Saturday, 18 November 2017

Our Visit to Bristol Zoo Gardens - A Review

We actually came across Bristol Zoo Gardens by accident as we were travelling to Burnham-on-Sea during the October half term. I noticed a sign for it as we were driving along the motorway and realising that it was less than an hour away from our accommodation, I found the website online to see what the attraction had on offer.

The website was very informative and provided a really good insight into zoo life, the animals and the facilities that were available. There was plenty of information for visitors, as well as further facts about the Bristol Zoo Garden's charitable mission and conservation work.

I also learnt a little bit more about the history of the zoo and was astonished to find that it is actually the fifth oldest zoo in the world, having first opened its doors to the public, back in July 1836. Since then the zoo has helped save over 175 species from extinction both in human care and in the wild. Over 90 million guests have visited the zoo over the years which is an incredible number! Having discovered more about Bristol Zoo Gardens, I made the decision that it was somewhere we would definitely have to visit.

We were very lucky with the weather during the half term week and managed to pick a day to visit, that was abundant with sunshine. We followed the sat nav using the postcode provided, however this did take us over the Clifton Suspension bridge (toll required) and along some small roads. My parents who decided to come along with us for the day, followed the signs from the motorway instead and found it with no problems.

When we arrived at the car park, we found that the parking costs £3 or a reduced rate of £1 for Zoo members. This is cash only and is paid to an attendant on arrival, so make sure you have some change spare. It isn't a huge car park, so I would recommend arriving early during peak periods to make sure you can find a space with ease. Once you have parked up, it is then a short walk to the entrance.

Credit: Emma Foster
The main entrance was very welcoming and the staff all seemed very friendly and polite. We were asked if we would like a map and whether there was any information we required before entering. The children could see all the items available in the shop behind the main kiosk and so we had to make a promise to let them have a look around before leaving. Once we had obtained our tickets and map, we made our way out of the foyer and into the beautiful Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Although I had read all the information on the website beforehand, I was still a little unsure as to what to expect and how the layout would be. It soon became apparent that the whole zoo looped round so it was easy to visit each enclosure in order, whilst surrounded by the beautiful landscaped gardens and features. The first animals we came across were the flamingos. They all looked so elegant and perfectly still whilst resting on one leg. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to stay in this area too long as the children heard a loud roar on the opposite side of the path, so they all ran over excitedly, with us not far behind.

The lions were absolutely magnificent and it was quite breathtaking to be able to see such stunning creatures up close. I could have literally stood there for hours just watching them and they didn't seem phased at all by the public observing through the glass viewing panel. All around me I could hear the gasps of children along with shouts of "Wow" as everyone watched whilst they prowled around the enclosure. There was also an informative sign nearby, that provided plenty of information on the Asiatic Lions, which I always find interesting to read.

Next, we made our way through the Twilight World which featured a wide range of nocturnal animals. As you would expect, it was very dark inside and Grandad struggled a bit to see his way through, but managed ok with a little bit of guidance from the grandkids! On leaving the Twilight World we entered the fruit bat enclosure which then led us out to the Red Pandas. Whilst our family was busy watching the Red Panda's climb down from the tree, I took Riley over to the Carousel on the Piazza where he enjoyed a short ride. He was very excited to find a painted pebble as we made our way back to the rest of the family, especially as someone had decorated it with Peppa's teddy!

One thing that I was already impressed with, was the maintenance of the site. Everywhere was really well kept, clean and tidy. I was also pleased that there was plenty of benches scattered at regular intervals along the terrace, providing a lovely area to sit down and simply enjoy the surroundings. Grandad is disabled and so it was ideal for him to have somewhere he could sit and rest whilst the kids ran around.

Credit: Emma Foster
Our next stop was the Reptile House, where we saw some very large and fascinating creatures, including bright and colourful frogs, as well as large and scary looking snakes. My son Riley loved looking at all the reptiles, especially the lizards.

