Chessington Safari Hotel
Bunny and Bear’s school chose the last two Fridays of term to have their inset days which was great news as it meant we could plan a longer weekend of fun together to make up for the all the time we missed while I’ve been working longer hours over the past few months. As Bear had an invitation to a party on the Saturday afternoon, I thought it would be fun to go camping locally so we could be back for that, but then Bunny got one for early Saturday morning. It just wasn’t worth the effort of putting the tent up for just one night. So I looked into the theme park mini-break options and decided that Chessington World of Adventures would be fun as we’ve already been to Legoland, and Thorpe Park is better suited to older families.
Being a school day, we were able to buy a pre-schooler ticket for Bear and I, which cost just £20 for the two of us and then paid £27 for an early-bird ticket for Bunny. As we could only visit for one day, the short break options which offer one night’s stay at a resort or nearby hotel and two days in the park, didn’t work for us, so I looked at nearby hotels independently. My first port of call when booking hotels is to look at the discounted accommodation websites like LateRooms and Booking.com. I found a really good deal for the Chessington Safari Hotel which was slightly more than the nearest Travelodge, but included parking and breakfast and meant we were already there in the morning. With cashback on top, it was even cheaper and the only concern was the no refund condition – with my two, this is always a big risk!
However, the girls stayed healthy so we left straight from school pick up on Thursday and travelled there easily, arriving by 17.30. We stopped at the Beefeater next door (literally!) for dinner, taking advantage of their daytime value menu offer and eventually checked into the hotel at 19.30. This meant we were too late to go to the splashpool and swimming pool as I’d planned but booked in for the 8am session the following morning.
Instead, we went out to look around the monkey enclosure which is also home to other animals such as capybara and armadillo, and houses a fantastic treetop walkway (great for older kids; Bear wasn’t too keen!). Most of the animals had gone to bed by the time we arrived, so I used that as a cue to get the girls upstairs to bed as well.
As we made our way from the lifts to our bedroom, we spotted giraffes and zebra out on the Wanyama Reserve that the hotel overlooks. The girls were beside themselves with excitement and even more so when a lady told us we could actually go out there from the hotel bar area and follow the walkway to see them up close. I think this may have been the highlight of the holiday! We wandered past hornbills, dozing meerkats, ostriches and gazelle before arriving at the hut that sits in the middle of the reserve.
The giraffes had gone by the time we got there, but the zebra were still around and then one came right past us as we wandered back! Definitely worth staying up late for but finally time for bed.
We had an accessible room which was at the far end of the hotel and just about had a view of the top of the reserve (why didn’t the designer put balconies on the rooms – how amazing would that have been?!). The girls had two single beds which was disappointing as I’d hoped for bunk beds, but as we’d got a cheap deal, couldn’t complain. However, it was at this point, I realised why it would have been better. There was only one (working) lamp in the main room area and it was very bright. I turned the girls’ beds around, but it didn’t help. In the end I put the TV on and used the light from that instead of the lamp. I had to wait until they were asleep to turn the sound up which was also irritating. Sitting in the near dark, in silence on holiday isn’t the most fun! Fortunately, the TV in the room was a smart TV with a few options to explore directly from the remote control and the whole resort has free WiFi which is fantastic so I was at least able to keep occupied! (Tip: try and get a family room if they’re available as they have a separate area for the kids I believe.)
Being an accessible room, there was also a smaller, lower down sink which was great for the girls, but on the flipside, the toilet was higher which caused some problems, and the “toiletries provided” were a tiny bar of soap, shampoo and body wash, but more than enough towels for the three of us. There was no fridge in the room though so I wished I’d left our picnic lunch for the following day in the coolbox in the car.
Surprisingly, there was very little overnight noise, even with the windows open (I prefer fresh air to air conditioning, even though that was available) and despite the proximity to the animals, the only early morning noise came from seagulls. In fact, Bear slept in until gone 7.30, which is unheard of!
We just about managed to fit breakfast in before our swimming slot and were delighted to watch the giraffes having their breakfast from the window seat we sat at; when I posted this photo to Facebook, a friend asked if we were in Africa! The breakfast options were better than I’d expected, with cereal, toast/bread, mini pastries and muffins, fruit salad and yoghurts, or a cooked breakfast. We ate our fill and then went to get changed for swimming. The hotel provided towels so our own ones didn’t have to get wet, which was another bonus!
The hotel has a standard swimming pool with a shallow section for families, and in a separate area is the Savannah Splash pool which has lots of water play. There were water cannons that could be directed at the other bathers – a dad seemed to think it was hilarious to aim them at the mum’s bottoms as they bent to help their small children! Unfortunately, Bear didn’t find this amusing as it splashed in her face! There is also a small water slide and various fountains and sprinklers which Bunny loved running in and out of! Bunny also challenged herself to swim into the deeper water in the main pool which is something she’s not done before. I stood by to catch her and she got gradually more confident the more she tried it! Eventually, I had to drag them both out of the pool so that we could finish getting ready for the day ahead, actually in the theme park. Although, I think if we’d gone home at that point, neither of the girls would have felt cheated, they’d had so much fun! As I packed away our things and showered, I put on the electronic babysitter which actually has a very good range of channels and the girls had some quiet time watching My Little Pony!
Check out was easy – we simply posted the cards into the box at reception and left. Not without saying goodbye to Sebastian, the iguana that lives in the main reception area, or the giant giraffe statue by the restaurant. I took a note of the car park exit code and then we loaded up the car, got out the pushchair and headed into the park for even more fun.
If your budget can stretch to it, or if there is a good offer on, I would highly recommend the Safari Hotel as part of a trip to Chessington World of Adventures. Even though much of the hotel entertainment isn’t on during the week (character breakfasts, shows, animal meet and greets), there is still more than enough to make it worthwhile if you arrive before dusk, and having breakfast while watching the animals roam nearby is magical for all ages! As value for money goes, this is hard to beat.