We went to Whipsnade Zoo for Imogen’s birthday outing last week. It was a truly fabulous day out! In most zoos I’ve visited I’ve always been a teensy bit worried about the animals and whether they have enough space, enough greenery, enough of a “natural” environment. No such concerns at Whipsnade though, the setting is wonderfully green, spacious and overlooks the Chiltern Hills. This does make the animals quite spread out and there is a fair bit of walking involved. We managed just fine with the buggy and buggy board and taking things slowly. You can pay a bit more to take your car in and drive between the different zones, hop on a complimentary bus or pay for a steam train ride. Kids can also take their scooters in too if they like.
We arrived inside the zoo at 11am and being our first time we didn’t really have a plan. Also, we had a looming lunch deadline so wanted to see as much as possible before giving in to demands to have our picnic! The zoo is separated into 4 different areas – Base Camp, Europe, Africa and Asia. First we visited the lemurs in Base Camp straight across from the entrance. This was lots of fun – they lined up on a fence to have a good look at us and jumped over us (one landed on my shoulder!) to get to the other side of their enclosure. We also saw some tiny lemur babies clinging to their mums.
Next we walked past the chimpanzees and briefly into Europe, past the protected English bluebell wood and the European bison and moose. We stopped to take photos at the moose photo stand and Seren took a photo of me! She’s getting better and better at taking photos (she just needs to get taller).
Then it was into Africa and up onto the giraffe viewing tower. It was amazing being eyeball to eyeball with a curious giraffe!
We watched them having their lunch whilst we sat on a picnic table and had ours. Then we saw the zebras before heading into the Serengeti National Park area (or me-geti as Seren called it). The animals in this area represent the wildlife found in the wilds of Kenya and Tanzania, one of which is lions. We walked through a tunnel into the amazing, booming sound of the lion pride roaring and watched as they settled down. You look into their enclosure through floor to ceiling glass with no bars, so you really feel very close to them indeed! Andy began to tell Seren that perhaps they were roaring as they were hungry and looking for a small person to eat (“rolls eyes”).
We stayed in Africa to see the cheetahs, hippos and flamingoes.
We also spotted some of the deer (and some really small baby ones!) that are free to wander the zoo. Wallabies and peacocks also roam.
Next it was Asia for camels, a rhino (so, so big!) and another highlight, the elephants. Seren loved watching an elephant use her trunk to place food into her mouth and we all enjoyed watching them play together!
Then it was time for ice-cream (the only time we used a cafe, they all looked nice though) and the outdoor play area. Imogen enjoyed having a roam around and I was impressed at how confident Seren is getting at climbing!
After play, Seren & I hopped on the steam train for a tour of the zoo by railway. We saw the wallabies by the track, lots of deer on the hills and got a close up of the elephants. The tour guide on the 15 minute journey was really informative, telling us all about the different animals we passed.
It was late afternoon by the time we got back to the station and I gave Seren the option of soft play or seeing the petting farm. She opted for soft play and Imogen enjoyed this too – with a bit of a push, she could climb up onto a ledge in the baby area and get herself over to the little slide and come down by herself too! Where’s my baby gone?
We made our way back to the exit via the sealions and over to the penguins. On the way to the penguins we saw a couple more European animals including a brown bear and a wolverine (I had no idea this was an actual animal and not just a fictional character!). The penguins were ace, we were able to get so close. Their pools are in a lovely spot too, over looking the hills.
At 5pm it was time to leave with 2 tired children! As ever, there was so much we missed out on; Hullaballoo Farm, the sealion show (I wish we’d seen it as Seren showed a real interest in the sealions toward the end) and birds of the world. There is also a butterfly house opening in time for half term!
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is open from 10am every day of the year (except Christmas Day) with seasonal closing times. It’s definitely on the expensive side for a day out so perhaps more of a special treat place to visit. Prices are £25 for an adult and £18 for a child aged 3-15 (this includes a voluntary donation). Under 3s are free!
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 2LF
General enquiries: 0344 225 1826
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo