We haven't been here for years, largly because its quite expensive, (£12.50 adult, £7.50 children) but I decided that it was about time we went again, and a nice sunny day is the best time to go. It wasn't very packed today - the man at the gate reckoned that was because it was beach weather, but I think the football on the telly had something to do with it as well.
It's really good park, but plan to go all day to make sure you see everything and do all there is to do, and also to get your money's worth. Another good tip if you're driving there is to aim to park in Car Park 1 or 6. The whole park is built on the side of a very steep hill, and if you're taking a picnic and leaving it in the car til lunch time to get to any other car park will be like hiking Mount Everest. I made the mistake of parking in Car Park 3, so believe me, I speak from experience - out-of-breath-back-of-my-legs-killing-me experience!
So what is there in the park? Well the wildlife part of the park has various monkeys, racoons, otters, lions (the newest addition, and not fully ready yet), wallabies, and penguins. The best two animal attractions though are the sea lions, see below, and the wolves. The sea lion show runs twice in the day and is great; fully educational and not just animal exploitation. The lady explains all of the sea lion's behaviour and the reasons behind why they do what they do. The wolf talk is only on once and is definately not to be missed as is it given by Shaun Ellis, the Wolfman of Channel 5 documentary fame. He is completely brilliant, and the wolves are fascinating. The highlight for my children was when he brought out two wolf pups at the end of the talk, and everyone got the opportunity to stroke them.
Then there's the dinosaur part of the park. There is a dinosaur domain walk through the woods, but the best bit is the animatronic dinosaurs in the enclosure near the main entrance. They wake up on the hour every hour, move, roar, and - this was the best bit - spit! The sight of screaming children jumping when the water hit them was almost as funny as that of the wailing two year olds who thought the dinosaurs were real!
And as if all this wasn't enough there are two attractions which are completely unrelated to either dinosaurs or wildlife. There is the 'Light Show', which is themed around a trip into outer space and begins with the opening to 'War of the Worlds'. If you've ever done Disney, don't bother with this, its not remotely scary or even interesting. My youngest daughter said, 'It's like a disco, only not as good.' Underneath the 'Light Show' is 'The Tomb of the Pharoahs'. This the children found more scary, although the anticipation and their imaginations had more to do with this than anything.
Finally, there is the Earthquake train ride. This you have to pay £1 each for, which I found a bit of a rip off. There are other rides and mini-golf which you also have to pay for which can be avoided, but the train ride is one of their big things and ought to be as free as the rest of the park. It lasts about two minutes and takes you to a model American West mining town where 7000 gallons of water hurtle down to drench the not at all unsuspecting train passengers. Again, the kids loved it! Water on a hot sunny day and you're onto a winner.