Despite living less than an hour and a half away I don’t think I had ever been to Whipsnade Zoo. Mark thinks he may have growing up but neither of us remember. We wanted big BIG animals! Which means Rhinos, elephants and giraffes, Something Whipsnade Zoo have plenty off! With it being half term holidays we decided to kick start if off by our visit and on Monday morning we set off.
The park opens at 10am and we aimed to get there just before so we could make the most of our day. The car park was controlled by a couple of people who were directing traffic, it made parking really easy. There was a directional sign which we followed to a big tunnel with ramps (and separate steps) which led under the road to the entrance of the zoo. The tunnel walls were decorated with an array of illustrated animals which made the excitement of what was coming grow. The boys eagerly picked out the animal on their list and we couldn’t wait to get looking for them.
Before going through the ticket barrier we did a toilet stop. Getting through the ticket barrier was super easy, and once through you have to walk through the main entrance. Be warned there is the gift shop on one side and a cafe on the other. There is a stand just as you enter which is full of maps, we took 3 one for each of the boys to carry. Once you step through the entrance and to the other side your in the zoo and it is overwhelming!
It is probably worth mentioning here that you can pay to take your car into the zoo, which would be great for really young families. There are several car parks dotted around and a car safari (you can read more about this at the end though). Children can also take scooters too, Whipsnade Zoo say it is to let the children to go between enclosures. Personally, I would have much rather they banned the use of scooters and put more buses on their timetable. Every now and again we would find ourselves dodging scooters. Having cars in the zoo has its own set of hazards too! It didn’t spoil the day though, and we still had lots of fun!
Map of the zooZSL Whipsnade Zoo map 2017
As you can see from the map the zoo is split into different continents Europe, Asia and Africa with base camp being the central point.
We walked to Europe first in the hope to see some Chimpanzee’s but it was just gone 10 am on a cold day and we think they were still sleeping. We did notice though the fab size of the enclosures! meaning the chimpanzees had lots of room to explore. There was not only an outdoor are you could see, but several large windows to the indoor enclosure. The chimps also had a little room too! Perfect for days like this one where it is cold. Dotted around the enclosure was lots of information about too!
We moved on from the Chimps to go and see the European Lynx but again it must have been curled up keeping warm. At this point, I had spotted the Wild Boars and we swiftly moved on, keen to show the boys an animal. After the wild boars, we saw Brown Bears. They really look as cute and cuddly as you can imagine!
We then walked towards the penguin enclosure, they are Mark’s favourite animal so we had to make sure we got to see them.
Whipsnade Zoo home 2 different species of Rhino;; The White Rhino and the One horned Rhino. They are housed in 2 separate enclosures. They are magnificent animals and they looked bigger than I thought.
Visiting the giraffes was the highlight of my day and despite the smell, I could have easily spent the day just watching them. They are as tall as you imagined they would be. As it was cold outside all the giraffes were indoors eating but that didn’t stop us taking a trip up to the viewing platform to have a look. I can only imagine on a much warmer day how lovely it is sitting and watching them. Inside the inside enclosure there is a little hands on activity for young ones, which involves turning a dial and watching the giraffe reach for food.
At school Oliver is currently learning about the Rain forest and when looking online at the animals the Butterfly House was on our list of places to go. The Blue Morpho Butterfly is one of the insects he is currently focusing on and he wanted to see what they look like in ‘Real Life’. Walking into the Butterfly House it is understandably very hot and humid, which when outside is really cold was a welcome! There isn’t anywhere to securely leave your belongings, but everyone else seemed to be happy and comfortable leaving their pushchairs/coats and bags in the foyer. Before you enter you can pick up a ‘spotters guide’ which is a large card with photos of butterflies on.
As you walk into the main part there is a small crocodile (which we had only just noticed as we were moving away) and a tarantula along with cockroaches and stick insects. The main butterfly section has a path running through. There were lots of dishes of fruit which always had butterflies on! The butterflies have the freedom to move around and they can go wherever they like. There is lots of greenery, colours and flowers and a Blue Morpho butterfly landed on Oliver’s head! We think it was maybe attracted to his blue scarf.
Vets in Action
During the half term, Whipsnade Zoo are hosting Vets in Action. A hands on experience of what the vets at Whipsnade do to help the animals. The boys met Leo the Lion who had been in a bit of a scrape with his brothers and Charlie the chimp who has a heart defect. The vets who hosted the event were really lovely and managed to grab the attention of the entire room! Each child was given a hair net and face mask.
