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Monkeying around at the zoo
Member Name: bettyboopy
Advantages: Amazing animals, breathtaking enclosures, fantastic day out
Disadvantages: Pricing inside zoo, no petting zoo
Chester Zoo is one of my favourite places to visit. It is easy to access, isn't too expensive to get in, and is a fantastic day out. They have around 7000 animals of 500 different species, in a beautiful scenic place, covering over 100 acres. The gardens have won awards, although admittedly I cant really review these gardens, as I am all for the animals once I'm there! A day at Chester zoo takes up ALL day if you want to see everything, so be prepared to leave early and take plenty of supplies, such as food and drink, as this is expensive once in the zoo.
You can travel by car, and the Zoo is situated just outside Chester city centre, so you dont need to go into the hustle and bustle, but I do highly advise that if you are going by car, you should go mid-week, simply because Chester by car on a Saturday is madness and stressful to say the least! Parking is free when you get to the zoo and there is ample parking space, no matter how busy as they have overspill car parks during busy times.
One of the easiest ways to get there, and the one I always opt for when I go, is by train. There is a bus stop right outside Chester railway station, and the number 1 bus, which runs every half an hour, takes you to directly to the zoo, and they run from the Zoo back to the station, again every half an hour. The bus only costs around £1.50 and takes around 10 mintues.
There is a map and directions available on the Zoo's website www.chesterzoo.org. Opening times change constantly throughout the year and it is always best to check the website, or telephone the zoo before you visit, as you dont want to be left disappointed. They only close on Christmas day, but it is the times of opening that vary.
~What Will It Cost Me?~
The zoo isn't too expensive, £14.95 for adults, £10.95 for children aged 3-15, Consessions £13.50, Family Ticket (2 Adults, 2 children) £45.00 and children under 3 go free. This however I found difficult one of the times I have visited as I took my friend's little girl with me who was 2. She looked older as she was tall for her age, and they wouldn't believe me that she was under 3 and after a little disagreement, I had to pay almost £11.00 for her to get in. I find this under 3 policy very unfair as £10.95 is alot. So if you have a child who is 2 years and 11 months, they get in free, and if the child is a month older they pay £10.95. Doesn't seem right. I can understand that tiny babies won't really know what is going on, so they can't really charge for them and there has to be a line on age somewhere but it was a little disappointing when you have a child with you under 3 and you still have to pay.
These prices I have just given are the full price which includes a charity donation - (The donation goes to the zoo as they are a registered charity). They charge you these prices by default. You can opt to pay the "standard" price which is around 10% less for each pricing age/section. I see this as a little cheeky of them, as with the cheaper option, the money still goes to the zoo, so basically they ask you to pay a little more to get in by default so they make more money. They also guilt you into doing this by having staff (one staff member for each entry queue), asking people if they would pay the charity option today. Most people say yes, and those who dont really want to say yes anyway as they dont want to stand out in a crowd and seem the ungenerous ones. Those who say "no", they want to pay the cheaper price have to say so again at the gate.
You can purchase poncho's within the zoo if its raining, for around £7.00, but again I take the cheaper option and take an umbrella!
When you get inside the zoo, two of the attractions you do have to pay extra for. There is a monorail which takes you from one side of the zoo to the other (the zoo is absolutly huge, so this does help on the old legs!), and goes over some of the enclosures such as the lions, so you also get to see some of the animals from a different view, and also because you are above them you don't have to look through bars to see them. I have been on the monorail a few times, but the last time I went on it was around 4 years ago, and a lad around 18 years old, (tracksuit bottoms tucked in socks, baseball cap, no teeth, you know the type), who was about 4 coaches down from mine, found it hilarious to rock the whole thing while we were going over the lions. Kids started screaming and adults looked really worried - I know I was! - while the lad just carried on laughing and rocking the whole train from side to side, and that put me off going on it again. The monorail costs £2.00 for adults and £1.50 for children.
The other attraction you pay for is the waterbus. This is a boat ride that takes you around the zoo, and it lasts around half an hour, and is quite relaxing and enjoyable providing it isn't too busy. The boat ride costs again, £2.00 for adults and £1.50 for children.
