Hens on Safari – Wearing it Wild!

Yesterday was WWF’s Wear It Wild day where you can ‘dress to express your wild side’ all in the name of saving the planet and the endangered wildlife that inhabits it. I kept it fairly subtle and wore an elephant print top and elephant necklace (which you can see on my new instagram account) but I did donate money to the charity.

Although I kept my clothing low key, the idea reminded me of some other occasions where I expressed my wild side through my fashion choices.

kangaroo-onesie

This was taken at a New Years Eve party with a onesie dress code. I’m not really a onesie sort of person but I couldn’t resist this one – complete with a little joey in the pouch! And surprisingly, unlike most cosplay and fancy dress items, I have worn it more than once! The kangaroo onesie got another outing on my hen weekend.

Hen nights/weekends are meant to be wild – this usually means strippers, L plates and willy straws. But me being me, wild took on a totally different meaning at my hen weekend. We went glamping in a zoo! A unique experience for any animal lover. It’s not every day you’re woken up by the sound of an ostrich shaking it’s tail feather!

The weekend took place at the award-winning Livingstone Lodge at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent. We arrived at the zoo late afternoon and checked in at Livingstone reception where we were treated to a choice of champagne, Amarula or juice. I love Amarula (South African cream liqueur) so I got straight on that while we waited for the rest of the party to arrive.

Once everyone had arrived, our party of hens (or bachelorettes if you prefer) headed off for a private safari around the zoo, with our rangers, Sandile and Richard who were from South Africa and Zimbabwe and very knowledgeable about the animals. I had done the regular safari at the zoo before but a private safari for just me and my hens was so much better – we saw more animals and it was nice to receive VIP treatment.

The safari ended at where we would be staying the night – Livingstone Lodge, luxury tented safari-style accommodation with spectacular views over the waterhole and across the fields of Kent and the English channel.

livingstone-lodge

view-over-kent-countryside

The tents are all named after wild animals and are either double, triple or twin bed and include toiletries, slippers and bathrobes. Being the Bride, naturally I got given the best tent – the ‘Rhino’ tent which featured a four-poster bed and a prime position right infront of the water hole. And as there were more than 18 of us in my party it meant that we had the whole of Livingstone Lodge to ourselves!

rhino-tent-at-port-lympne

We had a bit of time to settle into our tents before dinner so I took the opportunity to bound around and visit everybody else’s tents dressed in my kangaroo onesie, before getting dressed for dinner and looking like this…

crazy-zebra-woman

My friends and family who came to celebrate with me also donned animal print – everything from onesies to face paint!

Dinner was served in the Laapa (Afrikaans for ‘meeting place’) and to my surprise my bridesmaids had decorated it with animal print balloons and animal print eye masks to go with our hen weekend theme of, you guessed it, animal print.

laapa-at-port-lympne

The laapa was decorated in an African theme, including cool masks on the walls and Amarula lamps on the tables (which I really wanted!).

amarula-lamp

Dinner was an African buffet plus breads and salad for starters, followed by a barbecue cooked on an open pit fire and finished off with dessert and then coffee, truffles and a cheese board. The food was really tasty although what with all the excitement I didn’t eat as much as I should have (same thing happened at my wedding too!) but my friends all raved about how amazing they thought the food was so – my compliments to the chef!

After dinner, my mum and the bridesmaids had organised some hen night games for us and then surprised me with a birthday cake because not only was this my hen weekend and easter weekend, it was also the weekend of my 30th birthday!

safari-birthday-cake

No one could manage the cake after all that food, so we decided to give everyone a piece the next day.

The evening was fun and soon enough it was time to leave the laapa and get some rest for our second safari the following day. It was quite bizarre falling asleep and waking up again in the zoo, but one of the highlights of my whole weekend was watching the animals being fed their breakfast – something you wouldn’t see otherwise. We got to watch feeding time from the verandas at our tents and the decking around the laapa – both very good viewpoints to see all the action below.

breakfast-time-at-the-zoo

view-from-livingstone-lodge

After a delicious breakfast, we boarded our safari truck for the second safari of our stay.

port-lympne-safari-truck

The ranger took us down to see the giraffes where we could all get out of the truck and observe them. The keeper did try to get the giraffes to come over to me but sadly the giraffes were having none of it!

hello-giraffes

giraffes

Once the safari was over, we were reunited with all of our luggage back at Livingstone reception, from there we were free to spend the rest of the day in the zoo at our own leisure, but we didn’t stay too long because it was SO COLD! I had an absolutely amazing weekend but unfortunately the cold weather put a mild dampener on it (I was glad I took that onesie in the end, believe me!). Livingstone Lodge is open from the end of March until October so we happened to be there on the first weekend of the season, which with the unpredictable English weather could be gloriously warm (as it was the year previously) or it could even snow (as it did while we watched the giraffes!). Still, it added to the experience!

