All too often we ignore the attractions on our doorstep, but to ignore the delights of Woburn Safari Park is to miss out on a whole load of monkeying around - as we discovered at the weekend, writes Sammy Jones.
The safari park route - the bit where you sit in the car, windows closed tight - takes about 40 minutes all in all, a whistle-stop tour through the home of some of our most magnificent animals.
Really, how often do you come face to face with a lioness (while seated behind the protective glass of our people carrier, of course!), or find yourself in close proximity to a beautiful Asian Elephant?
It is a real treat - as are the zebras, bears, wolves, cattle, deer, and hippos we encounter en route.
Some of the animals are friendlier than others - for example the giraffes had hard necks, and the camels?
Well, they had the hump when we visited!
The magnificent, pacing tigers are incredibly vibrant and majestic themselves, but for the three youngsters in the car - Lucy, Chloe and Emily - it was our trip through the African Jungle which drew the loudest screams, giggles and gasps.
The monkeys are an engaging and decidedly cheeky bunch, and spend their time doing acrobatics with car windscreen wipers, clinging to radio aeriels and dancing from motor to motor.
One little fella even took off with a taxi sign at breakneck speed. A visit through the enclosure has the potential to present a few problems, but you will laugh so much, you’ll not mind a bit when your gleaming motor emerges the other end of the enclosurecovered in muddy monkey prints just after you’ve splashed out having the thing cleaned.
Well, maybe you will mind just a tad.
But the smiles on the girls’ faces more than compensate, and they are still buzzing when we park up and begin a wander around the enclosures with more hospitable residents.
The Lemurs in particular attract attentions, not least because they are very furry and don’t mind a bit of human interaction. A couple of them are little fuss pots and lap up cuddles.
Not all are friendly though, but an amiable keeper is on hand to help keep the animals happy, and us safe.
Squirrel monkeys are as small as they are cute, although you need to watch your heads when they are playing in the trees above: They do rather like to throw debris.
Stick to the authorised tracks and you can wander the wallaby enclosure (the albino ones were favourites), or continue around the park and watch the penguins making a splash.
With so much excitement, kids young and old will probably need some sustenance to carry on for the whole day, and the restaurant facilities won’t let you down either.
Whether you want a light snack, a naughty cake or a full, hearty meal they’ve got it sorted for you.
With so many attractions to enjoy, we didn’t make it along to one of the animal feeds, or special, informative shows, and we didn’t have the time to head out on Swan Lake, in one of the swan rides.
But did we feel like we missed out?
On the contrary, we spent the day our way and enjoyed the sights at our own leisurely pace.
Visiting in October meant that the weather was less than perfect, but actually, it didn’t impede the visit at all - as Chloe, Lucy and Emily will verify.
“When can we go back to the Safari Park again?” they asked at various points the next day.
“We want to see the monkeys!”
Take your little monkeys for an exceptional day out.