Gary and his kids with the Basecamp caravan

The Basecamp is a modern caravan that can be towed by any small car

We wanted to pull the duvet back over our heads when the alarm went off – but we had a date with a dinosaur. Or dinosaurs, to be exact. 

“Jack, go and put your head in its mouth, quick,” I tell my eldest son, as we walk the trail that winds round a land of model, almost life-size prehistoric animals in the Dinosaur Walk at the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park. 

“But dad, the sign says don’t touch the dinosaurs.” 

“A-Plus for observance dear boy but you won’t be touching the dinosaur, it will be touching you. Big difference. Plus, I need a good picture, so go and stick your head in its mouth.” 

It was, of course, the perfect snap. So to speak. My rabble, wife Laura and three children Jack, 10, Georgia, four, and Oliver, two, had found just the break we needed for an all-round holiday and just 45 minutes from our doorstep. 

The Kent coast. All we needed was a base to crash for the night after we had driven round Kent to explore – and that is exactly what we had – the new Basecamp from Swift. 

Interior of the Swift Basecamp

The Basecamp is like Doctor Who’s Taris on the inside

On the face of it this vehicle looks like a natty little caravan and in a way it is. The beauty of it is that it can be towed by any small car for a quick getaway. 

Open the door, however, and it is akin to the Tardis from Doctor Who, with so much space inside. 

Two sofas cleverly convert into to a large bed – more king size than double – there is a shower unit and toilet, fridge, oven, hob, sink, TV, plug units – even USB charging points. 

Now this piece of kit is marketed for two people who love the outdoors. Yet don’t be fooled, we had five in ours with no hint of a squeeze – two adults and our three little ones sleeping either side of us for a couple of nights added to their adventure. 

Our unit was delivered by the good guys at Swift to our campsite at New Beach Holiday Park, with one of their representatives on hand to give us the lowdown on all its gizmos – trust me, all the buttons for heating, electric, shower, water temperature etc are a doddle. 

If I can manage them, anyone can. All we had to do was plug in our built-in electric cable to the power point provided on our pitch and hey presto, we were cooking on gas. Well, electric but you get the point.

From here we had our base camp and were free to drive out of the park and explore the Kent coast. So after we had survived the dinosaur walk at Port Lympne, we took a Jeep safari, where we bumped over the hilly terrain as our guide gave us the lowdown on all the park’s inhabitants. 

The Jeep stopped close to zebras and rhinos and we watched as a tower of giraffes munched away on their food. 

Gary's son Jack with a model dinosaurGARY CHAPPELL

The perfect snap at Port Lympe Wild Animal Park

We did not miss the chance to try the park’s cuisine ourselves either – and who could blame us when you have the park’s Aspinall restaurant? 

Here, we were transported right back into the jungle, with its detailed art work depicting all manner of wildlife and hunters. 

Back at New Beach, we quickly changed our clothes at Basecamp, before taking a short stroll through the grounds to the onsite restaurant. 

After the day’s activities we were famished, so we all enjoyed steak, cheeseburgers, chicken wings and a mammoth chocolate sundae. 

This was enjoyed against a backdrop of entertainment including music and games for the little ones and a spot of bingo for the adults after dinner. 

New Beach is an ideal spot for the Basecamp, with plenty of large green spaces in which to stretch your legs and in the bit we were in, a large swing park for the young ones, not forgetting an indoor swimming pool and amusement arcade too. 

The beauty is that there are a host of attractions within a few minutes drive out of the park. Whether you’re a young kid or a big kid (like me) the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway is a must. 

The miniature steam-powered locomotive runs up and down the RHD line, stopping at quaint little attractions such as the Dungeness Lighthouse, New Romney Station, complete with a toy museum, and the petite little town of Hythe with its chocolate shops and shingle beach. 

A miniature locomotive on the RHD lineALAMY

The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway is a must

And there was one more place our clan invaded. The Rare Breeds Centre. A petting zoo where you can watch what we dubbed Formula P – pig racing to be exact, stroke a chicken, why wouldn’t you really? – or simply plonk yourself down on some hay bales in the back of a tractor. 

So there you have it, a family of five, a caravan, dinosaurs, giraffes, rhinos and monkeys, trains and pets and lots of food. 


Tilshead Caravans (01980 863 636/ offers seven nights in a six-berth Swift caravan from £445 (sleeps six), self catering. New Beach Holiday Park (0343 178 7070/ offer pitches from £22 per night. Port Lympne Animal Park (01303 264647/ Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway (01797 362353/ uk) The Rare Breeds Centre (01233 861 493/ Kent tourism:

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