How to en­ter­tain the grand­chil­dren

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We live in one of the most unique and beau­ti­ful parts of the coun­try which has so much to of­fer. This month we be­gin a new series of ‘Grand Days Out’ cel­e­brat­ing life across Nor­folk and Suf­folk and vis­it­ing some won­der­ful fam­ily at­trac­tions ideal for a day out with the grand­chil­dren. The series starts with Derek and Brid­gette James tak­ing their grand­son Gabriel and his friend Sahid to Africa Alive! near Low­est­oft.

Ihad just re­turned from Africa proper when I de­cided to go back ... and this time the jour­ney took less than an hour and I didn’t need any anti-malaria tablets. Rather than a long and te­dious jour­ney by road, air and of­ten river, this was a far more com­fort­able ad­ven­ture out to the wild, wild east.

Of course, I had heard about Africa Alive! but I never felt in­clined to ac­tu­ally go and take a look for my­self. Even after I’d re­tired.

There was noth­ing like this in Nor­folk or Suf­folk when I was a boy. I re­mem­ber once go­ing to a zoo some­where to see large an­i­mals in small cages and I felt so sorry for them. I found the whole ex­pe­ri­ence very de­press­ing and vowed never to re­turn.

In fact, the only place I re­mem­ber vis­it­ing which I en­joyed were ‘The Snails’ at Great Yar­mouth. Not real ones, but those at Joy­land. Oh, and the boat­ing lake at Low­est­oft, where the man would shout: “Come in num­ber nine. Your time is up”. And then wade out to drag you back if you went in the wrong di­rec­tion.

Never in a mil­lion years did I think I would be wan­der­ing around Africa Alive! with my four-year-old grand­son run­ning ahead shout­ing: “Grandpa, look at this. It’s Africa”. And it was. Well, put it this way, I saw more an­i­mals and other won­der­ful crea­tures in one af­ter­noon at Kess­ing­land than I saw in a week in real Africa re­cently.

From the mo­ment we ar­rived I was most im­pressed with Africa Alive!

I was sur­prised at the size of the place, the ex­cel­lent lay-out, how good it looked and how well the an­i­mals were looked after.

Africa Alive! and Ban­ham Zoo are part of the Zoo­log­i­cal So­ci­ety of East Anglia which is a char­ity ded­i­cated to ed­u­ca­tion and an­i­mal wel­fare. From what I could see they are do­ing a bril­liant job. Some of the an­i­mals in their care are among the most en­dan­gered in the world and they are in­volved with con­ser­va­tion and schemes to safe­guard them.

“This way, Grandma,” said Gabriel as he led us on a guided tour of the park – yes, he had been be­fore and was proud to show us round.

As we started our tour my

thoughts of sit­ting in the cafe with a sand­wich and a cof­fee while oth­ers walked around were put on hold.

Apart from hav­ing no ele­phants, Africa Alive! re­ally does have so much to of­fer. Rare and fas­ci­nat­ing an­i­mals in five-star ac­com­mo­da­tion. They are among the lucky ones, com­pared with so many I have seen in Africa – dy­ing in the wild. Lions, rhi­nos, gi­raffes, chee­tahs, buf­falo, ze­bra, pri­mates, meerkats, por­cu­pines and so many more ... they are the stars of this grand at­trac­tion.

And what makes this place so spe­cial is the way it wel­comes chil­dren. For ex­am­ple, our young com­pan­ions loved find­ing eight ‘sta­tions’, col­lect­ing stamps and then get­ting a medal on the way out.

Africa Alive! has 1,000 an­i­mals in 100 acres of park­land and is an ab­so­lute joy to visit.

There are lemur en­coun­ters, a free road train, colour­ful birds, in­door and out­door play ar­eas, daily feed­ing talks where the friendly staff talk to chil­dren, not at them.

Dur­ing the sum­mer there will be dis­plays by the Mighty Zulu Na­tion The­atre Troupe and there is an awe-in­spir­ing re-cre­ation of the African sa­van­nah where the an­i­mals roam freely to­gether.

Oh yes, then there are ‘On the Day Ex­pe­ri­ences’, such as Meet the Meerkats and Meet the Aard­varks ... and the Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre. I missed that.

As we were leav­ing with our grand­son proudly clutch­ing his medal, he asked: “Grandpa, can we come back?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I think we should.”

I loved it. As they say: Chirp, roar or squawk - it’s Africa Alive!

For more in­for­ma­tion, see the web­site www.africa-alive.co.uk or call 01502 740291.

There is plenty of space to walk and play.

Young Gabriel learn­ing to play the jun­gle drums at Africa Alive!

Al­ways a high­light - the gi­raffes at Africa Alive!

If you run out of steam are plenty be­fore your of benches grand­child ren do, there where you can gather your breath!

Reg­gie the Lion mak­ing friends with Gabriel at Africa Alive!

A grand day out. Derek and Brid­gette James with grand­son Gabriel and his friend Sahid.

Sahid and Gabriel in Farm­yard Cor­ner.

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