Reviewed by Zoey Caldwell
I’m not sure about you, but my weeks blend into months and months into years. With countless promises to even out the workload with the quality family time before the children no longer want to play Lego with me anymore and I am desperate for them to visit.
Well as part of a resolution of all chores and no play, when I was offered the opportunity to try Chessington World of Adventures new for 2016 Glamping site, I jumped at the chance.
As a family we have not camped, to be honest the male dominant in this house would usually point blank refuse to. Creature comforts are a must to keep him happy. To be honest it was a lot easier to persuade him than I thought. After all, this is Glamping, there are beds!! WiFi and electricity. I wasn’t asking that he crawl into a 2 man tent in the dampest English countryside.
I have got to be honest, I was so excited. I made the decision not to tell the children until we were on our way. These moments in life of sheer joyful surprise on my children’s faces are rare. It was fantastic.
After almost a 3 hour journey to Chessington (it is situated not far off the M25, a known nightmare road), we were so excited to pull into the car park area. The staff were very friendly and guided us to the correct car park. The Tiger car park, this is a grass car park but the weather hadn’t been too rainy on the run up to the trip so was fine underfoot.
Upon arrival, we checked into Base Camp reception – all under canvas. All of the staff were well presented, fantastically friendly and polite. There is a small shop here that provides the kind of products that any camper, especially novices like us would forget, as well as refreshments. We were also offered the use of a padlock for the tent. We did accept this, as the children had their iPads.
The camping area is well set out and there is a communal area in the middle with cut logs to sit on. Outdoor games, such as Connect 4 and Jenga are available to play. The area is grassy but all the walkways are a hessian style material so no waterlogged muddiness in the tent if the weather is bad. There are plenty of toilets available in blocks and they are sexed so no communal toilets. The shower blocks are individual shower rooms, situated near the toilets. There is a sink and a small bench, as well as a swimming pool style mat to avoid slipping. A small bottle of shampoo and a body wash is provided for those that may forget theirs.
We were given tent 19, this is described as a standard tent (wooden floor, double bed and 2 singles, power sockets, witfi etc.). We were so excited to see where we would be sleeping. We were so happy with our sleeping area. The double bed faced us behind the tent post that had 2 electric lights that looked like camping lanterns. The boy’s beds were either side of the double bed. There is a mirror and a stand for hanging clothes on. The floor is wooden and there is a rug. It was actually really warm when we first went in, but we understood that the temperature would drop later so weren’t too quick in opening the doors wide too quickly.
The beds felt comfortable and are made up white linen, it was all very clean.
Once we had explored our room we headed back out, where we were greeted by to beautiful looking owls, Rosie and Gimley. The staff were again friendly and quite happy to have photo’s taken with the children and the owls.
Part of the Glamping experience is exclusive access to the Wild Asia area of the theme park for an allotted time. This was AMAZING. So much fun. I think there were 5 of us on the Cobra at one point. My eldest and I truly were in tears of laughter on this ride it is so much fun. Onto the dodgems and a quick go on the high swings… this is a wet ride! I did get 2 full on face squirts, so if you do not want to get wet, sit on the inner swings. My son was bent over double at the idea of me getting so wet, he too got a good soaking… they often actively seek out getting soaked though!
Lots of laughter later we decided that it was time to explore the new buffet restaurant (Explorer’s Outpost) that is situated in Wild Asia and is available for use for all those Glamping.
It is an all you can eat experience that offers a 3 course buffet dinner. The decor inside for the eating area is a cosy, Arabic style feel. There are Middle Eastern inspired lanterns on the tables and candles (all candles are battery powered).
The tables are set and once you have given your name you are free to sit anywhere that is free and help yourself to food.
My soon to be 5 year old is not a great eater, he opted for some bread and butter, battered chicken pieces and various salad veggies. My eldest is a lot more adventurous, he chose jalapeno sausage with rice and salad. My partner took a small tasting of lots of dishes and being vegetarian I opted for the Malaysian vegetable curry and rice – so nice I went for more! All of us cleared our plates and the boys and I went up for dessert. Chocolate fondue with marshmallows, biscuit fingers, mini doughnuts. Yummy.
