A NEW overnight safari experience at West Midland Safari Park is expected to welcome its first guests next year.

Eight new luxury lodges will give visitors the opportunity to stay overnight at the park for the first time - with direct views of its African elephants or cheetah habitats.

Building work on the lodges is already under way, and the first phase of the development was originally due for completion this summer, however following the coronavirus lockdown, the open date has been pushed back to February 2021.

Dudley News:

The safari lodges will be integrated into the newly-updated animal habitats, designed to give guests an up close and personal wildlife experience.

Nestled into their own secluded area but fully immersed within the wildlife reserves, there will be six lodges offering the only overnight accommodation experience with elephants in the UK.

Two more lodges will offer views of the park’s cheetah enclosure – also the only experience of its kind in the UK.

Chris Kelly, now managing director of West Midland Safari Park, said in March: "This amazing project will grow into something spectacular over the next four to five years, but to start with we are focussing on the elephants and cheetahs.

"Not only will the new lodges offer guests the opportunity to stay onsite overnight for the first time, they also allow us to create upgraded, stimulating and enriching environments for the animals.

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“Conservation is at the forefront of our minds when designing and building the lodges, so as part of this project, our net biodiversity gain will increase by 30 per cent, creating more habitats such as woodlands and wildflower meadows, encouraging native wildlife.

"Revenue from the lodges will support improving the facilities for more of the Park’s amazing animals, as we work towards the next phases of development.”

The elephant lodges will be themed with thatched roofs, accommodating up to six people.

They will have large, open-plan living areas with lounge and dining area, plus a downstairs bedroom, as well as a large balcony with outdoor seating.

Upstairs will be a bedroom, offering views across the brand-new elephant habitats.

Dudley News:

Breakfast and evening meals are included, and guests are encouraged to make use of the outdoor terrace to enjoy their meals while watching the elephants approach the pool in front of the lodges.

The two single-story, detached cheetah lodges will also sleep up to six people.

The living space will have a large window, spanning one side of the building, offering panoramic views of the cheetahs in their new habitat. A floor-to-ceiling window will offer more incredible views in the bedrooms.

Each lodge will also offer free Wi-Fi, TV, coffee machine and mini bar, filled with local produce.

There's no news yet on when bookings will open, nor how much the stays will cost.