Friday, 6 September 2013

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Dunstable

You can read about our more recent visit to Whipsnade Zoo here!

We've had a brilliant summer this year. We've been out and about and we've also had some lovely days at home, with themed crafts and activities as well as plenty of sunny water play in the garden. We finished off the holidays with a short weekend break away, using some vouchers that I won for a day trip to Whipsnade Zoo, a night over in Dunstable and then my niece's 5th Birthday party on the Sunday.

We first visited Whipsnade Zoo a few years back when Harry was about 6 months old. We were desperate to start taking our baby out and about on day trips, and we convinced ourselves that it was the perfect outing for him, despite the fact that he would probably have been just as entertained by going for a walk down the road. This time the trip was definitely for the children, both of them old enough to appreciate and enjoy the day out.

We used our vouchers for entry, which would have cost us £21 per adult and £16 for a child (under 3 years are free). In addition you have to pay £4 for parking. There are also extra costs once you are inside - a ride on the Jumbo Express Steam Train is a whopping £4 per adult and £1 per child (we managed to steer the children away from this). There is however a free bus which you can use to ride around the park.

Our first stop was the indoor soft play area Hullabazoo, new since our previous visit. Because it was a busy day they were operating timed slots, so we went early to book a slot for later in the day. It was empty just after opening so we let the children play there for a while then too. I was very impressed with it, it was large, clean and with an excellent level of staff supervision. There is an outdoor play area too which again was very good.

But of course we were really here to see the animals. Although there were a lot of people there we found ourselves in a quieter area of the zoo and we didn't feel that it was too busy. Harry particularly loves giraffes, and we were fortunate to be visiting the enclosure at feeding time. We watched the keepers prepare and set out the food, and then admired the way that the giraffe ate his leaves with his long black tongue.

Whipsnade Zoo, Dunstable

There were plenty of little exhibits along the way, with extra information about the animals. The elephants were also very popular, and we ate our sandwiches here watching them drink through their trunks. Later in the day we were amazed to see some of the keepers taking the elephants for a walk along one of the public roads, all using their trunks to hold on to the tail of the one in front just like in the Jungle Book!

Whipsnade Zoo, Dunstable

The Discovery Centre is a nice indoor attraction to visit, with an opportunity to get close up to various insects and creepy crawlies without it being too busy. At the end there is an area where children can do various crafty activities - although at £2 for some colouring sheets we hurried the little ones quickly past!

There are a few little animals which roam freely around the grounds which the children loved. For the larger animals the enclosures feel very open and spacious which is nice to see. We also enjoyed the Children's Zoo, where the children could stroke a sheep and admire some sweet miniature ponies. You can also enter the lemur enclosure and see them close up.

Whipsnade Zoo is vast, and Harry did struggle a little with the walking around the park, as he's not a very keen walker. In fact for some of the day he even sat in Mia's pushchair while she walked. There is a free bus, but we didn't use it as we had the pushchair piled up with bags and things, but we probably should have investigated it. Interestingly, you can also take your own car inside the park which costs £20.

The whole park is pushchair accessible and there is plenty of space to move around. You can however find yourself quite some distance from a toilet. Typically the one time that Mia really needed changing the only toilets nearby were portaloo style with no change facilities, meaning that I had to change her on a box in the open outside.

We spent a full day at the zoo and there was plenty to see, an excellent variety of animals and the indoor and outdoor playgrounds were fantastic. I'd definitely recommend a visit.

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