CHECKING IN: Unleash your wild side at Port Lympne

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The PA Life team travelled down to a corner of the Garden of England to experience a unique corporate events venue that will leave you at one with nature by the end of your stay…

How cool would it be to hold your next business event surrounded by a 600-acre wild animal park? Well, the answer is very cool, especially if you team up with Port Lympne Hotel and Reserve.  

Nestled between Ashford and Folkestone and easily accessible just off the M20 in Kent, the Reserve is home to over 900 rare and endangered animals, including the largest herd of black rhino in the UK, western lowland gorillas, the only giraffes in Kent, tigers, lions, leopards and bears.

And as we discovered on our recent overnight stay, corporate events held at Port Lympne can take advantage of a variety of beautiful locations around the Reserve, which we think is ideal for motivating, inspiring and rewarding your colleagues.

For starters, your group can experience incredible safaris, stunning landscaped gardens and unrivalled 30-mile views, all with bang up to date conference facilities to act as your ‘working’ base. You also get the opportunity to book additional experiences as part of your event, including animal encounters and private safaris, plus the chance (diary permitting) to stay overnight on a short break while you’re there.

The accommodation is varied, ranging from the height of luxury to more of a ‘glamping’ experience. For the former, there’s the four-star Port Lympne Hotel where you can relax in sophisticated style or enjoy the height of luxury with an overnight stay at the award-winning Treehouse Hotel (which is where we spent our stay). If your team is more of the glamping kind you can enjoy a taste of Africa in Kent at Giraffe Lodge and watch giraffe and rhino amble past your veranda, put the fun back into camping and sleep within a whisker of tigers at Pinewood, or enjoy views of the Reserve’s spectacled bears, Oberon and Rina at Bear Lodge.

The events team at Port Lympne will also be able to organise team building activities for your group. Budding animal keepers can find out what it takes to care for some of the world’s most endangered animals on a keeper experience, or come face to face with some of the animals on a 30 minute animal encounter. Or if it’s outdoor exercise you’re after, capture that elusive ‘wild’ shot with the Reserve’s resident professional photographer, have your team try their hand at archery or fishing, or strap them in for a thrilling Zorbing experience.

The main event though has to be the AAA Safari, comprising a ‘behind the scenes’ three-hour VIP tour during which you can get up close and personal with one of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ – the black rhino. A ranger will guide you on a safari across the 100 acres of Kentish savannah, called The African Experience, before a behind the scenes tour to visit some of the Reserve’s big cats.

But that’s enough of all the fun – what’s the working environment like? Well, the conferencing facilities have everything you’d expect from a modern venue, including unique locations and private function spaces (Moroccan courtyard backdrop for that strategy presentation, perhaps?), lots of wi-fi and ample free parking.

Importantly, despite having the feel of a natural wilderness, Port Lympne is accessible by road, rail, air and sea – by car it’s just five minutes from junction 11 off the M20 motorway, or by rail is 80 minutes from London’s Charing Cross or Victoria stations (with a short cab ride from Ashford International. There’s even a helipad for those VIPs and if anyone is arriving by sea, Dover and Folkstone are right on the Reserve’s doorstep.

If you’re looking for something a little different for your next corporate event or away-day, get in touch with your wilder side down in the Garden of England. It’s sure to be a roaring success…

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    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien