SA­FARI SO GOOD... IN SOUTH WALES!

ADRIAN CAFFERY MEETS A MENAGERIE OF AN­I­MALS WITHOUT THE FUSS OF TAK­ING A TRIP TO AFRICA

Llanelli Star - - Getaway -

MOV­ING the mosquito net to one side, we rolled out of the four-poster bed in our sa­fari tent, ex­cited about the an­i­mal ad­ven­tures that lay ahead.

Later, just a 10-minute drive away, we got up close to some of the area’s mag­nif­i­cent wildlife – gi­raffes, lions, rhi­nos, ze­bras and those lov­able meerkats.

But rather than tak­ing an all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle, we drove there in a Ford Fi­esta. And this wasn’t the plains of Africa, this was Pem­brokeshire in south Wales.

Yet it was as if we were get­ting the full sa­fari ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing our week­end with Celtic Hol­i­day Parks and the nearby Folly Farm Ad­ven­ture Park & Zoo.

Our sa­fari tent cer­tainly did its best to give us a feel for Africa, with a can­vas ex­te­rior, faux fur rugs, wildlife print cush­ions and those mosquito nets.

Un­like the ear­li­est African ex­plor­ers, we en­joyed run­ning wa­ter and full elec­tric­ity, with heaters, a ket­tle, mi­crowave, toaster, gas hob, fridge and even a TV.

In fact, the tent took glamp­ing (glam­orous camp­ing) to a new level with quirky, in­dus­trial light fit­tings, a very spa­cious shower room and Rat­tan fur­ni­ture in the liv­ing area.

The tent was un­usual in having two sto­ries, with a lad­der lead­ing to the sin­gle beds which our two chil­dren were ridicu­lously ex­cited about sleep­ing in.

The qual­ity feel con­tin­ued on the pri­vate deck­ing area where there was a sturdy wooden din­ing set for six, plus ad­di­tional seat­ing and cof­fee ta­bles. Best of all, there was also a large, sunken hot tub.

From the deck­ing, we watched the kids play­ing on the open space op­po­site, and by night we eyed satel­lites and shoot­ing stars in the un­pol­luted skies. We were able to bring the out­side in by sim­ply rolling up the can­vas across the full length of tent – with the only wildlife to fear be­ing field mice!

We were stay­ing at No­ble Court, which is one of three hol­i­day parks in the Celtic fam­ily within close prox­im­ity – the oth­ers be­ing Croft Coun­try Park and Meadow House.

No­ble Court is on the edge of the charm­ing town of Nar­berth and is just a 12-minute drive to Folly Farm, where our African-themed week­end went into over­drive.

Here, we were able to do some­thing that those on sa­fari in the Ma­sai Mara or Serengeti can­not – hand-feed some African wildlife.

First up was my wife, Jayne, who came face to face with three gi­raffes (which is never easy to do) while a keeper re­vealed all about the gen­tle giants. The grace­ful an­i­mals (the only ones in Wales) reached down to Jayne’s out­stretched hand and wrapped their long tongues around tree branches and cab­bage leaves.

I got up close with a cou­ple of for­mi­da­ble fe­male black rhi­nos who weren’t nearly as scary as I’d imag­ined (ad­mit­tedly they were on the other side of sturdy metal gates). Af­ter a tour of their bed­rooms it was a case of ‘open wide’ as they chomped through a bucket load of sliced car­rots, which to them is a spe­cial treat. It was a priv­i­lege to in­ter­act with Dakima and Man­yara, and to see the mu­tual re­spect be­tween them and their ded­i­cated keeper Jack.

The rhi­nos ar­rived last year and are one of the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered species that Folly Farm is com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing in a series of global con­ser­va­tion projects.

There’s also a breed­ing male and the zoo hopes to one day hear the pat­ter of baby rhino feet (if pat­ter is the right word in this in­stance).

So as not to feel left out, the chil­dren adopted a ze­bra and a lion, for which they re­ceived a cer­tifi­cate, a soft toy and recog­ni­tion on a no­tice board by the en­clo­sures.

The cheeky chap­pies also ‘adopted’ the cud­dly gi­raffe and

rhino that my wife and I were given as a me­mento of our an­i­mal ex­pe­ri­ences.

Be­side lions and ze­bras (not housed to­gether!), the zoo is also home to pen­guins, mon­keys, meerkats, camels, lemurs, flamin­gos, bats, macaws, trop­i­cal fish and am­phib­ians.

In the orig­i­nal farm­yard, young vis­i­tors can get up close to ponies, don­keys, lambs, rab­bits, chicks, fer­rets, rats, guinea pigs and owls, and they can even milk a goat.

For thrills there’s Europe’s largest in­door vin­tage fun­fair with 17 rides (in­clud­ing the Cater­pil­lar, Waltzers and Ghost Train) a Big Wheel and a go-cart track.

As if all that wasn’t enough, kids could also quite eas­ily spend a whole day on the play ar­eas, which were the most im­pres­sive I’ve ever come across at any at­trac­tion.

There are nine in all, in­clud­ing two al­most life-size pi­rate ships, a con­struc­tion-themed De­struc­tion Play­ground and an enor­mous in­door climb­ing and slid­ing struc­ture.

Back at No­ble Court, we made use of the bar, play area and out­door pool, but there’s no res­tau­rant so we took a 10-minute drive to one of its sis­ter parks.

Char­lie’s, at Croft Coun­try Park, is bright and spa­cious and our meals, made from qual­ity, lo­cally sourced in­gre­di­ents, earned high marks all round. You can dine al fresco as the res­tau­rant has a large pa­tio, com­plete with a cou­ple of gi­ant deckchairs, which is next to a play area to keep the kids busy be­tween cour­ses.

The fol­low­ing day, af­ter check­ing out, we drove to the fab­u­lous sea­side re­sort of Tenby, where the old walls en­close nar­row, cob­bled streets and me­dieval houses.

We had Sun­day lunch at The Qube, in Tu­dor Square, which is owned by chef Matthew Ronowitz, who started his cater­ing ca­reer, aged 13, wash­ing up in the same build­ing. The fam­i­lyfriendly res­tau­rant’s beau­ti­fully pre­sented dishes, pre­pared with fresh Pem­brokeshire pro­duce, re­ceived a royal seal of ap­proval af­ter Prince Charles and Camilla dined there. My Welsh loin of pork and Jayne’s chest­nut, mush­room, spinach, leek and blue cheese en croute were among the best meals we can re­mem­ber.

Matthew and wife Claire also run a qual­ity out­side cater­ing com­pany (it sup­plied our sump­tu­ous break­fasts) and their many A-list cus­tomers in­clude Prince Wil­liam and Kate.

A pad­dle on one of Tenby’s beau­ti­ful beaches brought our won­der­fully wild week­end to a close.

A rhino en­joys a treat at Folly Farm Ad­ven­ture Park and Zoo

The Sa­fari Tent at Celtic Hol­i­day Parks’ No­ble Court, Pem­brokeshire

Feed­ing time for a gi­raffe at Folly Farm

The Qube res­tau­rant in Tenby, left, and some of the de­li­cious food, above

A play area at Folly Farm

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