The closest you can get to an African safari without leaving the UK!

John Aspinall, a businessman, notorious gambler and wildlife enthusiast, once won a park in a card game. Realising a lifelong dream, he stocked the 100-acre site overlooking the Romney Marshes with his favourite Indian and African wildlife. His theory – give animals enough space and a close proximity to their natural patch and they will breed. His proof – restocking the Gobi Desert with the once-extinct wild horses from his very own park.

All these years later, the Aspinall Foundation is lauded for its exemplary conservation work, both here and overseas. Without this charity's tireless efforts, who knows how long some of the planet's most endangered species would be around for.

Thankfully, you needn't schlep to the African bush to gander at gibbons and leer at lemurs. Through years of hard work, the good people at the Aspinall Foundation have carefully cultivated this beautiful patch of our nation's very own 'garden' into the Serengeti plains. What's more, you can have your run of the place with a combined stay in the the über luxurious onsite accommodation.

Adjoining the wildlife park, Bear Lodge comprises 13 luxurious safari lodges (to call them tents would be a disservice) housed around the central Club House. These opulent tented abodes overlook the park's elephant and cheetah paddocks. Consider the morning grunts and snorts nature's own wake-up-call. The sunrises are well worth it anyway, with a stunning backdrop of far reaching views to the chalky Kent coast and beyond the English Channel to France (on a clear day of course).

Each of the double, luxury safari tents (all sleeping 8) are complete with open-air veranda, heating, carpets, beds, duvets, and fluffy dressing gowns. There’s even a cupboard to hang up clothes and a writing desk, should your inner Joseph Conrad  wish to pen a letter home. Private showers and toilets (including for disabled) come attached. There’s also a communal canvas-covered lounge with fire pit, aka the ‘lapa’, for all guests.

There's plenty to do for your little rangers. Should they tire of spotting all the exotic wildlife (unlikely), the African Experience and Basecamp play areas provide an abundance of ropes and frames to monkey around on.

With more wild animals than Noah's Ark, plus an excellently eclectic restaurant (Mongolian Fish Grill, anyone?) and evening entertainment, you really won't want for much here. As the song goes, "it means no worries, for the rest of your days". Hakuna Matata indeed.

Our favourite spot

Glampers – yes. Everyone else (including dogs) – no. Infants are welcome, however please be aware the lodge do not provide cots or linen

The local area

Well, if you really must... the iconic ancient city of Canterbury lies just 3 miles north of Howletts. Further north, you'll find the unspoilt shores of vibrant Whitstable – famous for its lively fish market and restaurants. Nearer to Lympne, pebble Hythe Beach offers a more peaceful option for seaside strolling. Kent isn't known as the Garden of England for nothing – the 500 sprawling acres of parkland and glorious gardens at Leeds Castle are well worth a visit.    

Best local places to eat and drink

A complimentary Kentish Breakfast Basket is included for guests. While you can't cook in the tent (tea and coffee making facilities only), the central Club House restaurant has an extensive range of dishes (including 'cubs' menu'), with locally sourced ingredients and suppliers used throughout. They also do themed-cuisine nights (including African, Asian and Mongolian), plus the 'Ultimate Club Sandwich Challenge' for those with a lion's appetite.

Why stay with us?

The Port Lympne and Howletts Wild Animal Parks are among Europe's most well respected wildlife reserves. The Aspinall Foundation's exemplary conservation programme has ensured the successful captive breeding and preservation of many endangered species including various species of primate, lions, tigers, rhinos, bison and the curious binturongs. Guests at Bear Lodge have free entry to both parks meaning you can enjoy the monthly themed trails and safaris, guided walks and conservation talks.

13 luxury safari tent lodges, each sleeping 8. All have private shower and toilet facilities, woodburning stove, bed linen, electric lighting & heating, storage. Campfires not permitted.

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