Family Days Out in East Sussex: Drusilla's Park

Over the summer we were invited to review Drusilla's Park in East Sussex again, and it's high time we reminded you of what a great day out it is!  Situated between Brighton and Eastbourne, Drusilla's is a small 10 acre zoo near historic Alfriston village (locale of the infamous Bloomsbury set).  With a wide variety of animals, including adorable Fenec foxes, the now ubiquitous meerkats, and myriad monkeys and other primates, there are plenty of cute critters to spot.  When the ah-ing and aw-ing is over, there is masses for the children to do, including a vast play area, special character days, and the UK's only Hello Kitty themed park!

The girls absolutely adore 'Zingzillas' as they have named it, and there is always plenty for them to see and do.  You enter via mice, monkeys and more, and can pick up optional booklets to stamp and questions to answer, and most people then head through the animal section before hitting the play areas.  For us, no visit is complete without a quick nip in to the farm area, where this lovely laidback goat is our star attraction.

There are not one but two posses of meerkats on the site, and they really are fascinating to watch.  The girls like predicting who's going to be on sentry duty next, and were delighted to see some mini meerkat babies.

It was ridiculously hot when we visited, so there were lots of sleepy heads in the sunshine: mongoose, rabbits, guinea pigs, serval, sloth, Fennec fox and capybara, to name a few.  We decided to cut through to the play areas and come back to the animals later on, when the heat of the day had cooled a little.

We headed to the Hello Kitty Secret Garden, where there are some Hello Kitty themed rides, including a car ride, tea cup ride and 'reach for the sky' hopper ride.  Hello Kitty herself visits on certain days throughout the year and her bedroom and beauty parlour are open most days, so plenty for HK fans - lots of teens and adults amongst them!  The remaining Hello Kitty days for this year are Thursday 27th October (half-term) and Saturday 26th November (Christmas lights switch on), so book your advance tickets now.

The girls really liked this new attraction, particularly the car ride, which is great fun, although Tatiana did take her driving responsibilities rather seriously....

We were sad to learn that this is the final year for another beloved character: the Thomas the Tank Engine train that has been a feature of Drusilla's for many years will not be renewing its licence for 2017, so the next three months are your last chance to catch a ride on Thomas.  Next spring a new Go Safari! attraction with train will open, but we will really miss Thomas, just look at Tatia's face when we told her the bad news :-(

After a couple of trips round on Thomas, we headed to the soft play area, which we virtually had to ourselves so early in the day, and then to the outside play areas.  There is so much to play on and in that the children could quite happily spend the entire day playing, they love it.  With a safari jeep to drive, soft play, endless slides, climbing areas, and the new splash park, there is just so much to do, for children of all ages.  The play areas are exceptionally well kept, with staff usually available to help as necessary.  Lara caught her sleeve on a sticking out nail once, and immediately a hammer was found and it was dealt with.

After an exhaustive time playing and getting splashed (i.e.soaked!), we headed to the picnic areas for lunch.  There are a couple of cafes on site, and the one nearest the entrance is particularly good with salad bar, jacket potatoes etc (although the service can be iffy), but when the weather is good a picnic is easiest for us.  We like to picnic and paddle by the small lagoon area, and really hope this space won't be lost when the new Safari feature is built.  but the main picnic area, where you will also meet any characters visiting, is a great space.

One quick note for parents, if you ever lose your child, head straight for Mungo's Trading Post next to the Thomas station/in the main picnic area, and ask for help there.

After our late lunch, we headed back the 'wrong' way through the animals and dropped in to see my favourites, the lemurs.  The lovely Lemurland feature gives you the chance to get up close with these Madagascan beauties as they climb, swing, jump, groom and chill.  Just gorgeous. 

Across from Lemurland, you'll find Lory Landing where a flock of lorikeets will quickly become your BFFs if you purchase a tub or two of their adored nectar to hold.  These stunning parakeets are natives of Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, and their brightly coloured plumage delights young and old alike.

Steve and I got to have a sit down at the crazy crocodile swamp, which the girls think is just marvellous.  You move the bone in his food bucket and he sings a rather laconic beginning to Never Smile at a Crocodile.  Apparently this is hilarious, especially when you can run round from one end of the croc to the other, crossing perilous bridges and  fighting through jungle, untrammelled by grown-ups.  Who needs screen time, huh?!

Crocodile fun over, we set off again on our animal quest.  Many of them were still very lethargic because of the heat which refused to abate, but after visits to the prairie dogs, penguins, flamingos and gibbons, we spent ages watching the sweet little otters play.  They were rolling around on their backs tossing stones from paw to paw, 'accidentally' dropping them, retrieving them, and having a fine old time!  Very cute, although Sophia now wants otters as pets...

See the stone in his paw?

Oh, and beavers, and sloths, and meerkats, and, and, and...

We saved our favourite thing to do at the end of the day at Drusilla's till last, and went to visit the amazing squirrel monkeys.  With, proportionally, the largest brain of all primates, these highly intelligent, sociable creatures love interacting with their little human cousins though the glass.  We usually time our visit for their tea time, and take our afternoon snack with us, then sit and communicate through the glass.  The monkeys bring over their food to show and offer to us, and the girls reciprocate with theirs.

If we're not paying attention to someone, they will knock on the glass, and they happily sit and chat away to the girls whilst 'sharing' their meal together.  It's so lovely, and the thing the girls (we all) look forward to most at the end of the day.  This happened by accident a few years ago when Lara and Sophia were tiny, and it's something we've continued since.  This tie we got to 'meet' some of the new babies when the mothers came over to show them to us through the glass.  Adorable.

Our little penguins on parade were sad when it was time to leave and, as usual, we were one of the last cars to leave the car park!  I'm not sure if we'll be back to meet Hello Kitty or The Gruffalo at half-term ,or if we'll wait until the pretty Christmas lights are up later in November, but we'll definitely be back soon Drusilla's!

A quick proviso: Regular AM readers and social media fans will know I have some issues with zoos and animals in captivity generally, but the exemplary work Drusilla's does with endangered species and in local habitats around the world puts paid to any such concerns here.  As ever, it would be lovely to see more spacious enclosures, but these are amongst some of the best kept animals we have seen.  A great little zoo, and an ideal place to introduce children to a wide range of animals and the topics of conservation, zoology and more.  As always, everything you read on this blog and its social channels is 100% honest.

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