There are hot drink facilities and water/apple/orange juice dispenser. To the side of the tables there is a bar area and my partner and I had wine /beer with the meal. We decided once the meal was over to move over to one of the tables available in the bar area. There is a dance floor and they needed it with the wonderful Ceilidh band. A 3 piece band that encouraged the families up on the dance floor to dance simple, instructed routines that had families bonding and laughing together. Parents, grandparents and children of all ages up and dancing together. Great! The bar was open until 9pm and a lot of the families were purchasing a bottle of wine to take back to the tent. This is where the Superior tent will come into its own as it has separate sleeping areas and a small patio for that quiet time whilst the children sleep. Not in our tent, my boys were so excited about the whole experience that as soon as we thought they were settled one would pipe up and have us all in stitches. So, it was an unusually late night for them, but this is such an amazing experience it didn’t matter. Once it was lights out, we marvelled at the owl noises we could hear.
I had set an alarm, but we didn’t need it, a combination of air traffic and what sounded like a big truck in the theme park woke us early and not long after that there were noises coming from the camp site. At 7 my alarm went off and I went to the shower block. I walked straight into the cubicle and it was spotless. The water was a great temperature and the flow was good. For the fact that it was in a cubicle it was a good shower. I headed back to the tent and my partner headed off. Quite sometime later he returned, which isn’t unusual as he enjoys a long shower. However this was not the case, he just managed to rinse the shampoo out of his hair and the water ran out. Just stopped. The reason he took so long was he was waiting for it to come back on – it didn’t! For the man that showers twice a day and had to be talked into Glamping this was a nightmare.
Despite this the toilet blocks still had running water so kids managed to brush their teeth and we headed back to the Explorer Outpost for breakfast. Again, an all you can eat affair. Full English, cereals, pastries and fruit. My eldest and partner went for a Full English, I had scrambled egg, hash browns and beans and the fussy one went for pastries and fruit. Once again all polished off and washed down with tea, water, and juice.
A benefit to Glamping is that you are given fast track entry to the rides for the first hour. We had to be checked out for 10am so a little before we packed the car up and returned to camp until 10am when we could gain access through Wild Asia. We had checked the map out and planned which rides we use the fast track access for to make the most of the benefit.
First stop the Vampire ride in Transylvania. Just the eldest and I on here as my youngest is too scared and too small. Mason, my eldest found the dark part of the walkway through to the ride a bit spooky. I did explain that the whole experience. We didn’t queue for long at all. My personal favourite part of the decor inside is the animatronic old man playing the organ. The ride itself is fast and so much fun. My son’s verdict is “best ride EVER… but I am not going on again” I thought that this was hilarious. Next up something we all could go on Bubbleworks. This is a very gentle, colourful ride. My youngest enjoyed it very much. Again it was time to split up into the youngest and daddy and eldest with me. We headed for Dragon’s Fury and the youngest went on the driving on Toadies Crazy Cars.
I can tell you now I lost my stomach a few times on Dragon’s Fury, but again we laughed so much it hurt. There was only 10 minutes left on fast track so Mason persuaded me to go straight back on it. When we met with the rest of our family they too had made the most of the last few minutes and went on the Bubbleworks. Next stop was The Cobra for Mason and I, the queue was about 25 minutes and we were lucky to skip a bit of the queue because we were a 2.
As we had spent quite a bit of time apart on our family day out we decided that the zoo would be the best way forward to go next. We were just in time for the Sealion show. A great presentation and the animals looked like they were enjoying the show too. Into the bugs, lizards, spiders etc. A clean and well presented walkthrough experience.
Now we got to see the real majestic animals of the world. Lions lazed in their enclosure. It looks very well maintained as did all of the other enclosures. Zoos certainly have moved on since I was a child, no cages and environments to keep the interest of the animals. I have never been overly keen on animals being kept in captivity, but with conservation issues and increasing risk of extinction the work of these good, well maintained zoos are invaluable. The tigers too were not up to much, just lazing around but our real joy came from the Gorilla enclosure. Two smaller Gorillas were doing as siblings do and were playfighting. They really were going to town on each other- without hurting! At one point one saw us all watching and wowed the crowd by coming right up to the glass and hitting it.