The vet hospital was partitioned into 4 sections each with their own vet (during our session, one needed to leave so we had the same vet. It was the last session though). It made the whole process incredibly easy and there was no waiting either! The first section was an introduction and that was where they were given their hair nets and face masks. The second part was Leo the Lion the really cute cuddly teddy bear. The vet explained what they do to help clean and protect the wounds, from the gel they use to help seal the wound to the health check they do.
Charlie the Chimp was the third part. The vet explained that currently at Whipsnade there are 2 chimps with heart defects and they are each fitted with a heart monitor. Every year the monitors need replacing so they perform minor surgery on them. The vet showed the boys (and all the other children) the different steps of the surgery. Although the “operation” was performed on a teddy, it was fascinating to hear what happens.
The last part was hands on! The boys were given Liquorice the Rat and a clipboard which explained what why he was at the Vets. To get started the boys needed to use a chip reader to make sure they had the right animal, and then check it with the number written on their clipboards. The information noted that Liquorice needed an injection and because he was a bit of a greedy rat his weight needed checking and monitoring. The whole experience was wonderful! and really well organised, it is something we would definetly want to do again.
Wandering around Whipsnade Zoo there are several places to go for refreshments, a cafe or restaurant in each part. We took a picnic with us as being a big family food in places can become really expensive so we didn’t go into Basecamp Restaurant. We did however pop into the Africa Outpost for hot chocolates (£3each) to warm us up. I was surprised to see a child’s option and at £2 it wasn’t badly priced either. In each place is the option to buy small cakes/biscuits which were around £2.50 each The fruit was really reasonable at 60p (in Africa Outpost). There is also a child’s picnic bag option which was £5 for 5 items, including sandwich, drink and 3 more items.
When we reached Hullabzoo (indoor play area) the cafe did have a better selection of food and there was the option for Hotel Chocolat hot chocolate (about £3.70). It did get really busy though.
Getting around the zoo
Whipsnade Zoo is the largest UK zoo at over 600acres! There is a steam train and a bus which you can use to move around the zoo. The Steam train runs every 30 minutes and goes around a section of Asia. There isn’t any stops, but there is someone who tells you more about the zoo. So it is more of a tour. It isn’t free and costs £4.50 adults and £2 per child.
The bus has several stops around the zoo so you can hop on and off. It is Free! and each stop has a timetable so you know when to expect it. The bus is a single deck bus (similar to one that is in town) just a little smaller in length to a standard bus size.
Easiest way is to walk. There are signs all over the park to help navigate your way around. The signs show how long it will take to reach the popular attractions in minutes. Which is really handy to help plan where you want to go, especially come lunch time!
Whipsnade Zoo is in Dunstable, (Here’s the address Whipsnade, Dunstable LU6 2LF). Which for those like me who live in Peterborough it is just under an hour and a half away making it a viable option for a day out. When buying tickets as always try and buy in advance, they always tend to be cheaper. If you shop at TESCO you can also exchange some of your clubcard vouchers too.
There is free parking too opposite the zoo which sounds like it could be really far away, but it isn’t! We were surprised just how accessible the car park and the zoo are to each other. There is the option to pay £25 (non-member price) to bring your car into the zoo. There are several car parks dotted about plus a little car safari drive available too. Whilst we were in the Zoo we did notice several car park attendants so make sure you park in the appropriate places. Bringing the car into the Zoo is a great option if you have a picnic as your don’t need to worry about carrying it around with you. We did find that you had be a little more wary of where to walk, but there is plenty of footpaths.
*Taken from their Website – Prices are valid from 10th Feb to 28th October
|Online ticket price||Ticket price at the gate*|
|Children (3-15 years)||£16.60||£20.35|
|Children under 3 years||FREE||FREE|
|Concession – 60+, student & visitor with a disability (free entry for essential carer)||£20.65||£25.20|
|Family offer (online only)||£70.50 (2 Adults + 2 Children)||N/A|
*Inclusive of a voluntary 10% donation to help fund our wildlife conservation work around the world.
Ticket prices at the gate excluding a voluntary 10% donation are: Adult £25.45; Child £18.50; Concession £22.91.
Everytime we go somewhere with a gift shop and the boys are with us we let them buy something. Whipsnade Zoo didn’t disappoint when it came to the array of items to buy. Pretty much everything from clothing, bottles, sweets and cuddly bears was available! Items from as little as £1 to lots more.