YOU don’t need to fly to Africa to go on safari when there’s a whole, wild world right on your doorstep.
Knowsley Safari Park at Prescot has been a major attraction in the North West for almost 43 years.
Since mid-summer 1971, Knowsley has been home to exotic species and attracted millions of visitors eager for a close look at white rhinoceros, giraffes, big cats, monkeys, zebra and elephants - which can be enjoy from the comfort of a vehicle on a meandering route through the rolling parkland around Knowsley Hall.
So, on a sunny Wednesday afternoon we rolled up for a Safari adventure conveniently situated less than a mile from the M57 motorway junction with the A58.
Heading for the busy funfair my two grandsons were intrigued by the miniature railway providing visitors with a convenient mode of transport but it wasn’t long before they’d opted for animal attractions.
Though they’re used to handling crickets, which eventually become the diet of their bearded dragon at home, they opted to keep out of the Bug House and headed for the below ground level walkway where they watched the graceful, flowing movements of the sea lions from a viewing window in the side of their pool.
Then it was time for a helping of ‘Simples’ - the Meerkat enclosure where crowds gathered to watch these comical critters either standing upright and wondering what onlookers were staring at, or a less concerned duo squabbling over a tasty morsel.
Time to go up in the world now to the giraffe enclosure and take a few strides upstairs to the giraffe eye-level viewing platform.
Elder grandson Dylan succeeded in getting the 19 foot tall vegetarian to go towards him.
As he reached out to pat the giraffe’s head his four year old brother, Charlie, grabbed him around the waist and pulled him away from the edge of the platform above Rigsby and Oliver’s compound.
Deadly serious, Charlie dragged him back shouting: “Don’t Dylan – it’ll eat you!”, only to be told by his big brother: “Don’t worry, they don’t eat meat!”, much to the amusement of onloookers.
Next it was off to see the massive elephants before we decided it was time to take a five mile tour around the park. We chose to take the risky route through the baboons’ enclosure - although if you value windscreen wipers, aerials and wheel trims you might want to take the friendly route.
But if you choose the more adventurous option you’re in for a treat watching the antics of tiny baby baboons swinging onto your roof like Olympic gymnasts.
You can choose to ride on the baboon bus and watch them frolic at close hand without any risk to your own vehicle.
Our journey took us on a tarmac driveway through fields where rhino and antelope roam and zebra graze.
Look out for Maria and Morena, two beautiful Iberian wolves, who are now in their new 6.000 square metre enclosure.
Vulture viewing, birds of prey displays, a woodland walk, keeper talks and dining, coffee house and a large souvenir shop are all part of the Knowsley experience.
For those who like to keep a regular eye on the animals it’s worth investing in a season ticket which can save you pounds on the normal admission price.