Be prepared to pay an arm and a leg for food! A small plate of chips is around £2.50, a drink of coke £2.00, alot of money if you are there most of the day and you and your troops need feeding. I always take enough bottled water, a few packets of crisps, and sandwiches. There are some beautiful picnic areas around the zoo, and it adds to the day out, instead of being stuck inside a cafe full of screaming kids, and people trying to find a table and gaurd it with their life untill people with them come back from the queue with a plastic tray, plate of unhealthy chips, paper cup of coke, and £4.50 less in their pockets.
My advise would be, also if you are planning a family day out, and there are 15 or more of you, you are entitled to make this a group booking. If you book this 5 days in advance adults are charged £9.95 and children £8.95, and even less during off peak times (October-March).
One of the add-on things you can buy for a mere 5p per child is a wristband. You simply write your mobile number on the wristband, and should your child get lost, then you are contactable straight away.
The Zoo is fully accessbile for wheelchair users and all toilets are adapted for disabled people. You can also hire mobility scooters for a refundable deposit of £10.00, which I have seen alot of people on every time I have been to the zoo so there are plenty available. I do think you have to pre-book these, especially at peak times. Unlike most Zoo's, Chester Zoo does let guide dogs in, however if you have a guide dog you are not allowed in certain areas, or to be near certain animals.
~Food and Drink~
As I said further up, it is easier and alot cheaper to take food with you, if not there are five places within the zoo to purchase food and drink, and other stands around the zoo selling ice-cream, burgers and drinks. There is the Ark Restaurant, which to me is more of a large cafe crossed with a burger bar, and not so much of a restaurant. The Acorn Bar, is similar to a small pub, selling a variety of drinks, such as tea, coffee, soft drinks and alcohol, as well as light lunches (a sandwich and bag of crisps). There is a Victorian house within the grounds which has been converted to a tea room and restaurant. I have never seen the inside of this place, as each time I have been there has been a prviate party there, and it has not been accessible to the public. There is also a new cafe called, Cafe Tsavo, which I am yet to see or try. Expect to pay quite high prices in all of these places, as once you are in the zoo, you can't leave to get anything to eat, and then come back in again.
Now on to the fun bit! There are so many animals to see and lots of talks and feeding times to look out for. A favourite of mine, is the chimpanzee talk. This talk lasted for about half an hour last time I went, but only around 5 minutes the time before. I think that the busier the zoo, the longer the talks last. The keeper takes you through a wide variety about the animal, such as habitat, care, their natural environment, are they endangered, feeding and of course their names. The talks happen all over the zoo at different times during the day and are usually on, chimpanzees, sealions, elephants, tropical birds, penquins, and lots more. Times of these talks/feeding times vary but on entry to the zoo you are given a timetable for the day for when and where these happen.
There are many indoor enclosures as well as outdoor, such as elephants, sealions, rhino, lions, tigers, orang-u-tan, chimpanzee, crocodiles, spiders, snakes, birds, lizards, and so much more. I could be here all day listing every animal they have, as they have over 60 species of mammals alone, 10 species of ape, and countless reptiles. In total there are around 7000 animals! You need to see these for yourself as some of the animal enclosures are breathtaking and the animals are clearly very happy.
The Spirit Of The Jaguar, is one of the newest enclosures and now houses three Jaguars, of which I have only seen one. They have practically built a tropical rainforest inside an enclosure and the Jaguars are so hard to spot! It is amazing to see the excitement in everyone when one appears near the glass though and they are breathtaking animals with so much power and grace.
Twilight Zone is also one of the newer enclosures and this petrified me! You enter through one door, into a corridor, and then through some plastic curtain strips, and you are in a huge (man made) cave. Bats fly freely around but it takes your eyes a few minutes to adjust, and when they do you realise bats with a 40cm wingspan are 10cm from your face! There are also fruitbats in there with a wingspan of up to a metre, but these tend to stay near to top, and only swoop down every now and then. Zoo keepers are in there at all times to make sure nothing happens, but I was out of there in arond 2 minutes. I was scared of one getting stuck in my hair - I know, please dont laugh. Kids seem to love it though, and my friend's little girl went on one of the guy's shoulders and she was giggling with delight, as were all the other kids in there. I was a wimp and had to go back outside, where there were around 10 other women, all waiting for the husbands and kids to come back out as they were scared of the same thing I was!, so this enclosure isn't really for everyone.
