Gir Lion Lodge

Things to do, Quirky events
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The exotic beasts of Regent’s Park are already familiar to many Londoners. I visited London Zoo when I was knee-high to a giraffe, and I’ve been back many times since, most recently to feed the coatis and say goodnight to the gorillas at the Sunset Safari Friday lates. This trip, however, was a different kettle of endangered fish altogether.

The appeal of staying the night in (well, right next to) the zoo’s new Land of the Lions enclosure is obvious: you’ll feel a bit like you live in ‘The Jungle Book’, surrounded by creature companions. The experience is much more than a sleepover. Our group of 12 guests – all grown-ups – were visibly excited as we prepared for a torchlit trip to meet our animal neighbours for the night.

Enthusiastic and knowledgable keepers introduced themselves over a glass of prosecco before we visited the lions, warthogs, pygmy hippos and plenty more fascinating beasts on our way to our private, en-suite cabins. A two-course dinner was followed by a trip to see the anteaters enjoying their twilight tea of insects. We moved on to an encounter with an owl and a little more lion-spotting before bedding down for the night with a warning not to disturb the vultures.

At nearly £200 a head this is a specialoccasions- only sort of treat, but it’s also very special in itself. I never thought I’d get to follow my breakfast with a private viewing of penguins eating theirs. It may not be quite as exotic as a real-life safari but as far as inner-London escapes go, the Gir Lion Lodge is pure animal magic. Ashleigh Arnott

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