Pembrokeshire is quite a special place to live. Not only are we spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches, countryside and wildlife spotting opportunities there are many attractions to take advantage of too. Unfortunately these tend to come with a hefty entrance price. Soon we will enter the territory of ‘three and over’, apparently the age at which you must start paying for children. I have no idea why. Three year olds don’t take up that much more space than two year olds. Anyway, I’ve decided to make the most of the last month of getting both children in free…well as least legitimately anyway.
Anna’s Welsh Zoo is somewhere we have been before, and it has always been a lovely experience. Although it has competition from Folly farm, another zoo a few miles away, I have found it to be a completely different experience. From the minute you pull into the car park, it feels much more like a safari park than a zoo. It is spread across 52 acres of Pembrokeshire parkland, which provides a stunning backdrop for the animals.
C was super excited. We hyped each other up a wee bit on the short journey to the park, singing back to back zoo themed songs (‘we’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo…how about you you you?) and guessing which animals we might see (me- wallabies C- dinosaurs Jo Jo-I think she said ‘baa’ so I guess she meant sheep…probably).
The entry price was actually very reasonable, just over £13 for me. I managed to push cost up by buying some ‘special ‘wallaby’ food (£1 a packet, seemed a bit overpriced for 3 pieces per bag, but I couldn’t say no.Walked myself into that one, well and truly).
Once in, we made a pit stop at the hand washing station. To minimise risk of infection,visitors are asked to wash hands before and after going into the exhibits. As you can see, the stations are the perfect height for children.
The walkthroughs are one of the best bits of Anna’s zoo. The animals are incredibly relaxed, and do not seemed stressed out by human presence at all. If they decide they don’t want to hang out with people, they have plenty of space and hideaways provided for them to retreat to.
There are lots of signs up explaining how to get the most out of the experience. Basically the advice (very good advice) is to let the animals come to you. I was surprised by how much C enjoyed the wallabies. She even managed to feed some!
We made it to the Lemurs just in time for feeding. This walkthrough is one of the largest of its kind in Europe, and it is amazing. Red Ruffed and Ringtailed lemurs are 2 of the 5 species that swing, lollop and scramble around this enclosure. And they come right up to you. C sat on a log next to one lemur who was busy stuffing a vegetable into his or her mouth. She had a lovely, if slightly one sided conversation about the weather, the colour of her shoes, and what the lemur was eating. The lemur was not bothered one iota. Jo Jo loved it too. She spent her time craning out from her buggy, making appreciative cooing and ahhing noises. To me the entrance ticket was worth just seeing the girls enjoy watching these amazing creatures.
Lemurs and toddlers -in tune and at one.
The Valley of the apes walkthrough is a bit of a misnomer in my opinion. I think it should be renamed valley of the funky gibbons, as they are the only species residing there. Still, what’s not to like about a gibbon.
The Gibbon family were tucking into lunch when we got there. Steve, an original resident who predates the creation of Anna’s Welsh Zoo, was possibly feeling a bit antisocial as he went into his indoor area as soon as we arrived. We do tend to have that effect on some humans too, so I won’t hold it against him.
The Warren with its Flemish rabbits is a recent addition. Jo Jo seemed to make pals pretty quickly, despite the fact that the rabbits were as big as her!
The last walkthrough is the African Village, the inhabitants of which include Pygmy goats (including one who looks very preggers at the mo), a Spur thighed Tortoise, assorted Chooks and some Cameroon sheep. The girls were quite enamoured with one of the sheep. She was spread eagled in the middle of the path, and didn’t budge whilst they gave her a very gentle hug.
The walkthroughs are probably only a third of what the wildlife park has to offer. The African Grasslands, home to rhino, ostriches and zebra, is what I imagine safari to be like. Obviously you also have to imagine the warmth, lack of rain and generally sunnier climate since we are in Pembrokeshire, but you get the drift.
Pembrokeshire …or Kenya?!
There are also Prezwalski’s horses, noisy Emu, Alpacas, Oryx, Capybara, Marmosets, Tapir and Camels in the park.
New for 2016 are the Tigers and work is still ongoing with their housing (brave builders eh?!)
No matter how amazing the animal enclosures are, the lure of soft play cannot be avoided. The new indoor area, installed this year, is fantastic. It is housed in three rather space age looking domes. One contains Little Tikes cars, rockers, wheelybugs and space hoppers. The middle one is a seating area and the other large dome houses a multi level soft play. I literally had to bribe the children to leave it. Slides, trampolines, ball pit…it had something for everyone. Normally soft play to me is akin to dantes 7th circle of hell. This one, not too shabby!
The indoor hay play area proved great for letting off some steam too.
There are some ‘traditional’ outdoor play areas with slides and climbing frames, as well as two huge sand pits.Then there are the assorted out door toys scattered across the front lawn, with the bouncy castle and dragon stage too. All of which can be seen from the outdoor seating for the café.
I broke one of my cardinal rules and bought lunch today. Fortunately it was yummy. The girls had a cheese sandwich to share between themselves and the ‘Ostentation’ (that really is the correct collective noun) of peacocks that loitered around our table.
I had a vegan onion Bhaji sandwich and seriously good coffee. There are hot options available too, and the café is very child/baby/breastfeeding friendly.
Exit via the gift shop
I broke another cardinal rule by stopping in the gift shop. I couldn’t resist a Koi Carp wind sock (god knows where I will hang it) and the girls had a toy snake each. To be fair, there is a lot of choice, with many affordable items and everything is zoo related.
By now the girls had started to become tired and cranky so we called it a day. Hopefully we will return soon, so we can make use of the bubble ticket (buy twice, go as many times as you want) before the inevitable third birthday!