It is a disturbing as well as hypnotic sight: A cheetah, secretly walking around a rhinoceros in long grasslands against the background of the English Channel. This is Port Lympne, the 600 acre nature reserve founded in 1976 by the late John Aspinall of Kent.
The reserve, now run by his son Damian, allows overnight guests to book in magnificent tree houses and shepherd huts in thrilling proximity to more than 50 exotic species.
Damian's wife, Victoria, 31, is responsible for the transformation. It's not cheap to stay here – first-class lodges cost up to £ 1,000 a night. But where else in the UK can you sip a sundowner and watch wildebeests before retiring to your own movie theater?
Secret Lair: Damian's wife Victoria with two of the wolves
My children – Livvy, ten, Zac, eight and William, three – and I were among the first to spend the night in Wolf Lodge, the newest company in Victoria. The former gatehouse was rebuilt into a seat for the wolves, with only a large pane of glass separating the garden from the animals.
At dusk, the children watched the wolves emerge from their caves and approach us. Suddenly one of them jumped at the glass and began to dig only a few inches from Zac's face – first to Zac's horror, then to his delight.
Victoria says that in Port Lympne every pound of profit is put back in reserve to finance breeding programs. Over the years, the Aspinall Foundation has brought hundreds of animals into their natural habitat, including eight black rhinos.
It is an experience that my children will never forget. Her dad too.
The Port Lympne Hotel and Reserve Wildlife Park is a 600 acre nature reserve in Kent