A safari to Africa Alive!
PUBLISHED: 17:12 08 February 2018
Archant © 2017
Awed by giraffes at Africa Alive!
When I met my husband, I had a one-way ticket to New Zealand and no intention of returning. I often think about my Fantasy Parallel Life and imagine it running alongside mine now, like Sliding Doors with less Elton John. I am convinced I’d be a ruddy-faced sailor with a mountain home and a cool pad in the city. My husband’s Fantasy Parallel Life (it’s only fair he has one too) would see him living on a vast ranch in sub-Saharan Africa. He’d live in linen and smudgy tan lines, like Robert Redford in Out of Africa but with less Meryl Streep.
So, naturally enough, we try and influence our children. I buy them books about penguins, glaciers and flightless birds. He buys them toy lions and books about elephants. But let’s face facts: a vulnerable, quivering kiwi can’t stand against a callous crocodile, literally or figuratively. I have spectacularly lost this battle. Our boys are OBSESSED with lions, tigers, elephants and zebras. Their bedding, bags and lunchboxes are covered in jungle prints and they know The Lion King by heart.
Although I haven’t admitted defeat yet (I’ve still got Lord of the Rings and Tim Tam bars up my sleeve), I do concede, temporarily, and as his reward I arranged for us to go to Africa Alive.
On approach to the park, in Kessingland, near Lowestoft, things were feeling decidedly un-African. It’s hard to imagine one needs bobble hats, thermals, scarves and wellies in the savannah, but we layered up and giddied our way into the park.
The absolutely highlight of the trip was seeing Alex’ face light up when he clocked the giraffes. He couldn’t believe it. He stumbled towards them in a trance. It was lovely. We stood in awe for about three and half minutes until another little girl was overheard saying to her dad: “Can we go to the play park now?” and all else was forgotten.
Afterwards we piled on to the Zebra Train but most of the creatures were sheltered in their pens, wise things. It was worth doing the train ride first though (although William declared, it’s “a tractor in disguise”) because it gave us the lie of the land and we could plan our route. The meercats went down a storm with Alex who thought they were hilarious. Husband was bereft there weren’t hyenas but liked the prairie dogs which are seriously sinister- looking things. I liked the porcupines – surprisingly big. William liked the soft play. The lions all had their backs to us like a clique of year nine girls and we couldn’t persuade Alex they were anything other than fluffy sheep: “Dey not lions, dey be sheeps mummy!” They were quite far away.
Friends absolutely swear by Africa Alive and they spend endless sunny days picnicking and gazing at the wide and varied species that roam about. Even a friend who went the day after us saw absolutely loads. I hope you’re lucky enough to see a rhino pee (it’s spectacular.)
William was beside himself because he managed to run faster than a real-life cheetah (it was sitting still) and Alex still can’t believe he’s seen an actual giraffe so it has planted a small seed in their imagination that may grow in to a safari holiday at some stage. That, or whale-watching in New Zealand - I haven’t given up just yet!
Africa Alive! is an African themed park and, with its sister park Banham Zoo, near Diss, a registered charity and part of the Zoological Society of East Anglia. Set in 100 acres of Suffolk countryside it is involved in wildlife conservation around the world and its spectacular Plains of Africa is the perfect place to spot five species of savannah animals, including giraffes and rhinos. See lions from the Lookout Lodge viewing point and the park is also home to amazing primates including lemurs bushbabies, king colobus monkeys and rare golden-bellied mangabeys. There is also a lake, boardwalk, woodland, indoor and outdoor play areas, restaurants and a gift shop.