Living in Cheshire means that we have the very wonderful Chester Zoo right on our doorstep (sort of). So we have taken full advantage and have purchased a yearly membership, so that now we can visit whenever we want.
Chester Zoo is one of the world’s top zoos, is home to 15, 000 animals and is heavily involved with several conservation projects worldwide. Starting from merely a manor house, with just seven acres of land back in the 1930’s, the zoo now sits within an impressive 125 acres of land.
Bear is animal mad and he really enjoyed looking at all the different animals, especially the camels, elephants and giraffes. Chester Zoo has recently welcomed some new arrivals to fold in the form of some baby giraffes and we had a great time at the giraffe enclosure pointing them out to Bear. We even managed to get front row seats of the whole family walking out of the giraffe house.
One of the great things about Chester Zoo is how many different areas it has, so when the hustle and bustle got slightly too much we headed down to the sunken garden to take a breather. As you enter the garden you are welcomed by a stunning water feature, which creates a nice calmness to the place. It is nice to be able to take a minute to recuperate before joining the crowds again.
Chester Zoo is home to lots of big and iconic animals such as elephants, rhinos, giraffes, camels, lions, tigers and zebras, which is absolutely great for young children who are learning about wildlife. I found the realm of the red ape one of the most interactive areas where there are lots of educational activities for children and adults alike. I tend to find these sorts of interactive elements to a day out, not only engage inquisitive minds more, but also create a great way for parents and children to socialise and bond.
All of the enclosures are built with each specific animal in mind and are matched as well as possible to the animal’s natural environment. They are all wonderfully clean and beautifully presented, all that is apart from the penguin enclosure, which looks like it has dirty water, grubby windows and tatty interior. It is quite saddening to see in all honesty.
Chester zoo also has a lot of interesting animals and critters of the smaller variety. Two that are particularly interesting are the ‘butterfly house’ and the ‘fruit bat forest’. You can actually walk through these enclosures, so you can a real sense of the environment in which they live.
In the butterfly house, it is relatively humid and you have the butterflies flying around you. Towards the end of the enclosure is a viewing window of the cocoons which have the next generation of butterflies inside them.
The fruit bat forest has a rather interesting smell and is almost entirely cloaked in darkness. The bats fly around you and there are staff present that will talk about the bats as you walk through. Walking through the fruit bat forest is a bit of a surreal experience and could be potentially scary for younger children, which is something to consider before going into the enclosure.
While meandering around the zoo, we stumbled across a ‘fossil dig’ attraction. This was such a wonderful idea and is a great way to get children interested in the natural world. Here they can dig for, wash and even keep their very own fossils. It does cost £3.50 but it is definitely worth it for how involved it got the children.
Bear was slightly too little to understand exactly what it was he was digging for, but he enjoyed playing in the sand and it meant he was out of his pushchair, doing something different for a little while. Of course with Bear being quite young, his fossil finding skills weren’t exactly the best, but of course Mr. C got competitive and needed him and Bear to find ‘good fossils’. It’s almost admirable how he can make everything a competition, even when there is nobody else to be in competition with.
During our Chester zoo visit, we decided to take a lazy boat trip around the brand new ‘Islands’ attraction. This has been a very exciting project for Chester zoo over the past few years and so we were looking forward to seeing what all the hype has been about. The Islands have been made incredibly well and it is very impressive seeing how much work has gone into them. We knew that a lot of the animals hadn’t been moved into their enclosures yet and we even saw some of the ongoing building work going on, so we weren’t expecting the finished product. However, we expected to experience something or at least have our lazy river boat guide know what was going on. Instead we spent 15 minutes of our time with quite possibly the most bored human being I’ve ever met, who showed absolutely no interest in what was going on around her and was quite frankly awkward. One visitor asked her a few questions about this huge project and what animals were being moved into the enclosures, only to be faced with answers like ‘I don’t know’. Quite honestly it made the whole experience quite painful. We will be waiting until Chester Zoo’s ‘Islands’ are open properly before exploring them again and when we do, it will be by foot.
*Update: We have since returned to Chester Zoo since the ‘Islands’ have been finished and it is such a great area of the zoo to explore. The monsoon forest is particularly good as it has been designed to be very interactive, with plants growing throughout and birds flying around your head. The boys’ love seeing the Tiger enclosure and were shown a tiger claw and tooth by on of the Chester Zoo staff, which they tell everybody about. If you stop for food on the Islands at Chester Zoo, I’d recommend trying the traditional street food inspired Thai Green Curry.
Chester Zoo is a wonderful day out and has so much to offer for both younger and older children. As well as all of their animals and attractions there are also playground areas situated around the zoo, which can break up the day nicely. The food and drink is rather pricey, so I would suggest taking a picnic and a good supply of water with you for your visit. However the parking is free, which is a lovely bonus. I would advise you get a map at the entrance so you can plan your route, as Chester zoo is very large and it is difficult to see it all in a short space of time. I personally think that Chester zoo is well worth a visit as it not only offers a fun day out, but also offers a place where children can learn a lot about the natural world and gives them the opportunity to see lots of different animals.