The Norfolk reserve offering an incredible African safari experience

You can explore the huge Watatunga reserve on a buggy and see many species of deer, antelope and rare birds

  • 15:42, 5 JUL 2022
  • Updated 15:43, 5 JUL 2022

One of the male mountain bongos that lives at Watatunga

Nestled on the edge of a quiet west Norfolk village is a nature reserve with a difference. Situated on a huge 170 acre site consisting of woodland, grassland and Lakes, Watatunga is home to a vast array of rare birds and large mammals from Africa.

There are over 20 types of ungulate, that are animals with hoofs that are typically herbivores. The animals all roam free, with a select few including the Malayan sambar, hog deer and barasingha being part of a special breeding programme. The nature reserve is also home to the great bustard, a bird which went extinct in the UK in 1832.

Guided tours really do feel like you are seeing the animals in the wild as they are left to explore the acres that they call home. The tours are best suited for groups of six, as you can hire out six-seater golf buggies with one of your group members being the driver. But don't worry! Tours are led by a guide who will be there to show you the way and tell you all about the animals at the reserve.

Read more: Three arrested for illegal rave within Holkham nature reserve

Watatunga puts a real focus on making the reserve accessible for all and so all of their tours are wheelchair accessible as well as one of their holiday lodges. There are two lodges at Watatunga; Stable Cottage, sleeping eight and Major's Lodge which sleeps six. They are the perfect spots to be at one with nature and take in everything that the reserve has to offer.

They also recently won the 'Best New Tourism Business 2022' award in the East of England Tourism Awards. Tours run three times per day from Tuesday to Sunday, all of which can be booked in advance on their website. They also have some exciting photography tours and experiences coming soon too.

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Anna Hamilton, head of accommodation and education at Watatuga said: "We're a great destination for all ages and we love welcoming tours where all three generations come together and have a great safari tour.

"The thing that makes Watatunga really special is our team. Every one of them is so passionate about the conservation work that we do and nearly all our reviews mention the warm welcome that every visitor receives on site."

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TTDA - Africa Alive! - Plains animals

Africa Alive Zoological Reserve

Explore the sights and sounds of africa.

Make your day out an adventure with a visit to Africa Alive Zoological Reserve.

Explore the sights and sounds of Africa discovering lions, giraffe, meerkats, hunting dogs and many more animals from the African continent!

Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the magnificent lions from the viewing point ‘Lookout Lodge’ and visit ‘Lemur Encounters’, which offers you the chance to get right in with the action – as you walk-through the lemurs’ enclosure!  The zoo is also home some other amazing primates including colobus monkeys and the endangered drill.

The spectacular centrepiece of Africa Alive!, the ‘Plains of Africa’, is the perfect place to spot five species of African savannah animals, including the graceful giraffe and heavyweight rhinos. During the summer months there is even the chance to get up close to these magnificent creatures with the awe-inspiring ‘Plains of Africa’ experience! You could choose to get even closer to giraffes, ring-tailed lemurs, aardvarks or meerkats in one of the other amazing on the day experiences available.

The zoo is set in 100 acres of stunning Suffolk countryside and also offers the chance to spot a wide range of British wildlife. Bird lovers can enjoy spotting native nature from the ‘Wader’s Lake’ boardwalk or seeing some African feathered friends on the Woodland Walk!

Learn some amazing facts about the animals during exciting feeding talks or climb aboard the free Safari Roadtrain for an entertaining journey around the zoo. Look, learn and play in the fun-packed “Discovery Centre” and meet some of the park's smaller residents at the animal encounter sessions.

The zoo offers a great outdoor adventure play area, as well as restaurants, free car parking, disabled facilities and a gift shop, where you can find presents and gifts for everyone.

With many events taking place throughout the year, check out the website or follow Africa Alive on social media to ensure you don’t miss out!

Open daily at 9.30am all year, except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. For admission prices and closing times please check the website www.zsea.org/reserve/ or telephone 01502 740291. 

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Africa Alive!

Description.

At Africa Alive!, explore the sights and sounds of Africa and discover lions, giraffes, meerkats, hunting dogs and many more animals from the African continent.

The spectacular centerpiece of Africa Alive!, is the ‘Plains of Africa’, the perfect place to spot five species of African savannah animals, including our graceful giraffe and heavyweight rhinos. During the summer visitors to the park have the opportunity to go on safari with our senior animal keeper for a personal guided tour around the plains where you will get up close to these magnificent creatures, a truly unforgettable experience.  

Enjoy a bird’s eye view of our magnificent lions from our viewing point ‘Lookout Lodge’ and visit ‘Lemur Encounters’, which offers you the chance to get right in with the action – as you walk through the lemur’s enclosure!  The park is also home to some other amazing primates including bushbabies, Colobus monkeys, drills and our new residents; the rare golden-bellied mangabeys.

The park is set in 100 acres of stunning Suffolk countryside and also offers the chance to spot a wide range of British wildlife. Bird lovers can also enjoy spotting native nature from our new ‘Wader’s Lake’ boardwalk or see some African feathered friends on our Woodland Walk!

