Pinewood Pods at Port Lympne Zoo

On the morning of Sunday the 13th October, we headed to Port Lympne where we were going to spend the next couple of days. Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve is about a 25 minute drive from our home, the perfect sort of distance away for a short break! Here is my review of how our stay went!

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The Accommodation- Our Pod at the Pinewood Pods facility was lovely. It had the room to sleep four, although in doing so- leaving the pod is definitely made a little more difficult. The bedding and towels were clean. The beds were comfortable and we had more than enough tea and coffee bits and bobs to get us through our stay. The Pods are located right next to the Lion and Tiger enclosures and hearing the Lions, especially Daddy Lion ‘Milo’ throughout the night was magical. The Lions have three beautiful cubs that were born about five months ago, staying so close to them was definitely very special!

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The facilities- Despite the Pod being well cleaned, the toilet and shower block was pretty dirty, not only did it not look clean, but it didn’t smell clean either. We checked out the facilities right after check in, so they were not dirty from use- if anything they should have been cleaned and ready for new guests. The extractor fan was thick with dust. The floors had a fine layer of watered down mud. The pedals on the sanitary bins did not work. The access to the toilet and shower block had steps, meaning that even if you were to stay at the accessibility friendly pod, you wouldn’t necessarily have an access friendly stay.

The Staff – The staff at Port Lympne generally seemed very helpful and genuinely happy to be there. The Safari drivers were fantastic and very knowledgeable. The restaurant and shop staff doted on my daughter and were full of praise for her manners.

The Pinewood Restaurant – When staying at the Pod we decided to bring our own bits and bobs for breakfast- juice, croissants and long life milk for F. I am very glad we did, because a basic dinner of hot dogs and chips for three of us, set us back over £35. I cannot imagine how much we would have spent if we’d had to buy all of our meals, snacks and refreshments there- but based on the prices for four meals at the Pinewood Café alone, we’d be looking at around £140 alone.

The Animals- I wholeheartedly believe that Port Lympne is one of the greatest zoos in the country for conservation efforts. This can be seen in their successful attempts at breeding endangered animals such as Lions, Gorillas and Rhinos. The work they have done to reintroduce animals that have been on the brink of extinction is nothing short of amazing- especially in regards to Silverback Gorillas, over 50 of these beautiful and endangered animals have been sent to wild Congo over the years where they are safe and thriving, all thanks to Port Lympne’s conservation and breeding success. The animals all appear happy, healthy and well cared for. The keepers and staff clearly adore the animals that they work with and see on a daily basis.

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The Safari- The Safari as an experience was excellent. Being able to see the animals wander free, without bars or the conventional confines of an enclosure was fantastic. F wanted to go on it three times and still didn’t tire of the whole experience! Some facts given to us by the three different safari drivers varied, for example “We only have one male giraffe here, if we have more than one, they may swing their necks to fight and this can cause a massive amount of damage, injury and distress to the animals and their enclosures” compared to “We have 4(?) females and 3 males in the giraffe house and surrounding enclosure” .. and “African hunting dogs have a success rate of up to 90% unlike other comparable but larger carnivores like tigers or lions who have a success rate of 20 to 40%” compared to “African hunting dogs have a success rate of up to 90% unlike other comparable but larger carnivores like tigers or lions who have a success rate of 30 to 50%” Leaving us wondering what exactly was true and accurate and what wasn’t. We were also quizzed by one driver on F’s age, when other drivers let babies less then six months on board- the inconsistency in safety information was definitely confusing! I also feel that maybe, like with rides at a theme park, it could be beneficial to warn people about how bumpy the safari is, so they can make an informed decision to ride- especially in case they are pregnant, suffer from back / neck complaints, arthritis, complex pain syndromes or heart conditions.

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Accessibility- Some types of accommodation include a Golf Buggy to use at your leisure throughout the park along a Buggy route, our accommodation unfortunately did not include this. We enquired to see if we could maybe hire a Buggy for the duration of our stay but sadly the reserve only ever has enough buggies to cater for users of higher end accommodation. I feel that if additional buggies could be made available, it could really benefit Port Lympne’s guests with additional mobility needs- the park is particularly hilly and access to manual wheelchairs is a nice option, but putting their use to practice seems almost impossible in a park where even pushing a three year old in their stroller was a struggle.

