Planning a visit to Chessington World of Adventures and looking for a hotel to stay overnight? In this review we will cover our stay at the Chessington Safari hotel, one of the two on-site hotels available at Chessington World of Adventures.
In this article, we will share everything you need to know about the Chessington hotels, including its location, prices, rooms, food, drink, facilities and whether its worth booking a stay here.
Staying on-site at this hotel is expensive, but you are paying for its location and proximity to the theme park which is a 5 minute walk away. We have visited Chessington many times over the years with the kids, staying in a range of nearby hotels but nothing can beat staying on-site at this hotel.
It’s more than its convenience to the theme park that makes this hotel unique, it is located overlooking its Wanyama Reserve. We loved the location of the hotel and watching the zebra and giraffe freely roaming close to the hotel, you would never know that the M25 was just 2 miles away.
There was plenty of car parking available at the hotel which was included in the room rate and some of the premium rooms like the new Jumanji rooms also come with VIP parking spaces, close to the entrance to the hotel.
Arrival and Check-In
We checked in online prior to arrival at the Chessington Safari via the Chessington website and when we arrived at the hotel, it was such a quick and easy process to get our room cards.
You can either choose to collect your room cards via one of the self-service kiosks in the lobby or via the manned reception desk which is what we did for that personal touch. Rooms are available from 3pm, and we had a notification to our phone well before 3pm informing us that our room was ready.
The Chessington hotel actually consists of two themed hotels (The Safari and Azteca) connected by a walkway, but both share the same reception area.
We loved the safari inspired theme as we walked into the hotel, and it brought back so many memories from previous stays. The centerpiece in the lobby is the giant giraffe which was decorated for Mardi Gras and African themed music playing in the background.
There are lots of photo opportunities as you enter the hotel from the hot air balloon and giraffe in the lifts to the interactive penguin who answers your questions, which Holly thought was great fun.
What really captures your attention as you walk through the lobby are the panoramic views from the back of the hotel out over the Wanyama reserve where we could see Zebra and Giraffe. It’s the UK’s equivalent of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in Orlando, Florida and is such a unique place to stay and really extended our theme park experience once the park had closed.
There are 150 rooms at Chessington Safari hotel and 69 rooms in the Azteca hotel, across a range of different categories from standard to premium themed rooms. We had planned on booking one of the new Jumanji themed rooms but these were sold out, so we booked another of their premium rooms, themed after the penguins of Madagascar.
Premium Rooms – Penguin Themed Rooms
Stepping through the door to our room you really did feel you had been transported to the world of Madagascar. The look on the girls’ faces as they entered the room was worth the room rate, it was so well designed and decorated from top to bottom in Madagascar theming. We loved the attention to detail with a clever mix of jungle decoration and theming with spectacular views out over the reserve.
I was a little concerned before we arrived that we might be a little cramped with all of us sharing one room, especially with the girls now getting older but I needn’t have worried. The premium rooms here are really spacious providing more than enough space for our family of four and all of our luggage.
In the main bedroom area, adults also have the Madagascar theming jungle with King Julien the ring-tailed lemur and friends across the walls. It was a really fun room with its rainforest foliage, there was even a large tree in the corner of the room.
Our double bed, complete with a bamboo canopy was really comfortable and the room had all the usual amenities that you would expect in a 4-star hotel – fridge, safe, flat screen TV, tea and coffee making facilities, iron and ironing board, wifi and air conditioning.
The girls section of the room was just as impressive, they loved having their own sleeping area and bunk beds, which were clad with real bamboo. The premium rooms at Chessington, including the Gruffalo rooms where we have stayed previously feature some of the best theming I have seen in a hotel room even in comparison with Disney properties.
There are so many nice touches in these rooms for kids, the girls had fun trying to crack the safe by tracking down clues in the treasure hunt around the room. Once they had got all the info they needed they were able to open the safe and found chocolates and a soft toy each inside.
As well as having their own TV they also had a retro gaming console, where they could play old Sega console games, which Ian had more fun with than the kids.
The bathroom was a decent size, with plenty of towels, toiletries and shower over bath. Like the rest of the room, even the bathroom had a Madagascar makeover, with a bamboo clad mirror, lots of foliage and we even had Gloria the hippo from Madagascar on the wall behind the toilet.
There was plenty of wardrobe space and shelving providing enough space for all four of us, even on an overnight stay we never travel light.
Animal Themed Rooms
As well as other premium rooms such as the Gruffalo (you can read our review here) the hotel also offers animal themed rooms, ranging from tiger, giraffe and zebra rooms along with monkey temple rooms in the Azteca hotel which although aren’t as spacious or as well themed as the premium rooms are a step up from the standard rooms here.
Facilities and benefits
While many choose this hotel for its close proximity to the Chessington theme park – it’s a 5 minute walk away through a private guest entrance which made a huge difference for us, there is so much to enjoy here away from the rides at Chessington World of Adventures.
During our stay at the Chessington Safari Hotel, we were impressed by the wide range of recreational activities available for guests. Here are some of the highlights:
One of the highlights for the kids was that the Chessington hotel has an indoor pool and splash pool with water cannons and jets. Although it’s not a huge pool at 15m long and catered more towards families with younger children we still had great fun here and it was a nice way to unwind after a busy day travelling.
If you do plan on using the pool here, you will need to book this well in advance by calling 01372 734 681 to guarantee your one-hour time slot – we were lucky to get availability the night before our visit. Access to the pool is free for premium and animal themed rooms but if we had booked a standard room at the hotel there would be an additional charge of £3 per person, so that’s something to consider when choosing your room here.