Credit: Emma Foster

Credit: Emma Foster
The exit from the Reptile House, took us to the Aquarium entrance, where we found an abundance of vibrant and lively fish. My children always enjoy looking for "Nemo's & Dory's" and so they were very happy to find a beautiful Dory near the exit.

By this point we had started to get a little thirsty so decided to purchase a drink. We made our way to The Hide Cafe Restaurant, which is a really nice dining area. On arrival you are taken to a table and provided with menus, then someone comes back to take your order. I found this to be a really lovely setting for a sit down meal, but thought it was a bit formal for just a few soft drinks and I also felt a bit awkard about taking up such a large table for just a drink. My husband then spotted a kiosk that had opened outside serving hot & cold drinks, along with some savoury snacks such as sausage rolls and pies, so we made our way over to this instead and enjoyed our drinks on one of the outdoor picnic benches instead. If we had wanted to have a meal though, then I wouldn't have hesitated to stay in The Hide Cafe Restaurant as it looked lovely, with a good selection of food available.

Credit: Emma Foster

After our drinks, we began to explore the monkey jungle and our favourite part of the zoo, which was the Lemur enclosure. We were fascinated watching the lemurs run around us and there were staff on hand to answer the hundreds of questions that the kids kept firing at them. It was amazing to witness them running around our feet and then swinging and chasing one another through the trees.

My children stopped to take a look at the map and saw that we were by Gorilla Island. We were just in time for the Gorilla talk and feed, so we hurried over to find out more about these incredible animals. We were astonished by just how big they were and Riley was convinced that the one in the picture below was actually a statue, until he put his hand in the air to catch a lettuce that had been thrown over.

Their size and physique was incredible and it was really interesting to hear about the diet the Gorilla's eat. We had seen a large board at the entrance to Gorilla Island that details Jock's daily menu and we had intially thought this was a joke!

In addition to the Gorilla talk, the map detailed numerous other talk and feeding sessions ranging from Lion's and Meerkats, to Penguins and Seals, which is always really useful if you want to learn more. We were going to visit the Seal and Penguin Coasts after Gorilla Island, but Ben spotted the sign for the Children's play area, so all the children quickly demanded a visit to the park for a play.

There was a wide range of play equipment available, as well as a sand play area. My only negative comment, would be that it was very hard for some of the smaller children to climb up to the slide and could have done with some additional steps inside the tower. Some children were able to pull themselves up with ease, but Riley and a few others were struggling. It was also in such a position that it was hard for parents to help from the outside. That being said, Riley did manage it twice and enjoyed the slide very much once he had managed to reach the top.

Once the children had finished burning off some energy in the Play Area, we returned back to the Seal and Penguin Coasts area, where we enjoyed a lovely stroll through the enclosure. The penguins all seemed busy, wandering around together, whilst the seals rolled gently in the water.

Credit: Emma Foster
We ended our visit to Bristol Zoo Gardens, with a lovely walk through the Butterfly Forest, where stunning butterflies of all different colours, flew around us. Some of them were really beautiful and Riley enjoyed looking for all the different species, that were on a sheet we had been provided with as we entered. There was also a fascinating area where you could see the cocoons that had been built ready for butterflies to emerge from.

As we made our way to the exit, the children enjoyed a quick run around the Turtle Maze. This was a lovely fun area, surrounded by lawns that looked really peaceful and well cared for. We all agreed that we had enjoyed a wonderful day at Bristol Zoo Gardens and felt that it was a great attraction for families to enjoy together. Nana and Grandad also commented on how beautiful it was and that they felt the layout was perfect and easy to follow. Overall we were very impressed and had a brilliant time. We would definitely return in the future and would recommend to others.

Attraction Details

Address: Bristol Zoo Gardens, Clifton, Bristol, BS83HA
Opening times: 9am til 5pm, 364 days a year.
Ticket Prices: Tickets can be purchased both online or on the gate. Prices vary, so please visit the Bristol Zoo website to obtain the most up to date details here: Ticket Information

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary admission for the purpose of providing an honest review of our experience. Opinions and photographs are my own, unless stated otherwise.

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