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 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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
The laapa was decorated in an African theme, including cool masks on the walls and Amarula lamps on the tables (which I really wanted!).
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!
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.
After a delicious breakfast, we boarded our safari truck for the second safari of our stay.
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!
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.