Discover some amazing facts about our animals during our exciting feeding talks and seasonal ‘Bird of Prey’ displays. Climb aboard the free ‘Safari Road Train’ for an entertaining journey around the park. Look, learn and play in our fun-packed ‘Discovery Centre’ and meet some of our smaller residents at the animal encounter sessions. There is also a mini golf, young explorer’s challenge, and the Might Zulu Nation Theatre Troupe.       

The park offers a great outdoor adventure play area, as well as restaurants, free car parking, disabled facilities and a gift shop, where you can find presents and gifts for everyone. Find Africa Alive's accessibility information here. 

Open daily at 9.30am all year, except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. For admission prices and closing times please  check our websit e  or telephone (01502) 740291. Africa Alive!, Kessingland, Lowestoft, NR33 7TF

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This page was last updated on 17 April 2024 and last reviewed on 22 September 2022

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Watatunga Wildlife Reserve

Watatunga Wildlife Reserve is a completely fascinating new nature reserve in the heart of rural Norfolk, equidistant between Downham Market and King's Lynn just outside the village of Watlington. 

It is set up for the primary purpose of protecting endangered deer, antelope and birds , but also has excellent guided tours which take you around the reserve to view some extraordinary animals that you wouldn’t normally see in Norfolk!   

Scimitar Horned Oryx on the Watatunga Wildlife Reserve

About Watatunga 

Watatunga opened in July 2020 after many years of planning by the owner and local farmer, Ed Pope.  Having a love of wildlife and a fascination for Africa together with recent trips to Africa, Ed became very aware of the fact that habitat and hunting were endangering some of these incredible animals, and hence Watatunga was founded. 

Although more of the well-known animals such as elephants, tigers and rhino’s get lots of media coverage, these deer and antelope rarely make the headlines, so Watatunga Wildlife Reserve is a place where these lesser known animals can begin to breed successfully with careful and specific breeding programmes in place.

The 170 acres of conservation landscape at Watatunga

Watatunga is managed by a very dedicated and knowledgeable team , and you will definitely come across some of them when you take one of the guided tours.  You can see more about the team behind the conservation work and the running of the reserve here .

Although it’s a conservation reserve, Ed, his family and his co-workers are now giving the general public the chance to come and visit, see and learn about the work on an amazing tour of the reserve and believe me when I say you’ll be in for a treat.  

The reserve concentrates mainly on the conservation of ungulates, birds and ducks.

But what, you may ask, are ungulates?  I certainly had to look it up!  The word means large animals with hooves.  But these aren’t any deer or antelope, they are endangered, and many of the ungulates at Watatunga are from Africa and other subcontinents such as India.  

One of the endangered species at Watatunga

Watatunga’s Conservation Work

Watatunga Wildlife Reserve is set in 170 acres of lovely meadow, woodlands and wetland and is home to Europe’s largest collection of deer and antelope .  Their aim is to encourage young people to go on to further education and become involved with the “conservation for tomorrow” so are collaborating with universities and research organisations as well as running breeding programmes.  

Their forward thinking means they are also engaging with schools in the hope of bringing the curriculum to life and encouraging young children to learn about these animals and their threatened habitats and hopefully move on to further education in these scientific areas.

The unspoilt landscape on the Watatunga Wildlife Reserve

As well as ungulates, you’ll also see some wonderful bird life (and more to come over the years) such as storks, rare pheasants, ducks and the amazing Great Bustards.

Silver pheasants at Watatunga

The Great Bustard certainly stole the show when we went on our tour!  This is the only place in Norfolk that you’ll see an example of this wonderful looking bird .  The last one in the UK was shot in 1832 and Ed is currently involved with the international collaboration to reintroduce this bird back into the UK.  You’ll get a good explanation about the life of the Great Bustard when you tour the reserve!

Romel, The Great Bustard

Where Did The Name Watatunga Come From?

I was intrigued to hear where the name Watatunga came from because it’s certainly not a very Norfolk name!  It’s the combination (portmanteau) of two words; Watlington, the village where the Watatunga Reserve is situated, and the Sitatunga antelope which is from South Africa and which they have on the reserve.

Watatunga Guided Tours

The only way to see these endangered species on the reserve is to book one of Watatunga’s amazing guided tours which you can read more about here .  These tours last for 1 ½ hours and are excellent, something completely different in this county and extremely informative.  

A guided tour around the 170 acre reserve using the buggies

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, it has been necessary to start the opening tours with golf buggies, which, incidentally were great fun.  However, they do have 2 safari trailers which they will be using when they get the go-ahead to use.

The safari trailer

Your guide for the tour gives a brief introduction before you start off which is very informative and tells you exactly what you can expect.  The important thing to remember is that, nature being what it is, you never know what you might see, even if it’s a swimming swamp deer!  And obviously it depends on what the animals feel like doing the day you go for your tour, but generally you should see a very good number of unusual ungulates, birds and ducks.  

