loaded onto the large safari truck like cattle to the slaughter. After wrestling, for what seemed like an eternity, with mine and my children’s super fiddly seat belts, trying to avoid sitting on a wet patch on the seat and stashing my bag somewhere dry (safaris and the entrapments of modern parenting do not go well) the truck bounced off along a rugged, pot holed road.
Mmmm. This is actually quite authentic I thought to myself, as we lumbered along, passing a nervous-looking zebra, who found himself sandwiched between the truck and some bushes. We got a really good look at him.
Mmmm. Yes, quite authentic – and strangely thrilling. There is something vastly appealing about seeing these animals up close (and not in a cage). Though I wasn’t expecting such a close encounter with the rhino, who seemed displeased at having its evening stroll interrupted by a gaggle of clueless tourists. He stopped and stomped and snorted and did all those things that grumpy rhinos do. Which is fine if you are viewing it from the comfort of your sofa, but when the beast is only a matter of metres away… I was terrified. The kids thought it was hilarious and called me a wimp. Cheers.
So, there you have it. I really enjoyed our really wild adventure, but we were lucky, the animals were close and wanted to play. Just like a real safari there’s no guarantee that they’ll be in the close vicinity. There’s more to the ride (which involves water and getting wet), but you can guess that from the posters.
If you want the full experience, you could stay at the safari-themed hotel (yes, it’s a Holiday Inn) and enjoy your breakfast while looking out over the Chessington grasslands. You may even find yourself woken from your slumbers by noises from the nearby watering hole – and I don’t mean the hotel bar.
Entry to Zufari is included in the main entrance price.
Height restrictions apply (children under 1.1 metres will not be allowed on board). Children under 1.3 metres must be accompanied by an adult.