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Watlington’s Watatunga Wildlife Reserve offers safari tours at award-winning site to see variety of animals, including Mountain Bongo, Great Bustard and White Storks, roaming freely





Nestled within the West Norfolk countryside and just off the A10 is a safari experience just waiting to take visitors for a walk on the wild side.

Watatunga Wildlife Reserve, which welcomed its first visitors in 2020, can be found set back on the road approaching the village of Watlington.

It is dedicated to the conservation of endangered species and born out of a passion for conservation.

Watatunga Wildlife Reserve
Watatunga Wildlife Reserve

These include deer, antelope and birds which are free to roam at their will at the reserve, which has recently celebrated being named the best small visitor attraction in the country at the Visit England awards.

Buggy tours take visitors across the 170 acres of land, showcasing a vision created by owner Ed Pope who has a passion and affinity for protecting and conserving a variety of animals.

The safari tour takes adventure-seekers into the heart of the wild landscape, transporting them to what feels like a far-flung area of the world, but it is right on our doorstep in West Norfolk.

Water Buffalo
Water Buffalo
There are many different wildlife species to see at Watatunga
There are many different wildlife species to see at Watatunga

The sights include the new inhabitant Eastern Mountain Bongo, of which there are only 100 left in the wild, as well as Water Buffalo, Scimitar-Horned Oryx, White Storks and Dave, the Great Bustard, who was a stand-out when the Lynn News visited this week.

Mountain Bongo have returned to Watatunga as part of a globally important breeding and reintroduction programme.

Mr Pope, who runs the family business with wife Anna, said: “The village of Watlington is where I grew up and the name Watatunga is a combination of Watlington and Sitatunga, a type of antelope.

Mtoto, which means small child in Swahili, is a Mountain Bongo
Mtoto, which means small child in Swahili, is a Mountain Bongo
As well as deer, buffalo and antelope, there are also bird species at the site
As well as deer, buffalo and antelope, there are also bird species at the site

“The word Watatunga in (the African language) Swahili means ‘they will compose’ so it seemed fitting.

“The reserve was created for the birds and animals and we were amazed to win the award for small visitor attraction.”

Mr Pope said the area has been transformed since the introduction of wild animals.

“Originally these were flatlands growing wheat, barley, sugarbeet and potatoes and we have created this landscape,” he said.

Ed Pope created and runs the reserve with wife Anna
Ed Pope created and runs the reserve with wife Anna
Lynn News reporters Molly Nicholas and Jenny Beake at Watatunga. Pictures: Ian Burt
Lynn News reporters Molly Nicholas and Jenny Beake at Watatunga. Pictures: Ian Burt

For those on the safari tour, the electric buggies weave slowly around the reserve with a guided tour.

You could see Water Buffalo lounging in the lake, Mouflon - a type of wild sheep - sauntering through, Egyptian Geese and White Storks nesting and Dave just doing his thing.

A Mountain Bongo, called Mtoto – meaning little child in Swahili – is also a mesmerising sight.

Ed Pope at Watatunga Wildlife Reserve
Ed Pope at Watatunga Wildlife Reserve

In the dappled light of the forest, it grazes peacefully before disappearing, disguised by its camouflage colourings of spots and stripes.

Mr Pope, who recently travelled to Africa to release Bongos back into the wild, said: “By eating nettles, leaves and having a balanced diet it means the animal has good gut health and should it ever go back into the wild to live, it means they can survive.”

The safari tour winds around the reserve with the buzz of distant traffic a world away from the peace and tranquility found there.

Ed Pope with Dave, the Great Bustard
Ed Pope with Dave, the Great Bustard

Watatunga is living up to its name of best small attraction, with people from all over the world coming to see what is on offer.

Valerie Lavino from California and her lifelong friend Carol Marvin from Leicestershire were among the visitors to the reserve during their holiday in Snettisham on Wednesday.

Carol Marvin and Valerie Lavino visited Watatunga
Carol Marvin and Valerie Lavino visited Watatunga

Carol said: “We found this online and it is wonderful. It is so interesting.”

“It is absolutely great. Dave the Great Bustard is such a personality. My favourite to see was the Bongo,” Valerie added.

The reserve offers self-catering cottages for safari stays and guided tours plus a new barbecue area, which the team say is the perfect place to sit with family and friends and watch the sunset.

Visit here for further information.

The buggies on tour at Watatunga
The buggies on tour at Watatunga
The site boasts 170 acres of land
The site boasts 170 acres of land
The animals roam free in the 170-acre site and every visit will be different
The animals roam free in the 170-acre site and every visit will be different
Visitors can keep their eyes open for a variety of species in the stunning landscape
Visitors can keep their eyes open for a variety of species in the stunning landscape

Do you have a story for the Lynn News? Email newsdesk@lynnnews.co.uk



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