The swimming swamp deer at Watatunga

Our tour guide was the incredibly knowledgeable Dee!  The guides here at Watatunga really do bring the tour to life and also get across to you the importance of what this Watatunga Wildlife Reserve is trying to achieve in terms of proper conservation i.e. breeding with the right stock and getting the genetics right. 

It’s really informative and friendly but not like a science lesson!  When you hear about how one particular species should have horns curling right behind their ears but have been “bred” in other places without the proper genetics so the horns are not where they’re supposed to be, it really gets you thinking.

The Roan Antelope at Watatunga

The buggies have a speaker system so you can just sit back, relax, watch and listen to everything being said.  You're also equipped with a little booklet in the buggy which tells you about each of the animals on the Watatunga Wildlife Reserve.  This was actually really helpful, it’s like putting a name to a face!

One of the storks you'll see on the reserve

There's no guarantee that you’ll see every animal that they have on the reserve, but you’ll definitely get a good look at most of them, that’s for sure!  And even if you think you can’t see something, the excellent tour guide Dee will spot something anyway!

The water buffalo

At present, the tours are arranged in the morning and the late evening in order to give you the best chance of seeing the animals.  All you need to do is go over to the booking page and you can choose a slot.

The views from the buggies over one of the lakes

You’ll see that all the animals are completely at home in their natural environment and they are all allowed to roam unrestricted.  

Coming on a Watatunga Wildlife Reserve guided tour is also a fantastic chance for photography and to catch some stunning photos of animals not usually seen in Norfolk.   Unfortunately, I am not an expert photographer, but I have seen some incredible photos taken by others, particularly on their Instagram page.   

The lake and the BBQ house

Private Tours are also available, and over the next few years they will be expanding their facilities in and around the reserve which will be an excellent addition to this already fascinating reserve.

The White Stork

The animals I was very lucky to see were the Water Buffalo, Mouflon, the Roan Antelopes, the Swamp Deer (who swam across the lake), the Scimitar Horned Oryx which became extinct as it was hunted for its horns, the Lechwe deer, Blesbok and Romel the Great Bustard as well as some others.

Contact Information

Watatunga Wildlife Reserve is only open to visit via guided tours or private tours.  You can send them a message here on their contact page or go to guided tours page to book a tour.

For prices and bookings, please click over to the Watatunga website here .

Self catering accommodation is also available which you can find here on their website.  If you book the accommodation, you also get your own private guided tour of the reserve. 

The reserve is situated just outside the village of Watlington, half way between King's Lynn and Downham Market.  

The Blackbuck at Watatunga Wildlife Reserve

Taking a tour of Watatunga Wildlife Reserve really is an amazing opportunity to watch and learn about some wonderful but endangered species and to have a most unusual morning or evening out!   It is certainly something you just wouldn’t expect to see in Norfolk.

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Africa Alive Zoological Reserve

african safari park norfolk

Set in 100 acres of Suffolk countryside, Africa Alive Zoological Reserve is a conservation hub for some of Africa’s most vulnerable species of animal.

Set in 100 acres of Suffolk countryside, Africa Alive Zoological Reserve, run by the Zoological Society of East Anglia is a conservation hub for some of Africa’s most vulnerable species of animal. Including the Southern White Rhinoceros, African Lion, Reticulated Giraffe and Blue-Eyed Black Lemur.

Through conservation, education, and the active involvement of our communities, we are sparking a lifelong interest in people of all ages, to help us protect the rich diversity of our precious world, for all our futures.

There is something for everyone at Africa Alive Zoological Reserve. Support our conservation work, enjoy native wildlife, and reconnect with the animals you know and love. Together, we can make a difference.

Watch over the ‘Plains of Africa’ where five species from the African savannah including the Southern White Rhinoceros, Reticulated Giraffe, Chapman’s Zebra, Ostrich and Blesbok graze together.

Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the magnificent African Lions from ‘Lookout Lodge’ and observe the daily habits and routines of our pride.

Join us for daily feeding talks to learn more about our incredible animals, and help support our vital conservation work, by learning how we are protecting animals in their natural habitats.

Learn more about our natural world and join our Conservation Education team to meet some of the reserve’s smallest residents in the Discovery Centre for Conservation Education.

Head to the ‘Farm Barn’ to meet our friendly domestic livestock and learn more about the animals you see every day.

Explore 5 acres of wetland, home to native waterfowl, species of rare dragonfly and migratory birds.

Africa Alive Zoological Reserve is currently open every day from 9:30am – 5:30pm (last admission at 4:30pm), excluding Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

  • Accessible toilets
  • Wheelchair accessible
  • Wheelchairs available
  • Hearing loop
  • Baby changing

Africa Alive Zoological Reserve is signposted off the A146 and A12. Follow the brown tourist signs to find us.

First Eastern Counties 99 service to Kessingland is available from Lowestoft. There is a 5 min walk from the bus station to the zoo entrance.

Anglian Bus’ 7, 61 and 61A services visit Kessingland every 20 minutes on their routes to and from Southwold, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth and Norwich. There is a 5 minute walk from the bus stop to the zoo entrance.