Here is where I truly had my breath taken away, the Silverback appeared from the inside. WOW what an impressive, amazing animal. He is beautiful. Shortly before we arrived there had been a scatter and the gorillas were foraging in amongst the hay. Seeing animals in this kind of behaviour is a true privilege and if that is all I had seen at the zoo I would have been happy.
A very short walk on and again, fantastically by luck we arrived just in time for the new for 2016 Pandamonium show. The children enjoyed it and the pandas are really cute… I however found the overacting a tad on the annoying side. Bah humbug I know. At the end of the show there is a chance to meet the animatronic pandas. There was a queue- a big one. You are not allowed to touch the pandas. My children decided not to wait in line. Toilet break time – we had to leave the park for the nearest toilets but staff are on hand to UV stamp your hand. The toilet block was clean and well maintained, as well as being well stocked with toilet rolls and soap.
Back to the animals, otters, then into the SEA LIFE Centre. It is what seems like a standardised layout of the SEA LIFE centres we have visited. We all love the SEA LIFE Centres, there are such amazing beautiful, graceful fish and sea life to view. There are also lots of facts to read so you can come away with newly found fishy facts.
I don’t know how we managed to it but we walked out with 2 minutes to go before and animal encounter. Raccoons, Meerkats are brought out and come really close to the crowd. Fantastic. The lady that was giving the talk was the same one that had been talking at the Sealion show. She is confident and knowledgeable. She really does a good talk and entertains alongside the animals but doesn’t steal their thunder.
We noticed what looks like a castle and my little one decided that Hocus Pocus Hall was our next adventure – it was that or a Penguin Presentation. We put on our 3D glasses but almost as soon as we the experience started it scared him. He was hysterical, so I found myself trying to get through the hall and all its extras as quickly as I could. Every scream or scary noise would set him off again and just before the end is a hall of mirrors – not good when you are carrying a screaming 5 year old boy.
My eldest and his dad soon followed and they had enjoyed the whole experience. Onto the Penguins, the presentation was still on – this was overshadowed a little by the constant barrage of seagulls. The fish being fed to the penguins was obviously a great attraction to them. There was a boy and a woman that were taking part in a VIP experience and were feeding the penguins. A trip to the children’s zoo and time for another ride. The Rattlesnake, this was to be the longest wait yet. The ride was good, not great and I know I felt not worth the 45 minutes we queued. We headed for Tomb Blaster but at the last minute the little one decided he didn’t want to go on. I said I would wait this time, and the time on the ride said approx 25 minute wait. I could tell my little one was getting tired and it had started raining slightly so we took a seat on a bench near the toilets at the ride exit. I was undercover and my tired one fell asleep on my lap, and slept and slept because despite the ride saying it would be about 25 minutes wait, it was over an hour I sat there with a sleeping child. I was freezing. When they finally came off the ride they said they enjoyed it but it probably was a good job the little one didn’t go on. It was so close to the end of the day now and so onto Zufari for the final ride of the day. We all love animals so this opportunity to see the Giraffes especially was exciting. We had heard others talking of getting wet on the ride but to be honest it was minimal splashing.
I have to say we all dragged our way back to the car, stopping off at a snack point in Wild Asia for a hot drink and crisps for the journey.
Chessington is a place that I have watched the adverts for time and time again. I have never thought twice about actually visiting, we usually always choose the other Merlin attractions such as LEGOLAND.
It is a fantastic family experience, the park is well run. The staff are pleasant. Their presentation is fantastic and so is their attitude. I definitely would recommend the 2 for 1 days. We were totally exhausted after our day, so to have the Glamping experience there to relax and enjoy the other half of the park the next day. Another great thing about the Glamping is that you get to use the Hotel’s facilities so an early end to the first day – a swim in the pool and then back to get closer to nature at the Glamping Site, dinner at the Explorers Outpost and back to the tent to fall asleep to the sound of the owls. Fantastic.
Thank you Chessington, my family applaud you! Quality time in a quality place, our only gripe was the shower running out of water.
For more information and to make a booking visit www.chessington.com/glamping.
Chessington World of Adventures Resort, Leatherhead Road, Chessington, Surrey, KT9 2NE