Ever get that feeling that you just want to get in the car and drive? Destination decided, money in your pocket , gas in the tank and off you go. I don’t get that feeling often these days, having two toddlers and a full time job has sort of reduced my desire to roam . Sometimes I still yearn to get out of Pembrokeshire and head to a city. Last week, I gave in to the wander lust, and rather spontaneously took the mini farmers to Bristol Zoo.
I have become a master at the art of preparing for ‘family days out’ , having honed my technique over the past three years. In under an hour we were breakfasted, dressed and in the car along with a picnic, things for the journey and spare clothes…as well as the potty, wrap and buggy. I even managed to charge my phone and check that the camera actually had an sd card in before chucking it into the boot. Parenting level up!
I love Bristol zoo. I love most zoos that I have visited in the UK, but Bristol zoo holds a special place as I have spent time here on a work experience placement. 3 happy weeks of helping to x ray tortoises, post mortems on crocodiles, anaesthetising macaques and carrying out health checks on endless Roul Rouls.
The 130 or so miles (yes, this was a long distance road trip) from the farm to Bristol zoo passed fairly smoothly- no poonamis, tantrums or vom sessions from the back seats, and only half an hour of ‘are we nearly there yet’, which I count as a win.
The zoo is easy to find, and has plenty of parking on site. If your lucky you can find a free spot in one of the side streets, but I couldn’t be bothered hauling all the kids gear any further than I absolutely had to. £3 for all day safe and secure parking seemed reasonable (even cheaper if you are a member).
We weren’t particularly early (12pm) but there was no queue for tickets- the first time this has ever happened to me! This is one of the reasons I love coming to places out of season. Another benefit is actually being able to see the animals.
The lions were out in their enclosure, sprawling lazily in the weak January sunlight. The mini farmers managed to get up close to the glass for a really good look- normally if one is in the buggy they end up with a fab view of the back of peoples knees.
Next up – Twilight zone. A bit of a struggle to get through the doors single handedly with the buggy, but once in we were fine. This series of enclosures has recently undergone a major overhaul, and it shows. After a bit of squinting (and staggering about myopically in my case) our eyes adjusted to the dusky light levels, we managed to see nearly all of the nocturnal inhabitants of this wonderful world. Quolls dashed about amongst the leaf litter, living up to their ‘tiger cat’ nickname.The desert cats prowled in their territory, pouncing on invisible prey. My favourites the aye aye clambered about in their shaky, alien limbed fashion.
I love this area of the zoo and could quite easily have spent several hours in their, watching a secret, normally unseen world unfold behind the glass. C had other ideas ‘come on mum’ she said, disappearing out into the daylight ‘ my tummy is rumbling’. Guess it must be lunch time then?!
I’m glad I bothered to make a packed lunch. Food at the zoo is pricey, and not that exciting to boot. There are vending machines dotted about too, but they are also £££. It will be interesting to see if this changes when the new zoo restaurant is up and running.
After lunch we headed for gorilla island, via Monkey Jungle. Jojo loved Monkey jungle, as did C, proudly exclaiming about the Lemurs ‘That’s not a monkey, you know Mummy, that’s a lemur.’
We got to the Gorillas just in time to see them having lunch. I don’t like to anthropomorphise, but seriously its hard not to with Gorillas. Jock, the silver back, sat directly opposite where the keepers were lobbing fruit and veg from. One of the cheeky younger family members snuck up and stole a carrot-I swear Dad Jock rolled his eyes at him or her!
I am also amazed at the story of Amina, the troops youngest member, who was born by C Section. Her birth mum had developed a condition similar to Pre eclampsia during late pregnancy, resulting in an emergency op involving human doctors as well as vets. If you look closely, you can spot her clinging on to her adoptive mums arm.
The zoo is exceptionally family friendly-accessible with a buggy, although I did bring out the wrap on occasion. There are lots of activities to engage children with, from interactive signs
And silly selfie props. We had to stop at every one once C had realised what they were!
If you come in the summer, the water play area is amazing- don’t forget a swimming costume or a change of clothes plus a towel! There’s also an indoor activity centre, with crafts, colouring in, lucky dip and face painting for the over threes. C was turned into a butterfly, whilst JoJo explored an old haul from customs and excise, now turned into an educational display.
To escape the cold we nipped into the butterfly house. C wanted to look at the chrysalis whilst JoJo was mesmerised by the butterflies as they flitted about. I was a bit too…standing with head back and mouth open kind of mesmerised. Not a good look.
We then headed back along through the fruit bat enclosure, stopping briefly to check out the Giant tortoises. These creatures are magnificient. Every time I pass here, I remember the day I got to go inside the enclosure on work experience. One of the tortoise, who is most likely still a resident, ambled over to me and pushed his head under my hand, encouraging me to pet him. The keeper remarked ‘yeah, he’s really just an overgrown, shelly labrador’!
By this point we had probably seen about two thirds of the exhibits, but the girls were starting to show signs of tiredness. We quickly made our way through the reptile house, which we had somehow managed to time just right. The crocodiles were being fed…not as dramatic as it sounds, and pretty neat to watch.
Time to exit through the gift shop. I said each of them could have one thing. C made a beeline for a 3ft neon pink flamingo, claiming it to be the thing she really, really wanted. Somehow I managed to talk her down to having a pair of 30cm high macaws. JoJo got a Melissa and Doug jigsaw. We said our good byes for another day and started on our long journey home. Bristol zoo, we love you!