We were quite excited by our visit to the park. It had come recommended (although if I can remember by whom I may have to hunt them down and beat them!).
Our day started with a "safari" ride on one of their huge old army trucks. They had loads of them, and it was were all of the early birds into the park headed first... So they must be really good?
A few minutes into the trip and we realised just how bad this part of the zoo experience was going to be. Our guide / driver (who seemed to be struggling to actually drive the vehicle) didn't explain much on the way around, mostly staying silent which meant some people on the truck didn't even notice some of the animals. I can deal with that though as we were there to photograph not necessary to learn about the animals.
First up was the cheetah enclosure, with the cheetahs on full display, all huddled together with their newly born cubs. What a wonderful thing to see... or not. The truck didn't stop, or for that matter even slow down. Within 10 seconds the cheetahs had come and gone without time to even consider raising the camera to my face to attempt to take a photo.
Disappointed. Very Disappointed.
That set the pattern for the rest of the bumpy (or in their words authentic African experience, which really means "we can't be bothered to fix the pot holes") 30 minute "safari". We saw elephant, zebra, ostrich, wild hunting dogs, but at no point other than to go through the gates did the truck stop.
At the top we stopped for refreshments. The tea with its UHT milk was awful. I threw half of it away. We even looked for a supervisor or manager to complain to, but couldn't find anyone.
The trip back down the hill was a bit better, with a more experienced guide / driver who actually gave a damn good commentary on what we were seeing. He still didn't stop though, and being sat on the right side of the truck meant your view of all of the animals on the way down was through the heads of the people on the left.
I had a little chat to our second driver about the first one not stopping. He explained that he was following the park policy to the letter.
Smacks hand on head in disbelieve. I didn't want to stop for long at each of the animals, perhaps just 30 seconds or a minute. We'd paid quite a bit to get into the park with the intention of seeing the animals properly.
I never got to talk to a manager while there, as there seemed little point.
From what I can see the zoo is more intent on up-selling their premium price experiences than they are to providing a decent experience to their regular paying guests. Perhaps this works quite well for them. Sadly it didn't work well for any of us. None of us were quite able to believe just how appallingly wrong they had got the "safari" part of the day.
To close, if you're looking for somewhere to go to photograph the animals. Avoid Port Lympne!
The following pictures were taken each and every time the truck came to a stop. I've also included an awesome photo of an ostrich taken while the truck was in motion. The final image of one of the gorillas sums up perfectly what we all thought of the "safari" part of the day.