Border Bus’ 146 service visits Kessingland from Lowestoft and Norwich. There is a 10 minute walk from the bus stop to the zoo entrance.

The nearest train stations to Africa Alive Zoological Reserve are Beccles and Lowestoft. Taxi/Bus transport will be required on arrival to these stations to reach the reserve.

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Watatunga in West Norfolk.

A Safari Experience in Norfolk at Watatunga

July 5, 2021

Hidden in amongst 170 acres of woodland, grassland and lakes in West Norfolk is the county’s newest wildlife reserve, Watatunga . It is home to Europe’s largest collection of deer and antelope, many of which are severely endangered.

We recently arrived through the big front gates to explore the reserve on a guided buggy tour.

Entrance to Watatunga.

Roomy 4-seater electric golf buggies (there’s also a 6-seater, plus wheelchair accessible options), fit the whole family comfortably as you self-drive in convoy behind an expert Watatunga guide. Throughout the 90-odd minute safari, you are escorted through the changing terrain (from parkland to woodland, to field and track), with a live narrative from your guide (via radio speakers in your buggy), so you can learn about the birds and animals you might spot on your tour.

Watatunga Reserve Manager, Jono.

This is a genuine wildlife tour, framed around the relatively unpredictable force that is nature. Each time you visit, your experience will be different. Some animals are shy, while some will be out and about. At certain times of the year, there will be young or babies, and the weather and flora changes with the seasons. There is no guarantee as to what you will see, but we are positive that the entire experience is fantastic each time. Ours certainly was.

The day we visited Watatunga, the weather was perfect – blue skies dotted with white clouds, and warm sunshine. There is a fantastic build-up to the start of your tour as you embark along a track to the main reserve.

The focal point on the reserver is a large lake (watering hole?), which you circumnavigate before heading off out into woodland. Aside from the fact that it’s just a marvellous and breathtaking sight at the start of tour, imagine our delight when we spotted two Water Buffalo basking by the water’s edge as we came down the track. There is something magical about seeing such exotic-looking creatures ‘in real life’, happily doing what, presumably, Water Buffalo like to do. These are Domestic Water Buffalo, which are fairly common across Europe as their milk is used to make Mozzarella. Their true, wild counterparts are, sadly, endangered.

Moving around the lake, we spot Blesboks, with their striking white facial ‘blaze’ (from which their name derives – ‘bles’ is the Dutch word for blaze). It looks to me like they’re wearing Japanese kabuki masks, though these antelopes actually originate from South Africa.

There are several species of Deer, and plenty of birds, all close enough to see in wondrous detail (and get some great pictures), but my personal favourite lakeside sighting has to be the Roan Antelope and the Scimitar Horned Oryx. A ‘little and large’ odd couple, our guide and Reserve Manager, Jono, tells us that the little white Oryx (which are sadly extinct in the wild), goes everywhere with his Antelope friend. Norfolk’s answer to Timon and Pumbaa? Perhaps…

Gazing back across, from the far side of the lake, you really could be anywhere. It’s quite an exhilarating feeling.

Water Buffalo at Watatunga.

We leave the lakeside, heading towards woodland. A Mountain Bongo, with gorgeous gently curved horns and a striped coat is grazing happily right beside the track we’re following. Critically endangered in the wild, this female gave birth to a calf recently. Jono tells us it is bound to be nearby, concealed in the grass or bushes. You might have thought that would have made the Mother protective or aggressive. Not so. We had to navigate around her, so non-plussed was she by our presence, and she actually approached the last buggy in our convoy for a closer inspection. What an opportunity to see such a rare creature up close – and get some wonderful photographs!

Mountain Bongo at Watatunga.

Before entering the woodland, we pass probably one of the only creatures on the reserve not free to roam, and there’s pretty good reason for that.

The Great Bustards are behind a fence and immediately start making a very distinctive and strange noise when we pass alongside. About the size of a large turkey, these endangered birds were once native to the UK, but the last one was shot in Norfolk in 1832. Watatunga are working with the Great Bustard Program to re-introduce this species back into the wild. Jono informs us that the birds are not interested in our convoy because they think we may have food, but because they want to attack us. Oh. That’ll be the reason for the fence then. He goes on to mention that he endangers himself every time he has to go in to feed them! Fortunately, we’re not witness to that.

Great Bustard at Watatunga.

We leave the Bongos and the Bustards and continue into a lovely section of woodland, where the recent rain has left everything exploding with green. Colourful Rhododendrons break the leafy backdrop, and if you’re eagle-eyed, you’re likely to spot several species of Deer that are hiding, as well as a magnificently coloured Javan Peacock that we just catch a glimpse of.

Woodland track at Watatunga.

This part of the buggy tour is one of the hairiest, as we have to travel through puddles and at one point, ascend quite a steep hill. Not entirely without risk in a golf buggy. We all make it up, but I have to admit I closed my eyes (I was not driving by the way).

We emerge from the woodland alongside the lake once more, where there are nesting water birds, deer and antelope, and those Water Buffalo again.

