JC Stays: Rhino Lodge, Port Lympne Animal Reserve, Kent

Sleep with the animals? Our travel editor discovers just what it’s like inside a safari park after everyone else goes home


Everyone has their own wishlist of little luxuries when booking an overnight stay – perhaps it’s a Nespresso machine in the room or luxurious toiletries, quirky décor or ultra-comfy pillows

The option to have a rhino browsing contentedly just metres away isn’t often on the list of choices. But after checking in to Rhino Lodge at Port Lympne animal reserve in Kent, it’s a permanent addition to my own checklist.

The clue is, of course, in the name, and one of the highlights of staying in the 600-acre reserve, a little slice of Africa on the Kent coast.

One of nine accommodation options on site, from safari tents to a treehouse, Tiger Lodge and the four-star Port Lympne hotel, our lodge was once one of the estate’s two gatehouses.

Now a luxury three-bedroom cottage, with two en-suite king-size bedrooms and a smaller single under the stairs, there are plenty of retro touches including a record player with LPs, vintage velvet sofa and leather armchair, and classic bathroom fittings accompanying the animal artwork on the walls.

The toiletries are essential oil-filled Bamford products though, while there’s a distinctly modern rainhead shower, minibar and Nespresso machine plus the kind of furry throws on the bed which you don’t want to emerge from.

Fortunately, that walking, snorting, horned highlight and the reserve’s 87 other animal species are enough to tempt anyone out.

Behind Rhino Lodge, with its flower-filled patio and garden, lies one of the black rhino enclosures – wander down at dusk and you could find the inhabitants staring curiously back at you from the other side of several fences or happily munching the grass.

After the heat of a summer’s day, it’s hard to beat having the reserve (almost) to yourself, with only the other handful of guests around.

From seeing a cheetah’s tail flicking idly in the long grass while I sipped Prosecco at check-in in the Clubhouse to taking the exclusive access paths for our complimentary golf buggy, it’s a chance to see something most visitors never discover, watching lions and lemurs, wolves and warty pigs after hours.

It was tempting to take the long route as we trundled along from our cottage to dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, its vividly painted animal murals continuing the wild theme, and then to breakfast at Bear Lodge next morning.

But the most memorable meal was a snack of tree: not for us, but for one of the giraffes – a distinctly peckish Luna – on our private safari experience.

Cruising through the open areas of the reserve with our guide, where the larger safari vehicles full of day visitors drive during the day, we headed off road to spy some of the 700 animals which live here, from antelope to zebras, not to mention gorillas, baboons and more black rhino.

Somehow your average overnight stay can’t compare.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive