7 Best Places for Animal Encounters near London

Animals are not only cute and soft to touch (well, at least some of them), but can also help in raising the levels of oxytocin or the so-called happy hormone in our bodies. Interacting with animals can be particularly beneficial for children in developing certain skills such as empathy, responsibility and sociability. It can similarly help grown-ups, of course, but you may not need much help from animals at this point. :) Whatever your age, you will surely come back home happier after meeting with any of the animals in the places we are listing here.

Whether you are missing some furry love at the moment or you just want to spend a nice time out with the kids, these 7 places within 2 hours drive from London are some of the best for animal encounters.

Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats, Kent

Goat lovers will enjoy this place for two reasons. First of all, there are about 140 goats on the site waiting for you to brighten their day. Second, this sanctuary has a touching story that will make you fall in love with their animals even more. It all started back in 1989 when Bob and Valerie Hitch took two unwanted goats into care. Soon after, another one joined the two, then another one, and before they knew it, they had a huge herd of goats, previously suffering from neglect and cruelty, with a second chance for a better life.

There are a few experiences available for booking. Opt for a walk with the goats or plan a special event and be the goat keeper for half a day. Whatever you choose, check availability first. As Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats is also a registered charity, donations are highly appreciated.


Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire

If you are looking to see a lot of different species at once, then this zoo which is home to over 800 animals is the place to be. Here you can meet with farmyard animals such as goats, pigs and sheep, but will also find many exotic kinds including penguins, monkeys, meerkats, pandas, reptiles, sloths, armadillos and many more. Paradise Wildlife Park also has a massive collection of big cats on display, so you will be able to spot (and feed if you dare!) the cute looking but also extremely predatory tigers, lions, snow leopards, cheetahs, jaguars and ocelots.

This zoo is different than others because they have many activities which include human-animal interaction. These allow meeting some animals face to face (red pandas here I come) and feeding them (penguins, lemurs and more). You can even book a tapir tickling session! Apart from the animal areas, there are also adventure playgrounds where you can take a breath while the kids can continue to drain their energy.


Willow's Birds of Prey & Wildlife Trail, Kent

For those of you who like feathers more than fur, this centre can provide an amazing falconry experience. Meet the beautiful owls, learn about the different species and prepare your head to be filled with tons of interesting facts about these birds. You will be trained to hold them, and once you have become friends, you can pose for the camera together. A kind of experience that stays with you forever, right!?

Owl encounter is just one of the experiences available for booking at Willow's. Many other birds of prey and other animals live here and will happily welcome you on their property. You might like to check out the Hawk Walk experience, which is a great introduction to falconry and a chance for children and grown-ups alike to learn the basics of handling these predatory birds safely. 


British Wildlife Centre, Surrey

Wondering where you should go to see the best collection of native wildlife in Britain? You can stop looking because the answer is right here. The British Wildlife Centre provides one of a kind experience for anyone who wants to meet a variety of wildlife species from up close. You will be able to view squirrels, foxes, deer, weasels and owls residing in their natural habitats, as well as some rarely seen species such as otters and Scottish wildcats. But, give yourself enough time, because the animals may be hiding when you first attempt to spot them, so it might be necessary to come back later. 

Make sure you attend the keeper talks to make use of your visit as much as possible. There is also a great cafe on the site, lovely outside picnic and play area. Truly a little gem you will want to revisit.


Dunreyth Alpacas, East Sussex

One thing that is really important to all animal lovers when they visit places like this is to be able to feel that the animals are loved and taken care of. At Dunreyth Alpacas, you can rest assured that love is everywhere around these soft and adorable creatures. You must prebook your experience and when the time for the visit comes, maybe leave your best shoes at home and put on a pair that are good for walking on uneven, muddy surfaces. If the weather is cold, also consider taking gloves as your hands will have to be out of your pockets for the whole time while you are leading the alpacas.

Walking alpacas is definitely a unique type of animal experience and can be the perfect way to spend a day out with or without kids. You will enjoy the idyllic countryside views while you are walking in the stunning Adsdean Park near Chichester. The groups of people are small, but interestingly, at least two alpacas have to join them, because these animals just don't want to walk alone. How cute is that? After you have done all the pet-a-paca and walk-alpaca, you will have the opportunity to buy some handmade products and take-a-pack-a that soft fur with you. Alpaca mittens? Yes, please!


Stratford Butterfly Farm, Warwickshire

Who doesn't like butterflies?! Most people are fascinated by these delicate little creatures which come in so many different colours and patterns and go through a fascinating life cycle. Would you like to spend a day around these gracious flying insects? Then, why not plan a perfect outing in the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm, where hundreds of butterflies from all over the world fly among the visitors? It is the largest attraction of this kind in Europe, so if you like how this experience sounds, make sure you pin this place on the map.

Feel free to make a visit on bad weather - it will be a perfect escape - but make note that it's tropical inside the rainforest flight area, so wear some easily removable layers of clothes. Apart from the exotic butterflies, the farm is home to many insects, reptiles, fish and more.

Housed in a spacious greenhouse and landscaped with beautiful waterfalls, ponds and tropical plants, this butterfly farm is as close to paradise as you can get. 


Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire

Just on a short one and a half-hour drive from Central London up North, you will find the Woburn Safari Park where the experience will be worth having your car all covered in dirt. You start by booking your visit for the whole group (you pay per vehicle), and when you finally arrive at the park, you can start enjoying the views of the 1,000+ wild animals residing in their habitats. Lions, tigers, bears, rhinos and elephants are just a few of the many species you can meet when you drive through the exhibits. Couldn't spot some animals on your first drive-through? No problem - make as many circuits as you want. And every time it may feel different as the animals change their positions and interactions.

When you want to stretch your legs and meet some animals from up close, head out to the Foot Safari for an amazing adventure which includes keeper talks and demonstrations. Your day here will certainly be packed with unusual animal encounters and astonishing wildlife. Families will find the bouncy castle and playground area great fun for their children. Those who want to support the conservatory and build a closer connection with some of the animals have a chance to purchase an admission ticket for 2021 and adopt a lion, giraffe, elephant or tiger. Check the park's website to find out what's included with this experience. But, just to make things clear - you are not taking any of the animals home with you.


Which one of these places would you visit for your next animal adventure? 

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