Onsite Visit Planning and Booking FAQs - The Big Cat Sanctuary

Onsite Visit Planning and Booking FAQs

Please see below for everything you need to book your visit to the Sanctuary!

Planning and Booking FAQs

Planning, Booking and FAQs

We look forward to organising an Educational Session with The Big Cat Sanctuary for you. Due to us being a closed site, we only take one education group at a time, so our calm site is perfect for your educational trip.

Below are some frequently asked questions which will give you more information regarding your booking.

If you have any queries please email education@thebigcatsanctuary.org.


What onsite visit options do you have?

You can choose between the full-day Big Cat Workshop which consists of a workshop of your choosing and an opportunity to handle artefacts in the morning followed by a guided tour in the afternoon. Please see the age-appropriate workshops for your choices.

Or the Tour Only option which consists of a two-hour tour. See below for more information regarding each option.


What are the timings of the Big Cat Workshop?

10:30 arrival (Please arrive promptly for this time)– Welcome to the Sanctuary. Lead adult to read and sign site health and safety

10:45 – 12:00 – Workshop and opportunity to explore artefacts

12:00 – 12:40 – Lunch in the classroom. Lunches will need to be brought from home as we are unable to provide food on site.

12:40 – 13:50 – Sanctuary tour

13:50 – 14:00 – Final Q&A. Prepare to depart, toilet etc.

14:00 departure

Timings can be adapted accordingly. Please let us know when making your booking.


What are the timings of the Tour Only option?

You can book a morning tour 9:30 – 11:30 or an afternoon tour 12:30 – 14:30. Timings can be adapted accordingly. Please let us know when making your booking.


How many students can attend?

We typically limit groups to no more than 32 students per a visit but can discuss arrangements for larger groups. Please note, education visits are for education groups, we do not do individual visits.


How many adults can attend?

Due to the nature of our site, we have a limit on the number of adults that can attend an educational visit. We suggest a ratio of 1:6 under 11 years of age (Year 6) with 1 adult attending free for every 6 paying students. A ratio of 1:8 for Years 7-11 with 1 adult attending free with every 8 paying students. 1:10 for 16+, with 1 adult free with every 10 paying students. This does not include assigned 1-1 carers for SEND students, who may attend for free. Extra adults must pay a donation of £25.


What is the cost of a Big Cat Workshop?

Big Cat Workshops cost £15 per student under 16. £17.50 for Higher and Further Education. For groups less than 10 under 16 it is £17.50 per student. Groups of less than 10 for Higher and Further Education is £20.


What is the cost of the Tour Only?

Tour Only is £10 per student for all ages. For groups less than 10 it is £12.50 per student.


What can we expect when we arrive?

When arriving at the gates, use the intercom and let reception know of your arrival. Coaches, minibuses, and cars can park in the car park. Please note as we are a closed site, additional adults such as coach drivers are not permitted to free wander the site. The beautiful villages of Headcorn and Smarden are nearby. If they choose to wait with the vehicle, they are more than welcome to use the toilets on site or grab a drink in reception. Education groups will be greeted by a member of reception or an Education Officer. The lead adult will need to sign the group in at reception. Please remember to have your booking confirmation to show.


What if we arrive early or late?

We would politely ask that you aim to arrive no more than fifteen minutes in advance of the start of your experience. Due to the nature of our site, we do not have a holding space. If you arrive early, please either wait on the coach or if the weather is nice you may wait on the grass field at the front of the car park. Please refrain from loitering in the car park area for safety reasons.

If you think you are going to be late, we would greatly appreciate it if you can ring and inform us. We will aim to start as promptly as possible when you arrive. We cannot extend the visit due to lateness.


Where do we have lunch?

If you are doing the Big Cat Workshop, you will have lunch in our Conservation Hub, you will be the only group who have access to this room and the site. Please note, lunches must be brought in. We do not provide food onsite.

Lunch onsite is not offered for the Tour Only option.


Do you cater for visitors with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)?

