These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey. As it stands, hotel stays may be allowed from May 17. Please note our writers visited these places prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
With hopes raised for hotels to reopen in May, holidays feel like an exciting possibility again. And the following places aren’t just for kids – they’re ideal for anyone looking for an overnight safari within the UK. From out-of-hours access, ‘survival skills’ workshops and free tours, to exclusive feeding sessions and mornings where the call of the wild wakes you from your natural slumber, here’s our pick of the best zoo hotels and overnight wildlife parks.
ZSL London Zoo Lodges, London
Stay here for a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of London Zoo. ZSL staff members host guests and are unfalteringly friendly and enthusiastic – expect to leave with an invigorated desire to learn more about the species you encounter. Free access to the zoo during opening hours is included on the first and following day of your zoo stay. A stay at the lion lodges includes three tours. As part of these you’ll visit animals during enrichment and feeding time. Among the animals that guests might encounter are pygmy hippos, African hunting dogs, warthogs, humboldt penguins and aye ayes.
• The best hotels in England
Camp Baboon, Bristol
The Bristol Zoological Society’s Wild Place Project houses a variety of exotic, endangered and mostly African species in a series of enclosures in mature woodland. Camp Baboon was added later, providing family-sized timber cabins that combine home comforts with an outdoor nature experience. Think Jungle Book meets The Hobbit – cosy, unostentatious lodgings that don’t dull the thrill of sleeping amidst the ‘wildlife’. Each group is looked after by a team of ‘rangers’, whose role is to demonstrate a variety of basic survival skills, whittle sticks and answer questions on the animals.
From £298 per night.
Read the full review: Camp Baboon
Durrell Wildlife Camp at Durrell Wildlife Park, Jersey
You can’t beat this location for getting close to nature. Red squirrels gather nuts by your tent, while primates from three continents surround you: howlers from South America, gibbons from Southeast Asia, and lemurs from Madagascar. A stay includes unlimited access to Jersey Zoo, which continues the conservation work started by Gerald Durrell. In this luxury tented camp, pods blend perfectly with the careful planting. Each has its own decked area with loungers, table and chairs, a large bedroom bell tent and an auxiliary bathroom and kitchen tent.
Port Lympne Hotel, Kent
Set within Port Lympne reserve, home to over 700 rare and endangered animals, this ‘safari park hotel’ offers a unique opportunity to sleep at the heart of the Aspinall Foundation’s 600-acre park. Even better: all accommodation profits go to the Foundation’s conservation work. In addition to the restaurant, bar, terrace and gardens, the hotel offers guests complimentary access to Port Lympne reserve and its sister property, Howletts Wild Animal Park (30 minutes’ drive away). Other accomodations at the reserve include lodges, treehouse cabins and bubble lodges.
Read the full review: Port Lympne Hotel
Lookout Lodge at Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire
Timber lodges with beehive-shaped roofs that overlook the establishment’s herd of white rhinos and the chalky Chiltern grasslands. It’s more rustic than the other zoo overnight stays, with shared showers and lavatories rather than en-suites. Stays include a two-course dinner and three private tours when the zoo is closed to the public. Guests might find themselves paying a visit to the bongos at sunset, or feeding the animals their breakfast after tucking into their own.
Contributions by Emma Featherstone, Lesley Gillilan, Gabriella Le Breton & Antonia Windsor