Sunday, 20 April 2014

London Zoo - A thought-provoking review

I knew the girls were always going to have a good time at the Zoo, that was a no brainer. But me? I don't particularly like zoos, they've never felt the same after visiting Africa. However, I decided to check out London Zoo with my girls - and am delighted to say, that on the whole it really was a great day out. It's just a shame it's not all that cost effective... 

London Zoo
General enquiries: 0844 225 1826
Location: Regents Park, NW1 4RY
Tube links: Camden Town (ten minutes) Baker Street (20 minutes)
Admission: Adults from £24, children from £17.50, under 3’s go free, (family ticket offers online) 
Car park available? Yes at a price of £14 for the day
Feeding time at the zoo? With picnic spots a plenty and various restaurants to choose from there are lots of options. Food isn't cheap, but it is good quality.


Found in the north of Regents Park, London Zoo is very green, with lots of places to relax. It is spacious yet easy to get around. All areas are accessible with ramps for prams/pushchairs and wheelchairs. There are links to Camden Lock and Little Venice by waterbus on the canal.

It didn't take us long to get a lay of the land, and we soon discovered amongst other things, an aquarium with sea horses, turtles, star fish, Nemo, & it would seem, most of his friends. I could have spent all day here, but there were birds, bugs and beasts of all sorts still to meet and greet.

Tigers slinked and giraffes linked, while lions slept and monkeys leapt. Not the gorillas though, they weren't so much the king of the swingers, but more the king of the squatters - for all at once I found it both sunny and sombre when the mighty silverback finally put in an outdoor appearance - only doing so to eat several lettuces that had been bowled into his garden enclosure. 

You can see the gorillas inside their enclosure too - through the glass. On reflection, I wonder what they make of us peering in at them, our phones and cameras shoved between us? It is all so far removed from how the African gorillas behave if you observe them in their natural habitat as I was fortunate enough to do, in Uganda.

The (a)rmadillo to (z)ebra of creatures that live in the zoo, offer a vast and varied spectacle, and I'm pleased to say we witnessed mostly happy animals feeding and frolicking. We loved many, including the penguins, who genuinely seemed to love us.

We also enjoyed the animal shows we caught; educational, informative and entertaining, they're clearly the Reithian part of the zoo experience. I couldn't quite believe the magic of seeing a low-flying owl overhead. Sofia and Esme couldn't quite believe the magic of seeing an owl.

The butterfly house was another hit with the girls, as was the squirrel monkey enclosure, where you could come face to face with the cute little blighters as they fell across the sky above you. 

I haven't got time here to mention all the brilliant animals we did see... although I loved the pygmy hippos - new to the zoo this year. Their home is quite beautiful, built clearly with no expenses spared (that will be the visitors entry fee then). It was just unfortunate that I had to keep thinking how much the two inhabitants resembled a pair of boots I possess.

At the end of the day, and in the mellow late afternoon sun, two giraffe scampered about in their huge enclosure playing beautifully together, with their jigsaw patterned necks entwined in embrace. ALMOST breaking into a full run and looking like they were having fun - until that is, they were forced apart and back into their house for the rest of the day... But I guess that's zoo living for you; the keeper wants to go home too.  


The above scene I've just described can sadly also be interpreted in the following way:  

Fast moving in slow motion; giraffe on the Serengetti plains of Africa are by far my most favourite animal to observe in the wild. They run in such an elegant way. Galloping over dusty distances with a grace and serenity that has to be seen to be believed. Watching the two giraffe play at the zoo, was tinged with sadness for me, as although they had a large enclosure, it was of course just that; an enclosure, and no sooner had they begun to run, they had to stop. 

Definitely a 'what to watch out for factor' to keep in mind is the overall cost of a day trip to London Zoo. It is astronomical for a family. Petrol up and back or train/underground fare, food and drink (we had eaten our picnic in the car before we even arrived), parking, and then entry fees, plus amenities within the zoo to pay for, this is a trip that will end up being a very expensive day out for families. It is therefore out of bounds to many, which doesn't seem fair. Shouldn't all children be able to enjoy this experience? 


Our day was a successful visit, with only one major tantrum from Sofia Faith (our feisty 2YO), who did manage to keep up with the whole event - I had wondered if she would stand the pace, but she did. In fact, she was the one marching back to the car park at the close of play, while her big sister Esme Grace, (our long since exhausted 5YO), rode in the buggy, her knees up near her nose.

Driving to and through London proved pain free. We had navigated a main route without getting stung by the congestion charge. Parking at the zoo was easy. The food although pricey was first class. The facilities were ALL good. It was not jam-packed with people and you didn't have to queue to see the animals. The animals appeared to be content. Breeding programmes here are successful; the tiger enclosure is home to three new cubs. For an animal that is vulnerable to extinction in the wild, this is good news.

The conservation work at London Zoo and the research programmes to help wildlife can exist due to visits from the paying public. Yes, entry is expensive. However, we went to the zoo, and also went to a butterfly house, an extraordinary aquarium and several shows with animal displays and interesting talks. There were also activities laid on for small children that were age appropriate and good fun, at no extra cost. If you can afford it, I really recommend this day out as a great one for young children. However, if you cannot afford it, then did you know about this farm in London that is free and also offers a lot of fun?

Children will love the National Trust's Morden Hall Park Estate, Deen City Farm. In SW19, it provides a unique educational source with various animals to feed at certain times of the week. It is closed on Mondays.

Emma Oliver and family, were guests at London Zoo, in exchange for a review on the parenting/lifestyle blog LIFE AS IT IS.

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1 comment:

Victoria Welton said...

We absolutely LOVE London Zoo although we were a little disappointed with the Father Christmas visit in December (not recommended!). Grace's favourite is Penguin Beach - she would play with them for hours using a stick if I let her! xx