If you are feeling energetic there was also a small but fully functional gym if you wanted a work out, but with over 20,000 steps clocked up walking around the theme park (you can read a review of our visit here) we had already done our workout for the day.
Seeing the animals on the Wanyama reserve
We loved being able to have the private access to the Wanyama reserve after the park closed, this is one of the benefits of being an on-site guest and a great way to spend your evenings after dinner. We got up close to see the giraffes and zebra from a great viewpoint overlooking the reserve, but a highlight for the girls was the meerkat enclosure.
In addition to the zoo there was also a children’s play area in Wanyama village next to the animal enclosures. On previous visits guests could also use the playground at their Amazu treetop adventure which the girls loved when they were younger but this was closed during our visit.
There is a small shop selling snacks and toys at the entrance to the pool but what the hotel is missing is a large gift shop selling a wide range of park merchandise like you would see at a Disney hotel.
Early ride access
Hotel guests have 1 hour early ride time each morning and this makes a huge difference especially on weekends. We managed to ride all of the Jumanji rides by 9:30 including Mandrill Mayhem twice which meant we could then tick off some of the parks other popular rides such as Rattlesnake and Gruffalo before the 10 o clock park opening.
One of the main benefits of booking a premium room is that it comes with a ‘Rangers reserve and ride’ allowing us to Fastrack 3 rides each at the park and skipping the lines of Vampire, Dragons Fury and Tiger Rock which often topped 60 minutes when we visited.
When you factor in a typical cost of a reserve and ride, which starts at £120 for a family of four, with other additional benefits such as early entry and designated parking its quite good value when compared to their animal themed rooms.
Evening entertainment at the hotel
For families with younger children, there was also a nightly entertainment and a character meet and greet in the ‘Rangers Club’ just off the main lobby at the hotel along with a movie zone area with lots of comfortable bean bags for kids to watch films. There was also an amusement arcade in the Safari hotel close to the swimming pool and a larger arcade at the entrance to the Azteca hotel, both of which had a wide range of arcade machines to play.
There are two restaurants to choose from here, the Zufari bar and grill in the Safari hotel serving an a la carte dinner menu and the much larger Temple restaurant in the Azteca hotel offering a self service buffet dinner.
As you might have experienced at most theme park hotels, reservations for both breakfast and dinner need to be prebooked in advance via the Chessington website. As we booked last minute and I literally mean the day before our visit all breakfast and dinner slots were unavailable, so its worth booking these as soon as you make your reservation. However, when we checked-in we did manage to book a breakfast reservation after speaking with staff at the Zufari bar and grill in the hotel.
We had breakfast in the Zufari bar and grill, which has the most amazing views over the Wanyama reserve. I would recommend asking for a table by the window or if the weather is good on the outdoor decking as it’s not everyday that you get to have breakfast watching Zebra, antelope and Giraffe walking past your window.
The breakfast buffet here is your typical 4-star hotel standard offering a wide variety of breakfast items including individually boxed cereals, pastries and hot full English items. It’s also worth booking a slot before 8:30 am as it got progressively busier as we left but staff were excellent, quickly clearing dishes away and replenishing the breakfast items.
We could have booked breakfast in the temple restaurant at the adjoining Azteca hotel which looked as if there might be an even greater breakfast choice but we wouldn’t have had the amazing views of the animals like we had at Zufari.
If you want to have dinner at the Zufari hotel you will need to book well in advance, especially on a weekend. The restaurant was fully booked during our visit so we took advantage of the takeaway menu which offers many of the same items on the a la carte menu and ordered pizzas and fries and dined in the adjoining Zufari bar.
We also had the option of eating at the Temple restaurant in the Azteca hotel which served an all you can eat buffet, but the selection and quality of dishes seemed quite basic considering the cost per person.
It did look a really cool place to dine with kids though, we loved the theming and interactive dining experience (seemed very similar to a Rainforest Café), which looked great fun for kids – a unique touch here was the leaf cutter ants which pass by your table in glass tubes.
Pricing and discounts
Staying on-site at the Chessington Safari or Azteca hotels is expensive, especially when compared to nearby hotels such as the Premier Inn which is located literally at the entrance to Chessington. We stayed in a penguins of Madagascar room, one of the premium themed rooms at the hotel which also include Gruffalo, Jumanji and Room and the Broom themed accommodation.
Our penguin room with views of the Wanyama reserve, start from £379 per night on a bed and breakfast rate, rising up to a really expensive £579 per night if you book a stay with your tickets to the theme park included. To find the cheapest day to stay, there is a deal finder search on the Chessington website which highlights the dates with the cheapest nightly rates.
Standard rooms at the hotel start from £239 per night on a bed and breakfast basis and are fine for an overnight stay. However, if you are booking an animal themed room I would look at the upgrade cost to the premium rooms as the added benefits such as the ranger reserve and ride and worth the upgrade cost.
It can often be cheaper to book your hotel and theme park tickets separately and take advantage discounted tickets with Tesco Clubcard or the 2 for 1 ticket offers from the likes of National Rail or promotional cereal boxes. The Chessington Safari and Azteca hotels can also be cheaper booking via the likes of the online booking sites such as Hotels.com or Expedia on a bed and breakfast rate instead of booking direct with Chessington.
If you are visiting Chessington World of Adventures, staying on-site at the Chessington Safari hotel is well worth it. Prices are high compared to off site hotels but the benefits offered from being an on-site guest can really make a big difference to your stay, just shop around to get the best room rate.