We welcome anyone from any ability level. Our closed site is the perfect quiet and calm setting for those that may struggle with a busier environment. We cater for a wide spectrum of learning needs and therefore have a range of differentiation techniques which we can employ. All our workshops can be adapted to suit students’ needs and requirements. We also offer an ‘Intro to Cats and Conservation’ workshop for SEND students. This workshop gives an overview of different cats and the work we do here at The Big Cat Sanctuary, with video clips and hands-on activities. Our education team are very happy to work with teachers/adults to tailor sessions.


Is the site accessible?

The majority of our site is wheelchair accessible, but please be aware that one part of the path is stony. The Conservation Hub and Heritage Lodge have a wheelchair accessible bathroom. Please see our Inclusion and Accessibility page for more information about our site.


What are the health and safety procedures onsite?

Supervision – It is the responsibility of the teachers or adults accompanying the students to supervise them at all times and ensure students and other guests have a safe and enriching experience at The Big Cat Sanctuary. Please ensure students are not freely wandering around site and are behaving appropriately during their visit. Adults must also stay with the group at all times and also must ensure a high standard of behaviour. Any students seen as behaving inappropriately and posing a threat to themselves, others or our cats will be asked to leave the workshop or tour.

First Aid – We have trained first aiders on site at all times. As well as medical kits for minor injuries.

Emergency procedures – The Sanctuary has collaborated with emergency services to create a thorough emergency plan covering potential incidents such as animal escapes, fire, and site evacuation. Trained staff members are available at all times to execute this plan effectively.

Animal safety – Students will stay behind the safety barrier at all times and are not allowed into the standoff areas. There is no handling or close contact with any of the cats on site. Want to have a close-up experience with one of our big cats? Email to find out more!

DBS checks – All our education team have up-to-date DBS checks.


Can we do a risk assessment visit?

Please find the site risk assessment available to download here for your own information and records. Schools can also come for a free risk assessment visit for up to two individuals that will be attending the trip. If you would like to attend site for a risk assessment visit, please state this on your booking form and email education@thebigcatsanctuary.org to organise this.


How do we book?

Please fill out and complete the enquiry form for schools, youth or charity groups found here or at the bottom of the workshop pages. This will send an enquiry with all your details to our Education Team who will then assist with the booking process. Please note, bookings are not confirmed until you have received a confirmation email from us after submitting the enquiry.

We ask for up to three dates of choice so we can ensure there are no clashes with other schools or events and find the date most suitable for all parties.

If you are booking the Big Cat Workshop option, please ensure to take a look at the age appropriate workshops for your choices.


How do we pay?

After you have received your confirmation email, you will receive an invoice of payment from our finance department. This will have all the details for payment. Please note that we require full payment prior to your visit and within two weeks of the invoice being issued. We cannot accommodate on-site visits or outreach engagements until full payment has been received and reserve the right to cancel your visit if full payment is not received within the time frame.

Any queries or issues regarding payment, please contact steve.fox@thebigcatsanctuary.org


What happens if I need to cancel or reschedule?

If you are unable to make your visit please contact education@thebigcatsanctuary.org as soon as possible.

If you want to reschedule your visit, please email so a member of the team can look for suitable alternative dates.

If you wish to cancel your visit, please see our terms and conditions on our website here


Can we purchase items in the gift shop?

The Big Cat Sanctuary is a cashless site. Due to this and the nature of our small site, we offer a range of school souvenir options for you to purchase as a lasting memory of your visit. Please email education@thebigcatsanctuary.org for more details.


Coach Discount

If you are a group coming from the East Kent and Medway area and are looking to book a coach, Regents Coaches are offering a discount for trips booked to The Big Cat Sanctuary through them.


Top tips for your visit!

  • For the tour portion of your visit, we will be outside and there is no cover. Please dress appropriately for the weather. Waterproof coats and wellies in the winter as site can get very wet. Hats and sun cream in the summer. Please ensure suitable footwear is worn at all times e.g. trainers.
  • Cameras and photos are welcome to record memories of your day with us.
  • You do not need to bring any resources, however, if you have worksheets or other activities you would like to do during your tour time you are welcome to bring these.
Booking Enquiry Form