A family of four, we all loved our experience at Watatunga. It is a Norfolk day out with so many captivating dimensions. Driving in convoy in the golf buggies across various terrains is fun enough in itself, especially for the kids. The natural surroundings are breathtaking, and just being around so much nature for a couple of hours is extremely relaxing. Then you have the wildlife… spotting the various species, with Jono’s excellent live commentary, is really thrilling and quite wonderful. It’s a more open and ‘up close’ experience than you usually enjoy at wildlife ‘attractions’ (and I hesitate to use that word here, as humans really are the guests in their animal world at Watatunga).

Watatunga say that one of their remits is to inspire people to learn about the natural world, conservation and the plight of the world’s biodiversity. I’d say our visit ticked those boxes, and more.

A unique and highly recommended experience, with a noble heart, on our doorstep here in Norfolk.

Up close with a rare Moutain Bongo at Watatunga in West Norfolk.

Please note that access to the reserve is via guided tour only and must be pre-booked online via the Watatunga website .  They also offer luxurious self-catering accommodation and private tours for small groups.

Enjoy Norfolk more. Our tips: 

  • We had an early safari time slot and made the most of our day out by ordering online and then going up along the A149 to enjoy Fish & Chips at Eric’s Fish & Chips in Thornham, before heading home.
  • Get an Enjoying Norfolk Card and save 5% off Guided Buggy Tours at Watatunga.

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african safari park norfolk

My African-style safari experience in exotic Norfolk

“I’m going on a safari,” I told some friends, their eyes lighting up. I’d need sturdy boots, a good camera, and my wits. I would also need a raincoat and a replacement bus ticket, because this was Norfolk I was going to, not Nairobi . 

It turns out that almost anything can be a safari these days. Scoping out the Big Five in the Serengeti? That’s definitely a safari . But so is, apparently, looking at a Great Bustard through a wire fence in East Anglia. Maybe watching the fox digging in my bins is a safari, too? 

In Watlington, the safari is found at Watatunga. The park is the brainchild of Ed Pope and Anna Hamilton, wildlife-obsessed landowners. Along with some estate-management pals, they have opened a reserve, complete with an odd menagerie of, erm, mostly deer and cattle. 

It’s a strange place. Until recently, the land here was used for gravel extraction, so one enters by driving past machinery and piles of chalky debris. It feels rather inauspicious. Guests are then shuttled into a sort-of visitor centre. There’s scope to develop it: one would like something of an introduction to the park, and its aims, and to work out why, exactly, one is about to embark on a safari there, in the rain.

Instead, we found ourselves rattling around on a golf buggy, while a man very excitedly, and very relentlessly, told us about deer sperm. One of the managers of the park, Julian Stoyel has brought groups of chital, and sambar, and Pére David, and blesbok, and bongo, and Cape Eland, and Kafue Flats Lechwe to Watatunga. 

These are all types of deer (or ungulate, to be precise). Julian loves deer. The deer, sometimes, run in the way of the cart, or are glimpsed through a bush. Sometimes they stand and chew on branches, other times they sit down. Mostly, they scurry into the woodland, away from us. 

Julian can reenact the screeches of his stags. It doesn’t seem to summon them, but it entertains us nonetheless. Our more successful sightings include a hare, bug-eyed, sitting in the grass. It doesn’t move when we approach, because it was hand-reared by Julian and is, essentially, tame. 

Something similar happens as we drive towards the lake: a quacking parade of ducks waddle up to the golf-cart, summoned to see their humanoid father. They’re a genuinely beautiful bunch. They are not, however, wild. Their wings are clipped, so they can’t leave Watatunga. 

Herein lies the problem. The politics of the safari in places like Kenya and Botswana are well-trodden: it’s all about the balance between local people, conservation, and true “wilderness”. In the UK, the question is slightly different. Most of these are not native animals. There aren’t cheetahs or elephants, which is probably, ethically, a good thing – but they would say Masai Mara more than mandarin ducks. 

Watatunga has a zoo licence, which means it is required to work towards conservation. I think Julian and company would do this anyway: the preservation of ungulates is clearly their life’s work. And their enthusiasm is infectious – in its first few years, Watatunga has won multiple awards for its visitor experience. 

The park is essentially continuing a tradition of aristocratic whimsy. In the late 19th century, the Duke of Bedford collected some 42 species of deer. He bred them, and according to some zoologists, saved some species from extinction. This is something Watatunga aims to mimic: eventually, they hope, their deer could be reintroduced to their native habitats.

It’s a Great Bustard who is the real main character of Watatunga’s conservation efforts. The bird, once native to Britain, is now only found on Salisbury Plain . This Bustard, named Rommel, really doesn’t seem to know that. He hisses and croaks at us, and sprints around his enclosure so we never leave his sight. He would have our hands off, apparently. He’s utterly horrible, and the highlight of the trip. 

Some of the deer – like the hulking, muscly Barasingha – are very impressive. Really, one wishes Watatunga was a deer park, a setting for a lovely walk and a fortuitous animal sighting. It can’t be that, though, because some of the animals are dangerous. Two buffalo are genuinely threatening, pawing at the ground and thrusting their horns in our direction. Who knew there could be such peril in Norfolk?

