Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve

89 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

June, 2018

Product name

Product country

Product city

Travelled with

Adult family

Reasons for trip

Port Lympne is the larger of the two conservation sites in Kent run by the Aspinall Foundation, a charity whose mission is to halt the extinction of rare and endangered species and, where possible, return them to the wild. Port Lympne’s setting is impressive, a 600 acre hillside site at Lympne, between Ashford and Hythe, with views over Romney Marsh to the sea. This reserve is more commercial than Howletts near Canterbury, its other reserve, with various self-catering places to stay overnight – from small glamping pods to upmarket tree houses – plus a 4-star hotel. Some of the more expensive lodges are built with picture windows onto animal enclosures (not for me!).

Although it’s possible to walk round quite a few paths in this wildlife park to see the gorillas, meerkats, primates and much more, and this is something we’ve done many times, in 2018 we finally decided to do the safari as it was something my (adult) son wanted to do for his birthday (possibly reverting to his youth, but I was keen too!). There is a large free car park at Port Lympne and then access is via a footbridge over the Lympne to Aldington road. This is accessible to wheelchair/buggy users but might prove difficult and battery draining. However, there is an excellent ACCESS POLICY online, so help can be arranged for wheelchair users, even regarding getting round the site as although some paths are tarmac others are covered in woodchips and some are VERY steep.

We were able to book a safari time and then went to walk round the lovely hotel gardens, and to have a closer look at the mansion, although we’d been inside the building years ago, before it was turned into a hotel. There were lots of people enjoying drinks and lunch on the terrace, so we went in and asked at the bar if there was a table free even though we hadn’t booked. A young lady showed us where there were a couple of tables, and we chose one in the beautifully decorated Moroccan courtyard, which was built in the 1920s and is only open in summer. We chose something from the limited lunch menu (one fish, one meat and one vegetarian dish) and then I went back to the bar to order our food and drinks. It was all very pleasant sitting in the shade of the courtyard on such a hot and sunny day, sipping cold drinks, and only one other couple came in while we were there. It was like having a bar meal – we had fish and chips – and was very reasonably priced for such a nice hotel. The hotel restaurant is beautifully decorated with wall paintings of animals and a trip to the toilets gives you a taste of the interior decorations; I imagine it would be a lovely place to stay.

At the allotted time for our safari we went to the boarding point which is just along from the Basecamp cafe, which has sandwiches and a limited choice of hot food; there are obviously toilets here too. We took our place in the queue but when it came to boarding, people with children were allowed on first; which is fair enough; in any case all the seats have good views. NOTE: the steps are steep so those with mobility problems might be better off booking a place on one of the specially adapted trucks on arrival at the Gatehouse) . Pushchairs cannot be taken onto the safari trucks but have to be left in a designaed area. It was a lovely day, and we were soon heading off, past rhinos and lions, giraffes and camels, but there didn’t seem to be elephants there any longer (they’re probably all at Howletts). The truck then went down steep tracks on a circular route with some lovely views of the surrounding countryside with antelopes of some sort grazing on the grassland. Back up the hill past the watering hole which I really liked as there were a lot of animals gathered round it, including zebras. I think if I was ever to stay at Port Lympne I would choose one of the lodges overlooking the watering hole, which I think are the Giraffe Lodges – for adults only. They are glamping tents, but I’d want one with private ensuite facilities (a couple of them appear to have to use facilities in a separate shower block). These lodges include breakfast and an African inspired evening meal, which I like the sound of. The truck stopped near the meerkats for people to get off and others to board to get a lift up the hill. Not far from the stop is the Dinosaur Forest and seasonal catering outlets. We got off here, had a look at the meerkats and then set off back up the hill on foot, to get good views of the red pandas, rhinos, apes, gibbons and langurs, and eventually to the gorillas. The gorilla enclosure at Port Lympne is really impressive, with a large grassed area, making it easy to see the gorillas if they want to be outside; In the winter they stay inside to keep warm, as do a lot of the other animals.

It was a very enjoyable day, though we were lucky with the weather, it was also a weekday and outside of the school holidays. At the beginning of last year Port Lympne Hotel advertised a new restaurant – the Garden Room, which also serves Sunday lunches – the price included access to the wildlife park, but just as I was thinking of booking to go lock-down happened, so I’ll be keeping my eye on the website once Port Lympne is allowed to re-open as I’d love another visit.

“To see opening times, prices and details of accommodation”:https://www.aspinallfoundation.org/port-lympne/


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