More than an animal park and almost a fully-fledged zoo had -- that's the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

For several years it was an unassuming place with the usual mix of farm animals, deer and monkeys.

Gradually it's been building up the exotic side of its menagerie and creating more enclosures across its massive site. Then last year the park took in 13 lions following a request for help from an overcrowded Romanian zoo.

Lion Country is now the main attraction and probably a big reason it was packed on the spring holiday weekday that we went along.

The construction hasn't stopped: Land of the Tigers opened earlier this year and this month saw the opening of South America Viva!.

You certainly get a lot for your money in imaginative and varied enclosures.

The place won't rival Chester Zoo for size, but it offers a varied experience that compares favourably with Blackpool Zoo, the South Lakes Animal Park and Knowsley Safari Park.

When you first enter you pass through what is obviously a former farmyard, with ducks, geese, goats, sheep, giant rabbits, and farm animals from around the world.

The meerkats and mongooses are worth a few minutes of your time, as are the intriguing racoon dogs.

A walk through the woods leads to a lemur enclosure, several birds of prey and the ugly but fascinating red river hogs.

South American Viva was being constructed when we went along in spring, but looked to be an impressive walk-through enclosure.

Once opened it will host marmosets, squirrel monkeys, capybaras, maras, agouti and ostrich-like rheas.

Then it's on to the spacious wetlands -- a home for British wildlife -- and Land of the Tigers.

Both are fine for the creatures occupying them but not so impressive for visitors: when we passed through I spied two seagulls and a couple of inches of fur on a sleeping tiger.

Then it's a meandering walk around the outer stretches of the park to see the African plains -- home to cattle, ostrich, zebras, wallabies and camels.

And finally on to the lions -- and not the measly one or two you see it other zoos, lazing amongst the trees.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Park is is positively teeming with the big cats in three family groups in grassland, savannah and mountain environments.

A great end to a full day.

In short: a surprisingly exotic day out.

Duration: three to four hours.

Age suitability: enough for all ages, particularly good for little ones.

Access: mostly flat on good paths.

Extras: several talks each day; shops; food outlets.

Open: 10am-5pm.

Prices: adult £12, child (3-15) £9, child under 3 free, senior/student £10, disabled adult £6, disabled child £4.50, official carer £2 (proof required).

Getting there: follow signposts from Doncaster.

Parking: free.

Website: Phone 01302 505357