I absolutely love wild animals so when I received complementary family days out tickets to visit Whipsnade Zoo I couldn't wait. I made arrangements to travel there by train, and my sister and nephews agreed to come with us. We planned to get to the zoo for the 10am opening time.
The train journey from Croydon to Luton was straightforward but on arrival at Luton station we had to struggle up the stairs from the platform with the pushchairs as there is no lift to and from the platforms. The bus to Whipsnade runs every 2 hours so we considered getting a cab from the cab station located right outside. On average the journey would cost £16 but because there was 7 of us (including the babies) and they had no 7 seater cabs we would have had to get two cabs. We decided instead to get the x31 to Dunstable and continue by cab from there.
The bus journey cost £2.00 per adult and £1.20 per child and the 7 seater from Dunstable cost £10. On the way home we ended up getting a cab from Whipsnade to Luton at a cost of £20 due to waiting at the bus stop in the cold for 40 minutes despite arriving at the stop 10 minutes before the bus was due. With buses coming every 2 hours it wasn't worth risking a two hour wait with the babies.
|Freezing cold but having fun at the bus stop|
There is a map provided with the entry cost (£18 adult 14.50 children and £16.50 consession you can also get a 10% online family ticket discount). The map also provides information about the daily animal shows and talks, unfortunately we didn’t get to see any of those due to the zoo being so big that finding and getting from one place to another is a difficult process... women and maps!
One of the benefits of going buy car is that you can pay a fee to drive your car around the zoo and hop in and out to look at the animals. Unfortunately for those on foot that does mean that you have to keep children at very close range because there aren't many decent footpaths and on busy days this could be dangerous. There is a train and bus run by the zoo to travel around but they were not in service whilst we were there.
Lots of animals freely roam the zoo and the first we came across were peafowl and Mara. The children (and us adults if i’m honest) were very excited at being able to get so close to these strange and beautiful animals.
We were able to watch Sea-lions swim underwater and a solitary tiger from above its enclosure, then visit it’s mate who was sectioned off and looking very sorry for itself.
|Up close with a Tiger|
The animal enclosures were well labeled and provide fun and interesting ways of teaching children about the animals.
|Couldn't help but giggle at this Jeremy Kyle style sub-heading|
My favourite animals are usually the Monkeys or Gorillas but at Whipsnade I found myself drawn to the cutest family of Cheetahs, not only did they look amazing and happy (if animals can look happy) but next to the enclosure was a sort of race board where the children could test their speed against that of a cheetahs. We all had a go at this and the youngest boys of our group found us bashing into the padded wall hilarious.
The Lions were either in hiding or had been put away as we were rather disappointed when we could not see them in their enclosure, we did however get to spin a wheel to see if we would bring home dinner and ‘pose with our pride.’
The giraffe walkway was also closed but you could see the Giraffe through a window and these very inquisitive Giraffe came right up to the glass as if coming to say hello.
Among the other animals we saw were Rhinos, Gorillas, Sloth Bears, Camel, Meerkats, Flamingo, Moose, Reindeer (very appropriate for this season) and a solitary Zebra to name a few and although there were a lot of animals there also seemed to be a lot of unused space.
There are two main play areas one indoor and one outdoor that look great but with closing time at 4 and a lot of walking around to do to get to see the animals, stopping to play was not really an option this time around. The children did however enjoy running around the beautiful scenery and the sights inspired my nephew to serenade us with his beautiful rendition of 'In The Jungle.'
Having my nephews with us meant that eating was top of the list of things to do. We choose to eat at the Wild Bite Cafe, we had brought a packed lunch with us but because the weather was cold we purchased two good sized bowls of chips to eat with our packed lunch and my sister and I had a hot chocolate each which came up to £10. The restaurant was clean and the variety of food was good for those who eat a normal diet. If you are vegetarian or eat only halal or Kosher meat I recommend bringing your own food.
The gift shop has a huge variety of animal related gifts as well as non animal related snacks, drinks, ice cream and sweets and all at reasonable prices so you can buy the children a momento without breaking the bank.
In short I would have to visit Whipsnade again (please feel free to send me tickets and travel fare) but in the summer in order to get a full picture of the zoos ups and downs. From my experience I recommend you make full use of the zoos brilliant website to thoroughly plan your day and make the most of all that it has to offer.
|Gorillas with their Christmas cracker surprises|