I couldn’t fault Port Lympne Wild Animal Park at all – The Aspinall Foundation who run the zoo work hard to promote animal conservation through captive breeding as well as education, and the charity is “a pioneer in the reintroduction of endangered species to protected areas of the wild”. The rangers that looked after us on our experience were knowledgeable people who had previously worked in various parks and game reserves across Africa. The lodges were clean and beautifully furnished, the food was delicious and the animals all seemed genuinely happy and well cared for.

I would do this again in a heartbeat – but perhaps pick a warmer month next time!

For your own wild weekend check out The Aspinall Foundation website. Prices vary depending on time of year.

hens-on-safari

National Black Cat Day

I learnt something new today. October 30th is National Black Cat Day.

Now there seems to be a National Day Of Something-Or-Other every day – everything from awareness days for serious causes to random stuff like Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19 if yar be interested, arr!) and I don’t normally pay too much attention to these sorts of things BUT I adopted a black cat this year so now National Black Cat Day is something that speaks to me.

Why do black cats get their own special day?

Because they are the least adopted colour of cat, generally because of superstition because people believe them to be unlucky, but also because in this vanity and selfie-obsessed society, they are deemed to be “less photogenic”. Black cats are the last ones to be adopted because people favour other coloured cats and according to Cats Protection, black cats make up almost a quarter of all cats in Cats Protection care.

It does puzzle me that this national day is the day before Halloween, when I’m pretty sure that some animal shelters halt black cat adoptions during October to prevent people just adopting them for ‘Halloween props’, I’m guessing that’s why there is also a Black Cat Appreciation Day in August too!?

Let me tell you a few things about black cats-

1. They are NOT unlucky
2. They are NOT Halloween props
3. Ok so they might be a little more tricky to photograph but they are stunning creatures all the same

We adopted our 2 year old cat Rodney from our local Cats Protection centre and he is a proper little character. He is a very chatty cat, enjoys his food, enjoys our food (he stole a jacket potato skin from my plate the other day!), he looks smart in red and his favourite tv show is You’ve Been Framed!

How can you not love that face?!

If you have space in your house and your heart, why not consider adopting a black cat? Or alternatively, donate to the Cats Protection.

cats-protection-lucky-black-cat

Charities: The Henna Cafe and Right Tourism

In my last post, I mentioned a couple of the charities that were exhibiting at the Destinations Show at Earl’s Court. Well, as promised, here is a little more about them…

The Henna Cafe

I love henna tattoos. They’re perfect for those who are too indecisive and fickle to get a real tattoo (i.e. me). So when I visited Marrakech, all set to get one,  I was a little disappointed to learn that the henna used by the ladies on the square is toxic. I was even more disappointed to learn, upon my return home, about a place in Marrakech where the henna is safe and where you are also helping the local community by spending your money there. Not disappointed that it exists obviously, just miffed that I wasn’t aware of such place until it was too late!

The Henna Cafe is, as the name might suggest, a place where you can come and have a henna tattoo done whilst grabbing a bite to eat. But not only that, the money they make goes towards educating the local people to help them have a better life. There are many free courses available to those in the local community who need them and the lovely lady who drew me a beautiful tattoo at the Destinations Show even told me how the cafe is trying to educate the henna ladies on the square of Marrakech that they will receive more business if they stop using the toxic henna, they even gave them free (safe) henna to use.

If you are going to Marrakech, then you’d do no wrong by visiting the cafe and it is just a pity I can’t speak from first hand experience here. Nonetheless, if I find myself in Marrakech again I will be sure to stop by!

Getting a henna tattoo at the Destinations Show
Getting a henna tattoo at the Destinations Show

Right Tourism

Right Tourism are a charity that promote awareness of “Responsible, Informed, Guilt-free & Humane Tourism”. Their website is there to advise you of potential animal exploitation that occurs all around the world in tourist hotspots, while their aim is to inform and guide you into hopefully making a guilt-free and responsible decision about the activities you choose to partake in on holiday. Put it this way, most of us would shun going to see a bullfight because we know that it is a cruel sport, but what about the stuff you don’t see?

If you look up Morocco on the Right Tourism website, you will learn that the snake charmers of Jemaa el Fna keep their snakes (who are often endangered species captured from the wild) in very poor conditions – without water, food or a good standard of hygiene. It comes as no surprise to learn that these creatures have a high mortality rate.

The monkey men of Jemaa el Fna are no better, the monkeys are kept in cramped cages and often suffer from heat stroke and illness because of the poor conditions and the hot temperatures. They are also kept on chains for when the ‘owner’ wants to throw the monkey on an unsuspecting tourist – thus forcing the tourist to part with their cash in order to have the monkey removed from their shoulder.

Luckily, on this occasion I was well aware of the snake charmers and monkey men so kept well away. If you visit Marrakech, then do avoid them, those men don’t deserve your money. And be sure to check out the Right Tourism website so you can be fully informed of animal welfare issues before you travel.