Knowsley Safari is usually packed full of cars on the safari drive, families queuing up to get food inside the restaurant and children seeing their favourite animals during the busy Easter break.
Last year, the Easter Bank Holiday weekend was a very different one, with the popular attraction, like hundreds across the country, being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But despite it being a much quieter weekend without visitors again this year, it has still been business as usual when it comes to animal care and making improvements on site for when the gates can re-open.
Knowsley Safari said it’s been a “challenging, surreal year” having to adapt to the changing landscape of the pandemic, but that they are very much focussed on reopening on April 12 – something they’re “grateful and excited” for.
We spoke to Knowsley Safari about what life has been like on site a year on from the first lockdown, what Easter weekend will look like this year and plans for re-opening.
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Rachel Scott, Head of Marketing at Knowsley Safari, said: “Easter Bank Holiday weekend is usually a very busy period for us and like last year it will be very different not having visitors during this peak time.
“However, we have a lot more to be hopeful for this year and we’re very much focussed on reopening on April 12, which is something we’re so grateful and excited for.
“We’ve all really missed our guests and are very much looking forward to the Safari coming alive again with the buzz of people.
“Seeing the look on children’s faces when they encounter the animals up close or learn something new during one of our Learning & Discovery sessions is truly priceless and brings so much joy to our staff, so this is something that they are really looking forward to.”
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Knowsley Safari has had teams on-site caring for the animals, feeding them and cleaning them out, the same way as if they were open to the public and in the first lockdown quickly implemented enhanced hygiene regimes and put social distancing measures in place, achieving the ‘We’re Good to Go’ industry standard.
Rachel said the team have also taken advantage of each lockdown to continue improvements on site, adding new outdoor food offerings and a revamped area for the bush dogs. She the most challenging thing has been juggling remote and on-site working.
Rachel said: “Our team is fairly close-knit, we all share the same passion for wildlife and nature, so when some of the team are working from home and others on site, it’s been challenging at times to ensure everyone still feels part of the team.
“We do use an online app though, so people on site can share what’s happening with those working remotely.
“It’s been a challenging, surreal year, which has meant continually having to adapt to the changing landscape of the pandemic.
“There have been some positives though too, such as the ability to develop our online Home Safari LIVE, free sessions where we can continue to engage the local community – as well as people around the world – with nature.
“It’s great to have built this platform which schools and the general public can continue to access whether our gates are open or closed. We’ve connected more with the wider world.”
There are less than 2,000 Grevy’s Zebra in the world – the largest and most endangered Zebra species – and Quigley and Ceaba have recently arrived at Knowsley Safari to mark the beginning of a potential breeding programme.
As well as the new animal additions, guests will also be able to re-fuel on the Foot Safari with several new outdoor catering options, including a takeaway Pizzeria and a new Dessert Pod offering sweet treats.
Since it first opened in 1971, Knowsley Safari has been a popular day out in Merseyside and has welcomed visitors from around the country to see some of the world’s most magnificent animals.
Rachel said: “This is a very special year for Knowsley Safari, it’s our 50th anniversary.
“Planning to reopen is our immediate priority and soon after that we’ll be lining up more activities which the local community can get involved in. “
Safety measures in place include timed and contactless entry, protective screens at the entry kiosks, safety signage and sanitising stations throughout the site.
Guests pre-book their tickets online which allows the team to monitor capacity so that social distancing measures are adhered to.
To find out more click here.