Howletts Wild Animal Park – Animals of the Ice Age Exhibit
By Angela Clark
A visit to the conservation charity, Howletts Wild Animal Park offers a fabulous day out for the whole family…. and it has just got even better following the opening of their new Animals of the Ice Age exhibit!
We spent a really enjoyable day at Howletts (pretty much 8 hours!) which is located in the beautiful countryside on the outskirts of Canterbury, Kent. With our children aged 6 and 4, and their grandparents who are pushing 70 – could we all have a wonderful and memorable day out with something for everyone?? Well yes… and some!
Howletts is situated in a woodland setting which is beautifully landscaped in keeping with the natural environment and we love the amount of space available to the animals…. and what a selection of animals they have: African Elephants (my daughters favourite), Lions, Rhinos, Tigers, Wolves, Lemurs, Ant Eaters and vast array of primates including the amazing Gorillas. There are so many more I could mention, the most popular phrases of day were “Mummy, look at this” and “look at the cute babies” as the children ran in amazement from one enclosure to another.
Animals of the Ice Age exhibit
New to Howletts this year, is their Animals of the Ice Age exhibit, beautifully set amongst the trees within the Woodland Walk. As soon as we told the children about this, they were desperate to get there. They’ve seen the Ice Age movies and so were very excited at the prospect of seeing a Woolly Mammoth! (I did of course explain they were extinct…. then had to explain what that actually meant!!) We have been to a number of similar dinosaur exhibits that are popping up at attractions across the UK, but this is a great new twist on that – offering the chance to appreciate the size and variety of animals that roamed the earth during the Ice Age. We were of course expecting the woolly mammoth, but as for the other animals…. well who knew? We all loved it…. Such a variety of animals; including Megatherium (slothbearthing climbing a tree) and a Sabre Toothed Tiger – most of which you certainly wouldn’t want to come across on a dark night! Many of them were huge, and as the children ran from one to another with more ‘wow’ moments we were able to enjoy their excitement whilst learning more about these magnificent beasts from a different time. The information boards were very interesting – Daddy and Grandad were taking their time reading the facts and stats which meant they were the go-to guys for the children’s questions!
For the children it was exciting and inspiring… our 4 year old was desperate for a cuddly woolly mammoth from the shop, which he has taken everywhere since, including to pre-school where he was excited to go and tell his friends all about his day. And yes, Ice Age the movie has been on in our house again!
From an adult perspective it is a unique and interesting exhibit, not only do you get a great insight into the animals of the ice age, you can also appreciate the beauty of the natural environment in which it is set. On previous visits we have walked through this area, but it is certainly improved by the presence of a humongous ice age bear propping himself up against a tree!!
As we emerged from the Animals of the Ice Age exhibit we were presented with an inviting play area which the children adored. It is set amongst some trees, in keeping with the park, and offers children of all ages the opportunity to climb, swing and balance… trying to copy some of the lemurs moves! There is also a sand pit and a little wooden house, which become our children’s fish & chip shop!
The park is large, and there is a fair bit of walking to do, but the paths are well maintained, it would be very accessible for prams and wheelchairs, and the good signage makes sure you don’t get lost. Our 4 year old did need to be carried a little towards the end of the day, but still had the energy to run around when he saw something he wanted to check out, or of course when he saw the gift shop!!
Eating At Howletts Wild Animal Park
In a wild animal park of this size, and over the course of an 8 hour visit the refreshment options were of course very important to us! We had lunch in the main Pavilion Restaurant, followed by ice cream from one of the many smaller stands and as the sun finally made an appearance in the late afternoon, it felt like a good time to sit outside a smaller outlet for coffee and cake (We needed an energy boost for the last couple of hours)!! The quality and variety of the food we had throughout the day was very good and we felt the prices were reasonable. The Pavilion Restaurant offered a wide variety of options, from roast pork dinners and Thai curry, through to jacket potatoes, paninis and of course children’s meals of the hot and lunch box varieties. There was also a very fresh salad bar, which was great as you don’t always have healthy options available at such attractions.
Alternatively, if you want to take a picnic, there are what seemed to be a vast number of picnic tables in various parts of the park and open green space if you bring a rug! You didn’t have to walk too far to come across a refreshment outlet, a picnic area or toilet facilities which was fabulous – especially when you are in a larger group… there is always someone who wants something!! We found the toilet facilities to be of a good standard with plenty of baby changing options across the park, if you need them.
If you are looking for activities for older kids or things to do with toddlers in Kent, we thoroughly recommend visiting here. We had a fabulous day at Howletts Wild Animal Park – we have talked about it a lot since, and have all certainly made some great memories! As for the children’s favourite parts of the day – For our 4 year old it was the Ice Age exhibit (so he loved the pretend animals over the real ones!) But as for our 6 year old? It was watching a Gorilla vomit the huge amount of green leaves he had just been eating… but it gets better…. he then proceeded to eat said vomit!! I could hang my head in shame, but hey that’s 6 year olds for you!!! Thankfully, we have no photographic evidence of this, it’s just etched in my brain!
For latest prices to Howletts Wild Animal Park – see here.
For more days out with the kids in Kent see here.
Disclosure: We were invited to visit Howletts and the Ice Age Exhibit in return for our opinion on the attraction. All views are the writer’s own.