Still, visitors are largely free to explore, so long as they remain in the buggies. Groups can follow a guide, who gives information about the animals via radio. Guests who are staying on the onsite accommodation are given, very generously, their own cart to drive; alerts shut down the engines if they stray off designated routes. 

And there’s something really, genuinely beautiful about the accommodation, which is perilously undersold. Among the properties is a charming converted stable , complete with tennis courts and walled garden, sleeping eight. Separate to the main park, in the village of Watlington, it is nonetheless visited by curious deer, who linger like apparitions by the crumbling border. 

There’s also Major’s Lodge, a fully-accessible property. This commitment is continued throughout the site – a long, hand-built ramp allows access to the elevated hides, while the buggies are adaptable to wheelchairs. 

Watatunga is best thought of as a beautiful place to stay, that also happens to have a barmy attraction nearby. And North Norfolk is itself a wildlife haven. If you’re here for nature, twin Watatunga with a trip to see the seals at Blakeney Point. 

Don’t do what we did, which was charter a boat, crash into a sandbank and stagger onto the dock, in the dark, covered in bruises. If local jams and freshly-roasted coffee is more your thing, use the stables as a base for Cromer – you’re sure to end up exploring the reserve. Just don’t tell people you’re going on a safari. 

Booking details can be found on the Watatunga website. Private tours start at £200 for four; a journey around the park takes 90 minutes. Prices are lower in the off-season and for larger groups.

Norfolk Hideaways has multiple properties in the area, including the Stable Cottage in Watlington (from £1,470 for three nights, sleeping eight). The fully accessible Major’s Lodge overlooks the estate – prices start at £1,409 for three nights, also sleeping eight. 

For something more glamorous, head to Knotting Hill Farmhouse . Complete with an outdoor kitchen, cold water plunge pool and fancy dress wardrobe, it’s ideal for a high-end holiday. Sea views keep guests connected to the outdoors, while bespoke yoga and catering options maintain the luxury inside. Stays start from £98 per person, per night, sleeping up to 18. 

Greater Anglia operates regular train services between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Fares start from £10 one-way.

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Can spotting deer in East Anglia compete with the Serengeti's Big Five? Our writer investigates - Phil Stone

Virginia's Only Drive-Thru Safari

Virginia safari park is home to king cheetah, africa's rarest cat, fun for the entire family, experience unique animal encounters, explore our 180-acre safari drive-thru, stroll through our 10-acre village walk-thru, extended summer hours are here plan your visit, attractions.

You can interact with our animals safely from your vehicle while exploring our drive-thru safari, on foot walking through our village walk-thru, or up close during a special, behind-the-scenes encounter with sloths, rhinos, or penguins.

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Important information.

The VIRGINIA SAFARI PARK, a 180-acre drive-through zoo located in Natural Bridge, VA, is NOT associated with the Natural Bridge Zoo, which is also located in Natural Bridge.

Unfortunately, with the recent legal issues and press coverage surrounding the Natural Bridge Zoo we have found it necessary to post this clarification. We have been contacted by many sources that have inadvertently confused the two zoos.

Our official website is www.virginiasafaripark.com. Please beware of copycat imitations. Again, the VIRGINIA SAFARI PARK is NOT associated with the Natural Bridge Zoo and never has been.

Thank you for your understanding.

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Guided Safari Tours

For unforgettable days out in Norfolk

For unforgettable days out in Norfolk 

Experience Norfolk’s Wildlife Adventure

For unique days out in Norfolk, join us at Watatunga for a tour of our rare species wildlife reserve. Making for memorable family days out, our safari tours offer a blend of education and adventure, a popular choice for those seeking wildlife days out in the UK. Watatunga tours are especially loved by parents and grandparents looking for activities to enjoy with their children and grandchildren.

Spanning over 170 acres of Norfolk Wetland, Watatunga is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of deer, antelope, and birds, alongside some of the most exotic. We are incredibly proud of the conservation work being carried out here. We can’t wait to welcome you and show you the incredible wildlife that we work with and are striving so hard to keep from extinction.

At Watatunga, the animals’ welfare is at the centre of the visitor experience. Guests experience the reserve via guided safari tours in self-drive electric buggies, offering an immersive experience to get up close and personal with some of our animals and nature.

Guided by an expert in a separate electric vehicle, guides use a radio system to tell you about the birds and animals you see on your visit. Each trip will be different, depending on our animals’ behaviour, influenced by the weather and season. Your safari tour guide will bring the reserve to life and tell entertaining stories of our reserve’s rare inhabitants.

Tours run from Easter to the end of October, and visitors to Watatunga have the option of either booking a scheduled buggy tour or a trailer tour, a private tour for groups, or requesting a wheelchair accessible trailer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is watatunga open all year round.

Our tour season runs from April until October each year with guided buggy tours every day of the week except Mondays and Fridays in off-peak times and six days a week in school holidays and half-terms (seven where bank holidays fall). Each tour runs for approx. 90 minutes with five 4-seater electric golf buggies, one 6-seater and one wheelchair accessible option per tour. When you book a buggy, one member of your party will drive the buggy and it is booked in its entirety – you will not be sharing a buggy with others outside your party.

