Friday, 4 January 2013

Around the world in 80 animals! Britain's Best Days Out - Chester Zoo!

When we applied for the opportunity to review a family day out we were thrilled to receive a family ticket for Chester Zoo, courtesy of MoneySupermarket.  MoneySupermarket have a great section of their website "MoneySupermarket Days Out Discounts" with money-off vouchers and days out vouchers for some great family days out!

I would definitely recommend having a good look around the Chester Zoo website before your visit - there are lots of things to find out, maps and quizzes to download.  You an also make use of the clever webcams to have a spy at the animals before and after your visit.

Once you are there, there's 110 acres of award-winning gardens to explore, and over 8,000 animals to discover. (Yes – 8,000!)  My daughter thought that it would be a challenge to count them all... but lost count (read - distracted!) once she spotted the cute baby giraffe!  I'm sure she would have been a great help(!) to the staff as we visited on their annual "stock-take" of the animals at the zoo!

The animals include more than 400 species of rare, exotic and endangered wildlife.  The enclosures are cleverly designed to provide great experiences for the visitors (little legs as well!) but also providing the best possible animal welfare.  I especially liked the low-level viewing windows, so that wheelchair users, toddlers in pushchairs or "little-legs" like my 5 year old can see everything without having to be picked up.  And to be honest, often the view of the animals is better from their level!  So I spent part of the time crouching down to get a child's eye view of things!

The enclosures are cleverly designed with minimal high fencing, using water moats and low-level perspex sheets instead so most of the animals do not look as though they are "contained".  It makes the zoo have a very happy feeling about it and you really can get close to the animals.

Throughout the zoo, there are simple but educational plaques for you to learn a little about the animals you can see.  As my youngest (5) loves looking at maps and globes, his latest future job role ambition is to be an "aeroplane-driver" *read pilot!*.  So whilst we were at the zoo, we kept a track of where the animals were originally from and then plotted them on Google Maps when we returned home to see how far we had "traveled" during our trip to the zoo.  Any guesses how far...???

View Larger Map

Well, we actually traveled 46635 miles!  From aardvark to zebra and 78 other species in between, we saw them all!

We took hundreds of  photographs whilst we were there... here's just a few of the best ones!

But Chester Zoo is not just a zoo, they also have acres of award-winning gardens, where you’ll find all sorts of plants from around the world, reflecting some very exotic species in our natural habitats.

And, as you can never guarantee the weather... they have a great Wet Weather Trail helping you to plan your visit.  With the help of this rainy day guide, your visit will be just as fun and animal-packed!  The route is put together to avoid the wettest weather whilst not missing out on the animal attractions that you came to visit.  The weather was fine for our visit (by some amazing stroke of luck, we didn't get rained on at all!) but there are plenty of shelters and exhibition areas/viewing platforms under cover so the rain would definitely not spoil your day out.

 There are great views of the monkeys and gibbons from a large indoor viewing area - Realm of the Red Ape... we even spotted a little monkey looking at the other monkeys!

Throughout the day we chatted to different members of staff in different areas, all very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their work.  The staff in "Guest Services" are also very helpful - here you can hire pushchairs for the day, a single one is £6 for the day and a double pushchair is just £10 (with a £10 refundable deposit for each pushchair required).  As I no longer have a pushchair-sized child *sad face* we left our picnic in the car so that we didn't have to carry it around with us - this is not a problem at Chester Zoo!  They will gladly stamp your hand with a return entry stamp so that you can pop to the car for any essentials you need and then you can return with your picnic and eat it at one of the many picnic areas within the zoo.  They even provide an indoor Picnic Room especially for visitors with their own picnics.  So, we got takeaway coffee from the cafe and enjoyed our picnic in the partial sunshine!

And a little bit of "housekeeping" reviewing... there are plenty of toilets dotted around the zoo - clean and well-stocked with the essentials!  And also a good number of small play park areas for the adults to rest their legs whilst the children run wild for a while!

As this trip was a surprise for my children, we didn't get the opportunity to sing this on the way there... but the adapted version "We've been to the zoo zoo zoo...." was definitely ringing out from our car windows!

And here's my favourite photo from the day...

Defintely one for the wall...!

*Disclaimer - we were sent a family ticket from MoneySupermarket for the purpose of reviewing the family attraction, Chester Zoo.