We spent a weekend in Canterbury and whilst we were away we visited Howletts Wild Animal Park as it was really close to where we were staying. We last went to Howletts before kids and couldn’t wait to visit with the children.
What is Howletts Wildlife Park?
Howletts is a wildlife park run by the John Aspinall Foundation. It’s home to 390 animals that live across the 100 acre site. Howletts is known for its encouragement of close personal relationships between staff and animals, and for the breeding of rare and endangered species. When Steve Irwin visited the park in 2004 he described the zoo’s gorillas as “the finest in the world”.
Our visit to Howletts
Howletts has plenty of parking and once inside the park you will walk a great deal but it’s all well paced and with plenty to look at. Plus, the size of the site means that animals have really good size enclosures.
We started our visit seeing a beautiful rhino in a vast enclosure. She watched us with interest and it was lovely to see her happily wandering around. It’s incredible to be able to get up close to such magnificent animals in the UK.
We saw a pair of bongo play fighting in their enclosure and a bunch of dholes that reminded us of really well looked after foxes. They were beautiful.
Our route took us past the new gorilla enclosure which was a fantastic space for the animals to play and explore. It’s lovely that, at Howletts, the younger gorillas and the older ones are kept at separate side of the park to give the older ones more quiet and rest, almost like a retirement complex for the older gorillas.
We saw wolves, tigers and the most playful baboon families that were fantastic to stand and watch. We regularly saw staff in and around the enclosures who made me sure we knew to ask any questions. They were all so friendly and helpful.
The furthest part of Howletts is full of animals in the largest enclosures – antelope, cheetahs, bison and so much more. Plus, you can see the Howletts mansion from a distance, along with where John Aspinall is buried in front of the mansion.
Around the park there are various memorials to staff and keepers who lost their lives at the park in accidents through the years. There’s aren’t many but the memorials stood out as Howletts don’t hide from the accidents, they acknowledge them and take the opportunity to remember the staff involved indefinitely.
We had a rest stop outside the Pavillion Restaurant where there’s a fantastic play area. The children played and we enjoyed hot drinks before having lunch and exploring the rest of the park.
The children loved the Animals of the Ice Age walkthrough, with huge dinosaur sculptures spread through the area, with real animal enclosures in between.
There were dinosaurs followed by wolves, followed by more dinosaurs and gibbons, more dinosaurs and clouded leopards. It definitely made for a different zoo experience!
The last part of our day was spent talking to the elephants. They have a fantastic enclosure with raised seating so you can sit and watch the elephants. When we visited there was a smaller, baby elephant who the children absolutely loved.
Before heading home we saw the lions, lemurs and more clouded leopards. It was a day full of animals and fresh air and one we really enjoyed.
You can find out more about Howletts over on their website and for reference the address is: Bekesbourne Lane, Bekesbourne, Littlebourne, Canterbury, Kent CT4 5EL