Situated close to the town of Hythe in Kent, Port Lympne Reserve is a wild animal park set amongst 600 acres of land.
The award-winning park is home to some of the planet’s most endangered animals – from gorillas, elephants and zebra to lions, tigers and cheetah – and provides visitors with an African safari experience unlike any other.
The park works in conjunction with The Aspinall Foundation, an internationally renowned animal conservation charity committed to protecting, breeding and reintroducing rare and endangered species. The Aspinall Foundation oversees the park – as well as sister site Howletts Wild Animal Park – and is focused on providing animals with the best living environment possible.
In addition to meeting the needs of its large collection of animals, the charity is keen to ensure visitors make the most out of their time at the parks and has installed a fantastic range of accommodation options at Port Lympne, including new addition the Treehouse Hotel.
Nestled in the trees, high above the 600 acre reserve, the luxurious Treehouse Hotel provides guests with a truly unique experience, allowing them to stay amongst the trees in beautifully designed all-year accommodation. The hotel provides guests with a great view of the Reserve (and beyond) and offers all of the luxuries of home and more.
Discussing the accommodation at Port Lympne Reserve, as well as the creation of the new Treehouse Hotel, Managing Director, Bob O’Connor, said:
“The park primarily operates as a day visitor attraction with between 400-500 animals. Around seven years ago we decided to incorporate ‘glamping’, through the creation of our African Experience. We built a safari lodge, influenced by the style of accommodation seen in the big parks in Africa, and this offers luxury tented accommodation with a meeting house incorporated on the site. Our Livingston Lodge, African Experience was extremely successful, winning numerous awards but was predominantly an adult experience, so we found that we were turning away a lot of families and this was something we needed to address.
“After three years we built a collection of eight-berth lodges, this time called the Elephant Lodge and it was at this point that we realised that our accommodation had really struck a chord with our visitors. This led to other schemes, including a development of camping pods, conversion of the Edwardian Mansion, at the heart of the reserve, into a boutique hotel and our most ambitious plan to date, our Treehouse Hotel.”
Planning work began on the Treehouse Hotel in 2011, with construction work getting underway in October 2014. Design Coalition was the project manager on the scheme, with Malcom Charles Construction Limited appointed as the main contractor. Mayfair-based design practice Tara Bernerd & Partners was responsible for the interior design work on the hotel. Ray Hole Architects was the original architect on the project.
The Treehouse Hotel officially opened in July 2015 to fantastic feedback.
“We’ve had several hundred people stay at the hotel already – and they love it! It’s unique. I’ve seen variations on what we have with this hotel, but I’ve not seen anything quite like it in the UK or the world.
“The club house, which we have included as part of the Treehouse Hotel development, places guests just a few feet away from endangered black rhino. We provide guests with behind the scenes access – via the use of a golf buggy – which grants them the opportunity to see areas of the park that day visitors do not get to see and they can also take part in safari tours, giraffe feeds and big cat feeds. The buggy also gives guests easy access to the restaurants at the nearby Port Lympne Hotel and Elephant Lodge.”
Each lodge within the Treehouse Hotel sleeps four people and includes a high specification kitchen – complete with mini-bar – allowing guests the opportunity to cater for themselves, should they wish. Guests can also visit one of the restaurants in the park’s Elephant Lodge and there is an option to schedule a chef for a private booking.
“We’re trying to do things a little bit differently to anyone else in the market, so this truly is a unique experience.”
Since the Treehouse Hotel opened it has proved very important to the operation of the Reserve and this is something which Bob is very pleased about.
“People make a decision to come on a day visit approximately 12 hours in advance, but when they book a short break they book 12 weeks in advance. This means that because we know how many people are coming to the Reserve we can plan accordingly, ensuring that the correct levels of service are in place to meet all of our guests’ requirements.
“In any day visitor attraction, the single biggest factor in whether you have a successful year or not, is the weather. No matter how good our service is or how many awards we receive, I can’t control what the weather decides to do and if it rains its quiet. The motivation behind all of our short breaks was to find a way to stabilise the business and allow us to continue to plan further ahead and this is something which we have achieved.”
For more information about Port Lympne Reserve, please visit: www.aspinalfoundation.org/port-lympne.