The reserve is open for safari stays , private tours and experiences  all year round. All other tours run from Easter to the end of October.

Do you sell gift vouchers for Watatunga tours?

If you have loved-ones who are wildlife fans and conservationists and would love to experience a Watatunga tour, we do have Watatunga gift vouchers for sale – so go on, make someone’s day by giving them the gift of adventure as well as conservation.

Can we stay at Watatunga?

As well as tours of the reserve, we also offer luxury accommodation on site – providing guests with a unique and magical staycation. We have three holiday lodges to choose from and our holiday guests receive a complimentary private guided tour, as well as exclusive use of our buggies throughout your stay.

Am I able to bring my dog with me to Watatunga?

We love dogs at Watatunga! However, we cannot facilitate any dog on tour.

We have two kennel spaces available to hire at reception. We can only accept fully vaccinated dogs and the price per kennel is £10.00, and guide dogs are welcome to use our facilities for free. Each kennel is 2m long, 1m high and 1m wide and so each should fit 2 large and one small dog easily. We disinfect kennels between use and while we can provide water bowls, we prefer that you bring your own. Our reception building is approx 0.4 miles from the roadside entrance – it is not necessarily staffed all the time while you’re out on tour but each kennel is provided with a secure lock. Dogs at reception are left entirely at their owner’s risk. Kennels can be booked as an extra on any of our buggy or trailer tours. Any further queries, please fill in the contact form on our website.

Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed in our accommodation due to the proximity of our animals in surrounding areas.

Can we bring a picnic with us?

We have multiple spots around our reception building that are perfect for a picnic – our stretch tent in particular is a sheltered spot with plenty of picnic benches and seating.

Do you have toilet facilities?

Yes, we have a large toilet block adjacent to our reception building and an accessible toilet inside the building, equipped with a shower and adult changing table.

Can children of all ages participate in the tour?

There is no lower age limit on our tours – you know your children best but please be aware that the tour is not interactive, we are not a petting zoo and very young children (under-4) may struggle to stay engaged.

Can my baby sit on my lap for the tour?

All children under the age of 2 may ride for free but must be carried in a sling/harness on the front of the body but this must not be the driver.

How do I book a Watatunga Tour?

All tours must be pre-booked through the booking page on our website and will be confirmed by email.

Can tours be refunded or can I reschedule my tour?

All tickets are non-refundable. Should you need to reschedule your tour, we will endeavour to facilitate this when communicated at least 48 hrs prior to departure. All changes will incur an admin fee of £10.00. 

Are Watatunga tours wheelchair accessible?

Yes, book a Wheelchair Trailer onto any of our regular tours.  Our trailer seats one wheelchair user and up to two guests. Each trailer is towed behind the guide’s buggy as part of our regular tours. 

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Watatunga Wildlife Reserve, Watlington Road, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, PE33 0RG

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COMMENTS

  1. Africa Alive!

    Last admissions 4.30pm, park closes at 5.30pm.For admission prices and closing times please check our website www.africa-alive.co.uk or telephone (01502) 740291. Africa Alive!, Kessingland, Lowestoft, NR33 7TF

  2. AFRICA ALIVE (2024) All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go ...

    9:30 AM - 5:00 PM. Write a review. About. Explore the sights and sounds of Africa and discover lions, giraffes, rhinos, meerkats, hunting dogs and many more animals from the African continent. The spectacular centrepiece of Africa Alive!, our "Plains of Africa" paddock, is the perfect place to spot 5 species of African savannah animals ...

  3. The Norfolk reserve offering an incredible African safari experience

    The Norfolk reserve offering an incredible African safari experience. Nestled on the edge of a quiet west Norfolk village is a nature reserve with a difference. Situated on a huge 170 acre site consisting of woodland, grassland and Lakes, Watatunga is home to a vast array of rare birds and large mammals from Africa.

  4. Safari In Norfolk

    Welcome to Watatunga. Set in 170 acres of breathtaking woodland, grassland and lakes, our award-winning nature reserve in Norfolk is dedicated to the conservation of endangered deer, antelope and birds and home to the most varied collection of deer and antelope in Europe, free to roam at their will.. Watatunga offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for visitors to experience expert-led safari ...

  5. Africa Alive Reserve

    Tuesday 28th - Wednesday 29th May 2024 (May Half-term): Don't miss our Food and Craft Fair at Africa Alive. With over 50 food and craft stalls and hundreds of amazing animals, it's an event not to be missed. Find Out More.

  6. Africa Alive Reserve

    Africa Alive Reserve, Kessingland. 41,606 likes · 372 talking about this · 97,112 were here.

