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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 125 | June 28 , 2009|


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A trip to Longleat Safari Park, England

Farzeen Mahboob

Photos: Amina Mubeen

RECENTLY, the International Office of the University of Portsmouth had arranged a visit to the Longleat Safari Park and I was all hyped up since it would be my first visit to anything of the sort. Most of us, especially the International Masters students did not want to miss the opportunity to visit the park. We started early in the morning towards our destination which takes a hour and a half by bus. We could barely hold our breaths as we longed to enter the gates while one of us collected the tickets.

The Longleat Safari Park, situated in Wiltshire, England, opened in 1966 as the first drive through safari park outside Africa. This historical park is situated in the grounds of Longleat House, the home of the 7th Marquess of Bath and is now a tourist attraction in its own right. The safari park was the first of its kind anywhere in the world and was considered to be a massive breakthrough in the way in which captive animals were kept, with the animals roaming freely and the visitors in cages (cars). Today, Longleat's collection comprises over 500 animals, and the whole estate is situated on 9000 acres (36 km²) of Wiltshire countryside.

Once entering the park, we started looking for animals and one by one spotted the birds cows, horses, giraffes, zebras and of course the kings of the forest, the mighty lions. It seemed all of them were welcoming us to their jungle! All of us were excited and took the opportunity to take pictures and shoot videos, in an attempt to keep our memories alive.

Soon enough, came the ever so timid bunch of deer. Some of them came very close to us and almost seemed to knock on the windows. Hundreds of shutters and flashes clicked, no one willing to miss this opportunity.

The Royal Bengal Tigers followed and one of them lazily crossed the road in front of our bus! We rushed towards the front to see him. Some of the tigers seemed to be busy taking a nap after having a heavy lunch.

Afterwards, we passed on some more animals, rhinoceros, monkeys, giraffes, bactrian camels, elephants and timber wolves roamed through the jungle. We drove through the park and cruised past the lake in 'Safari boats', accompanied by sea lions swimming alongside looking for snacks.

Once done with the animals, we went over to the Longleat house, another historical marvel. The site where the house stands today was bought by Sir John Thynne in 1541 with only £53 at the age of 25! John Thynne, the builder of Longleat House, had worked as a clerk of the kitchens to Henry VIII and later rose to wealth and power in the service of Protector Somerset. He was later knighted after the battle of Pinkie in 1547.

Thynne finished his dream home in 1580 just before he died. We saw many Victorian style furniture there. Later on we moved to the beautiful garden with an amazing maze. Spellbound enjoying its beauty, some of us even managed to get lost inside the maze and had to be rescued by our mates!

A boat ride followed, cruising through the river with sea gulls, dolphins, and Australian koala beers. There was a guide describing all of them.

After that, we went to the pet corner where I got fortunate enough to touch, for the first time in my life, a large venomous snake; a thrilling experience to say the least. We also visited the mirror maze and the Butterfly Gardens. Soon enough, it was time to return, much against our wishes, back to the university.

The writer is a student of the University of Portsmouth, England

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