Watatunga Wildlife Reserve has been crowned winner of the Small Visitor Attraction of the Year award, sponsored by Norfolk and Suffolk Tourist Attractions (NSTA), at the East of England Tourism Awards 2022-2023

Located close to King’s Lynn, Norfolk, Watatunga is a 170-acre site that is home to over 25 types of deer, antelope and rare birds.

The business opened in August 2020 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and is owned and managed by the Pope family, who have been custodians of the wider estate for several generations.

Numerous ungulate species are allowed to roam free on the site, with visitors able to see them in their natural state via guided tours in self-drive trailers or buggies.

Watatunga also offers fully accessible self-catering accommodation, as well as private tours, experiences, school trips and a forest school all year round.

The small team of staff is committed to sharing stories about the species at Watatunga and also collaborates with international zoos and safari parks to run breeding programmes for some of the world’s most endangered animals.

The judges described Watatunga as an “amazing attraction” and “unique experience”, praising the “excellent educational commentary” that really helped their understanding of the business aims.

They also praised their “extremely knowledgeable” tour guide who “delivered the tour with enthusiasm and professionalism”, as well as the “beautiful setting” that has been created from quarried redundant land and is now a “fantastic reserve for many endangered species”.

Edward Pope, founder of Watatunga, said: "Our team always go the extra mile – they put so much effort into making sure that everyone has a fantastic time with us, whether on tour or on a safari stay. This award and the recognition it brings makes all the hard work worthwhile."

About the sponsor

Norfolk and Suffolk Tourist Attractions (NSTA) is the only organisation that concentrates solely on promoting and representing tourist attractions in these counties.

Through its membership and marketing activity, NSTA ensures its attractions are at the forefront of tourists’ minds when choosing where to visit next.

It also represents the sector as a whole, ensuring that the needs and voice of attractions are heard by partners in the region’s destination management organisations (DMOs), media and business economy.

NSTA believes that by working together, it can help to grow the number of customers and visits for all.

The finalists

Silver - BugzUK

BugzUK is a new ‘all-invertebrate zoo’ based in Lenwade, Norfolk, originally built by founder Martin French to house his growing collection of weird and wonderful minibeasts. The attraction now showcases over 200 different species in three visitor centres.

The judges said they would “highly recommend” BugzUK to others as it was “so unique and engaging”. They praised the “excellent welcome” and “friendly and great service”, adding that they were “made to feel valued and at ease during the whole experience”.

Bronze - Henry Moore Studios & Gardens

Henry Moore Studios & Gardens (HMS&G), located near Much Hadham in Hertfordshire, is the former home and workplace of sculptor Henry Moore and the headquarters of The Henry Moore Foundation, the largest artist-endowed grant-giving foundation in Europe. 

The 70-acre site offers a unique insight into the artist’s working practice and showcases his renowned monumental bronze sculptures in the landscape in which they were created. 

The judges “enjoyed a perfect day out” at HMS&G, praising the “perfectly landscaped and serene environment”, as well as the “fantastic, informative and professionally conducted tour”.