I’VE ALWAYS preferred this zoo on the borders of the Lake District to the flashier zoos of Chester and Blackpool.

Although it had big attractions like tigers, primates, rhinos and giraffes, the South Lakes Wild Animal Park was somehow more cosy and welcoming.

Much of the park was without fences so you could come face-to-face with kangaroos, ostriches, exotic birds, unusual mammals and a whole host of monkeys.

Now the park has been rebranded the Safari Zoo to highlight what makes this wonderful place at Dalton-in-Furness different to other animal attractions.

It lies somewhere between a traditional zoo, with its enclosures large and small, and a safari park where animals roam free outside your car.

At the Safari Zoo you’re on foot rather than wheels, out there with the wild creatures, so there’s obviously a limit to which animals you can get up close and personal to.

There’s an impressive array of big cats – lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards – who are behind fences, and it’s better to watch the apes do their exciting aerial acrobatics at a distance.

But you can hand-feed big animals like giraffes as they share with rhinos, hippos and hyenas a savannah directly overlooking the main road.

And half the zoo is proper safari land, where you can walk amidst animals like some t-shirted Dr Dolittle, never sure what you’ll meet next.

Half a dozen peacocks lazily watching you from a fence post, an ostrich barring the path, a young kangaroo nosing up for a snack…

And little monkeys of various breed jumping around, across and above you because it’s them, not the humans, who clearly own this place.

It’s not just the name that’s changed here at the South Lakes park – in the couple of years since I last visited the attraction has expanded and the entire layout has been moved around.

More animals, bigger animals, a second giant walk-through aviary with lots of vultures, a land train, and a much improved entrance and bigger car park.

You’ll find penguins, sea otters, wolves and a shy bear.

Less than two hours’ drive away from Keighley through the Yorkshire Dales, this is a welcome de-trip alternative to Chester Zoo, Knowlsley Safari Park and Blue Planet for animal-crazy families.

Visit southlakessafarizoo.com for further information.