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We enjoyed our stay and really recommend going if you can find a similar experience at the off peak reduced rate. For the full £200 to be worth spending, the toilet and shower facilities need to at least be clean. As a whole, I feel that if I had paid the full £200 for a nights stay, I would have been disappointed, solely based on how dirty the toilet and shower facilities were. However, as I paid the off peak price of £100, I was very pleased with the value of money for two days park access for two adults and a child, a nights stay in a lovely little pod and unlimited rides on the safari- Realistically I would have been happy to pay up to £150 without extras for this experience! I have been visiting Port Lympne for just under 25 years and have never been disappointed- visiting the animals makes learning about them and their habitats super fun and interactive. I grew up visiting this zoo and I am pleased to be doing the same with my daughter as she grows!

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The Trampolining Trend and Why it’s Actually Amazing!

If there’s one thing little 2 year old Olivia loves, it’s trampolines.

Actually, in all fairness, it’s not just her! Kiera loves it too and she’s about to turn 9. Heck, even I love it and I’m 23!

But there are soooooo many benefits. You might think that trampoline parks are like soft play hell x1000, but they’re actually pretty cool and if you haven’t tried taking the kids out to one, you most definitely should!

We, as a family, are a bit of an expert at trampoline parks. We seem to have tested out quite a few! There’s Airhop in Guildford, Gravity Force in Camberley, and Flip Out in Ashford (they also have locations in Southampton, Basingstoke, Portsmouth, Chatham, Nottingham and more, but Ashford is the only one we’ve sampled!) and I have actually recently bought an annual membership at Gravity Force for me and Olivia! £8 per month for unlimited jumping, excluding their Gravity Fit sessions, but that’s a bargain for me considering how often I take Olivia. It’s easy to make it a weekly thing every weekend and it never loses its charm!

So, why do we love them so much?

First of all, they are nothing like soft play. There are screaming kids, yes, but the kids tend to be slightly older and better behaved, even in the tots sessions! They have far more space to run around in and loads more variety in what they can do. While Olivia loves a soft play, she would always choose to go trampolining over that any day, and so would I!

Although there’s always a risk that someone will end up with bumps or bruises, there are designated ‘court monitors’ dotted about to minimise the risk of any children getting hurt. Unlike at a soft play, you haven’t got to crawl on your hands and knees through a tunnel that’s really only big enough for a 6 year old to track down your crying tot after someone else’s kid has pushed them over!

It’s not just the thrill for the kids that makes them so worthwhile though, there’s actually a huge health benefit to trampolining – it’s an hour of exercise that your children otherwise wouldn’t be getting. And let me tell you, 20 minutes of jumping around or running around after your kids would get you breathing heavy, too! Also, for the kids, it’s 100% fitness disguised as fun, so if you have children who hate anything sporty, I guarantee they would probably not apply that same disgust to trampolining!

I’m not sure about the other parks, but Gravity Force near us also do tailored Gravity Fit sessions which I am yet to try! There are loads of different kinds of fitness sessions, some of which are even suitable for older kids to join in.

I know, you’re thinking ‘why can’t I just get my own trampoline and let the kids run wild?’

You can, but we have our own trampoline in the garden and Olivia still would prefer to go to the trampoline park. They often have foam pits, dodgeball, basketball, and tons of other activities. Plus, outdoor trampolines don’t get used very often in the winter. The trampoline parks we go to are indoors, nice and warm, and again, have so much more space for the kids to run around in!

Not only that, but it’s an hour’s session to get you out of your god forsaken house. I get sick of being stuck indoors and when you have something like this close by, it’s a great idea to get everyone out of the house, away from electronics and loving life.

For us, we really see the benefit because of the age differences between our two girls. Kiera is 8 going on 9 and Olivia is almost 2 and a half, but yet this is somewhere we can take them both and they both love it so much. Yes, there are loads of places we could take both kids, but actually we end up having to split up into two families – me and Olivia, Jamie and Kiera – so that the kids can do things for their age groups.

Husband back home means Daddy Day Care is in session!

Trampolining really is great fun for both of them and Jamie and I can tag team so one of us can sit and have a break, or we can both get involved and have a huge dodgeball fight with both of the kids (mostly aiming at each other).

Do you take your children trampolining? We’d love to hear your experiences!

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