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New wildlife reserve in West Norfolk to welcome first guests from next week

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Booking is now open for a new wildlife reserve in West Norfolk which will welcome visitors for the first time next week.

Watatunga Wildlife Reserve in Watlington, which provides a “unique environment” for dozens of endangered species – the majority of which are antelopes and bird species – will have its inaugural guided tours from Monday evening.

Director Anna Hamilton, whose husband is the park’s founder Edward Pope, said Watatunga will be opening in a “very soft way” next week.

Watatunga - buggies for guided tours. Picture: SUBMITTED. (39450477)
Watatunga - buggies for guided tours. Picture: SUBMITTED. (39450477)

“We are really excited to show people what we have been working on – hopefully people will really enjoy it,” she said.

The park, beside the A10 and on land off of Watlington Road, was due to open in April but plans were pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic.

At present, they will be running eight guided tours a week – 9am and 5pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 5pm on Mondays and Saturdays.

Watatunga - founder Ed Pope with a Great Bustard. Picture: SUBMITTED/Harry Lessman (39450278)
Watatunga - founder Ed Pope with a Great Bustard. Picture: SUBMITTED/Harry Lessman (39450278)

The tours will consist of up to five electric buggies, seating four or six, which will follow a guide in the lead buggy.

“Each buggy has a speaker system inside them so that everybody within them can hear the tour guide, and at the same time can remain in an isolated buggy,” Mrs Hamilton said.

“We were going to run trailer tours, but for the time being, that’s not an option.”

The tours will be added to their booking site on a two-week rolling basis.

And earlier today, the team said on social media they were “blown away, grateful and excited” that over half of their tours over the next couple of weeks had sold out.

Mrs Hamilton said although it was disappointing that their plans to open were pushed back by the Covid-19 outbreak, it actually proved to be positive in some ways.

“It has given the antelopes time to settle into the park undisturbed,” she added.

“The animals have settled in amazingly, they are looking fantastic.”

And in the meantime, some of their breeding animals have had offspring. “We are really delighted,” Mrs Hamilton said.

For some of the animals, moving to the 170-acre site has been a “huge change”.

“If they’ve come from zoos they may have only lived on concrete, so it took them a while to know they can eat grass. But it’s lovely to watch as they become more confident in their surroundings.”

They are expecting some more animals to arrive at the reserve before the end of the year.

To find out more, or to book a tour, visit www.watatunga.co.uk.

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