A short-break safari in Sussex

I recently turned 30, and in a bid to escape the inevitable party, my husband decided to whisk me away on a safari. For the night.

The idea was to experience something different and Safari Britain, who offer luxury camping and wildlife adventures from their safari style tented camps in the South Downs National Park, seemed the perfect alternative to the usual short break - and with a pretty small carbon footprint to boot. We threw our bags in the car, strapped up our baby and off we went, for a 30 minute drive to Firle, near Lewes in East Sussex, for a night on the Downs.

We abandoned our car and were met by Kim, who took our luggage to the camp site while we continued on foot. After a 20 minute walk through hilly meadows and woodland groves, we reached the enchanting site which appeared out of nowhere, nestled in a beautiful fold in the Downs. Endorsed by celebrity chef Valentine Warner, the camp site boasts roomy bell tents, a fully fitted yurt kitchen (a kind of wood lattice-framed structure), a drop toilet and outdoor shower as well as a yurt complete with wood burner and library to while away rainy days and chilly evenings.

We were introduced to our fellow campers including six kids, who were in the process of preparing their meal of nettle pesto, squirrel, rabbit stew and black and elderberry fool, which they had just foraged with their guide. They excitedly told us how they had skinned the rabbit which was now in the pot being cooked (one boy even kept the foot as a lucky memento), and how they picked other delicacies from the hedgerows with the wild food foraging guide. This guide was one of the many experts available to give guests an insight into a broad range of fields such as wild flower spotting, bat, bird and insect spotting, gamekeeper skills, falconry, landscape history and archaelogy, survival and even art and folk music.

England may not have the ‘Big Five’, but there is plenty of wildlife - albeit on a smaller scale - to give guests a similar thrill. Badgers, bats, birds of prey, foxes are just some of the creatures you can expect to see, or you can go out with the entomologist to look for mini-beasts. Also keep an eye out for rare wild flowers such as orchids.

As we settled in, we sat around the fire and shared some of the rabbit stew, which was surprisingly delicious. Our recently mobile baby enjoyed exploring the area and the company of the other children, showing off his vocabulary of body parts by honking noses and squeezing knees, much to their amusement as they chased him around the camp. Once he had settled down to sleep (which was surprisingly easy after an afternoon of roaming and fresh air), we enjoyed a glass of wine by the communal fire and candle-lit yurts, before retiring to our tent.

The bell tents, which come furnished with basic foam mattresses, duvets and pillows, are on a gentle slope which was not very conducive to a restful night's sleep, but they are spacious and very cosy. Although perhaps not five-star luxury, the site is a step up from the usual camping experience, utterly original and a great chance to reconnect with nature without roughing it.

Moreover, the fabulous setting gave it a real sense of 'being away from it all' and would be great for anyone looking to practice their caveman skills, get to know the local wildlife or simply chill out and relax in beautiful surroundings.

From an evening toilet visit I admired the superb views of the Weald at sunset; a delightful patchwork of woodlands, hills, market towns and villages. A light in a distant tower was piercing the dusky evening skies. During the night we heard owls screech and the wind howl as we huddled together, safe in the knowledge that - as their website points out - on an English safari, we are at the top of the food chain.

Somewhat bleary-eyed but invigorated we emerged from our tent the next day to a lovely fresh Sussex morning. We walked up the hill for an elevated view of the camp and enjoyed a spot of wild flower spotting before topping it off with an open air shower. There is nothing quite like standing under an ancient beech tree with a panoramic view of the Weald and Downs, whilst steamy water heated by a wood burner is blown across your back by the wind. On the whole a rejuvenating experience, and I could not have thought of a better way to enter my thirties.

Travel facts

Price: From £30 per adult (per weekday night); £20 per child. Safari Britain offers exclusive weekends (Friday to Sunday, max 16 people, May - September) for £1400 with all guided activities included. See www.safaribritain.com for more information.

How to get there: Approx 15 minutes' drive from Lewes, East Sussex, exact details are given upon booking.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little