  7. Africa Alive!

    WAZA, [2] EAZA, [3] BIAZA [4] Major exhibits. Plains of Africa, Farmyard. Website. www.africa-alive.co.uk. Africa Alive! Zoological Reserve, formerly known as Africa Alive! and Suffolk Wildlife Park, is a zoo located in Kessingland, Suffolk, UK. It is situated off the A12 at Kessingland 2 miles (3 km) south of Lowestoft. [5]

  8. Africa Alive

    Africa Alive Zoological Reserve. Price: Various entry prices - see website for details. Contact: Email: [email protected], phone: 01502 740291. Address: Africa Alive Zoological Reserve, Whites Lane, Kessingland, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 7TF. Opening Hours: Open from 9.30am every day throughout the year - except Christmas Day and Boxing Day - see ...

  9. Watatunga Wildlife Reserve

    About. Watatunga is a stunning new wildlife reserve in west Norfolk. Situated amongst 170 acres of woodland, grassland and lakes, Watatunga provides a unique environment for over twenty types of ungulate and rare bird species to roam at their will. Access to the reserve is via guided tour only and must be pre-booked online via our website.

  10. Africa Alive!

    Find Africa Alive's accessibility information here. Open daily at 9.30am all year, except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. For admission prices and closing times please check our websit e or telephone (01502) 740291. Africa Alive!, Kessingland, Lowestoft, NR33 7TF.

  11. Watatunga Wildlife Reserve

    Watatunga opened in July 2020 after many years of planning by the owner and local farmer, Ed Pope. Having a love of wildlife and a fascination for Africa together with recent trips to Africa, Ed became very aware of the fact that habitat and hunting were endangering some of these incredible animals, and hence Watatunga was founded.

  12. Africa Alive Zoological Reserve

    Set in 100 acres of Suffolk countryside, Africa Alive Zoological Reserve, run by the Zoological Society of East Anglia is a conservation hub for some of Africa's most vulnerable species of animal. Including the Southern White Rhinoceros, African Lion, Reticulated Giraffe and Blue-Eyed Black Lemur. Through conservation, education, and the ...

  13. A Safari Experience in Norfolk at Watatunga

    July 5, 2021. Hidden in amongst 170 acres of woodland, grassland and lakes in West Norfolk is the county's newest wildlife reserve, Watatunga. It is home to Europe's largest collection of deer and antelope, many of which are severely endangered. We recently arrived through the big front gates to explore the reserve on a guided buggy tour.

  14. New Norfolk safari park with 'extraordinary' animals set to open soon

    New Norfolk safari park with 'extraordinary' animals set to open soon. Edward Pope with some of the water buffalo he has bred at Watlington, near King's Lynn Picture: Ian Burt. A new safari ...

  15. My African-style safari experience in exotic Norfolk

    Private tours start at £200 for four; a journey around the park takes 90 minutes. Prices are lower in the off-season and for larger groups. Norfolk Hideaways. has multiple properties in the area ...

  16. Safari Stays

    The Stable Cottage is a five-star retreat for those seeking a family holiday in Norfolk. Set within the beautiful walled garden of the Watlington estate, it provides year-round comfort. This luxury home-from-home comes equipped with an open fire, a picturesque garden room ideal for dining, and four bedrooms, including a ground floor bedroom suite.

  17. Contact

    We welcome your queries and feedback and endeavour to respond to all enquiries promptly. Please complete the form below for more information about private trailer hire, our accommodation and education programmes. Please note that our inboxes are monitored 09.00-15.00 Monday-Friday. For information about guided tours and safari stays, please ...

  18. Virginia Safari Park, U.S. Zoo

    229 Safari Lane, Natural Bridge, VA 24578, Phone: 540-291-3205 ©2024 VIRGINIA SAFARI PARK designed and developed by atlantis-labs.net and powered by atlantis-cms.com

  19. Drive-Thru Safari

    Explore the wildlife from the comfort of your own vehicle, with our drive through safari experience! From giraffes to zebras, there's tons of animals to keep an eye out for! Immerse yourself in nature and check out our safari park for an unforgettable experience!

  20. Sustainable Tourism

    Award-Winning Sustainable Tourism in Norfolk. Watatunga is a stunning reserve based in West Norfolk, covering over 170 acres of woodland, grassland, wetland and lakes. This diverse habitat makes it an ideal environment for all of our animals to thrive, which includes over twenty types of deer and antelope and rare bird species.

  21. Walk-Thru Safari

    Put on your walking shoes and book your walk through our safari experience now! Take in the fresh air and keep your eyes open for some wildlife! Check out some of the animals you'll catch a glimpse of at our safari park!

  22. Guided Safari Tours

    Our tour season runs from April until October each year with guided buggy tours every day of the week except Mondays and Fridays in off-peak times and six days a week in school holidays and half-terms (seven where bank holidays fall). Each tour runs for approx. 90 minutes with five 4-seater electric golf buggies, one 6-seater and one wheelchair ...

  23. The Fairmont Norfolk Hotel

    The grande dame of Nairobi, Fairmont The Norfolk has been at the centre of the city's high life for 110 years now. Today it offers an oasis of peace in the middle of the bustling city that has grown up around it, welcoming safari and business travellers alike with professional and dedicated service and all the five star amenities you'd expect. Built around several lush courtyard gardens ...