My favourite enclosure is the Chimpanzees, by far the best. We stayed at this one for around an hour, and then went back again later in the day. It is so funny to watch the baby chimps teasing, hair pulling, and generally winding up the older grumpy ones. One baby chimp kept hiding behind a tree, then jumping out and hitting an older chimp with a stick when he wasn't looking, then jumping back behind the tree again. The older chimp worked it all out after being hit around 10 times and ran round the tree, took the stick off the youngster and threw it in the moat, surrounding the enclosure. The baby chimp got another stick, and the game started again. Sounds silly,but so amusing to watch. Around the enclosure you do hear alot of husbands making mother-in-law jokes, such as "oooh there's Grandma" to the kids, which, maybe its my warped sense of humor, I find quite amusing. We actually made a joke of counting how many we heard last time, and I think there were around 14 comments. So please dont take the mother-in-law AND the husband to this enlosure, it could cause some family breakdowns.
The elephant enclosure was re-vamped a few years ago now but still looks fantastic, with lots of viewing points and great places to take pictures. The elephants have so much room, along with their own bathing pool, and large waterfall to play in, although last time I was the the elephants were more interested in throwing clumps of grass at the visitors which everyone in the crowd found hilarious, especially the kids.
As I say, the range of animals is amazing and it really does take all day to see everything. On every enclosure it tells you facts about the animal, where that particular one came from, it's name - if it has one, and how you can go about adopting it.
The one and only disappointment with the animals is the petting zoo. When the foot and mouth outbreak happened around 6 years ago, the petting zoo was emptied (I dont know what happened to the animals), and was never re-opened, so now it is just derelict and rotting away. It is a huge shame as it is what the zoo is missing, and I'm not sure why they never re-introduced this after the foot and mouth issue was all over. They do however, have an activity centre for kids, where they can make masks, learn about animals and have their faces painted. You do need to check availability on this one, as it is not open all year round, and during some school term times.
~Can You Help?~
Chester Zoo is a charity and they do a great deal for conservation and the environment. They have many projects and campaigns happening constantly to avoid environmental damage, and avoid extinction and more details are available on their website.
As Chester Zoo gets no government funding at all, they rely on admissions, money made in the zoo and donations to survive. They offer the chance for you to adopt and animal at the zoo, and have your name on a plaque on the enclosure, along with a gift pack and tickets for the zoo. This starts from £50.00
You can also become a member of the zoo, again this starts at £50.00 and gives you a season ticket to the zoo, with a years free admission.
You can also become a Keeper for the day at the cost of £200.00 and work with an animal or type of animal of your choice. This however, you need to book around a year in advance as this is so popular that they are always fully booked. For example, elephants, rhinos and giraffes are sold out for 2007, according to their website.
There are 3 shops within the zoo, selling a huge variety of souveniers, along with some household goods, toys and games. These shops are reasonably priced and are always very busy. There are some lovely things on sale here, and some beautiful pictures.
There are also cash machines, public telephones, first aid points, and lots of toilets dotted around, so you are never wandering around and around looking for anything. There are always plenty of staff around to help you if you need anything, but everything is very easy to find.
A fantastic, amazing day out, with lots to do and learn, plenty to see, and you'll take lots of happy memories home with you! Before you go, check availability for extras on the website, www.chesterzoo.org and download and print out a few maps for your group. The maps inside the zoo are £4.00 each! I may sound a little tight with money on my visit, but the day had already cost us £70.00 with admissions, and travel before we saw any animals! I know the zoo is a charity, and I donated in various charity boxes around the zoo, but I simply cant afford everything they offer. If we had eaten in the cafe, and bought a map that would of added £20.00 on to my day, something which just went a little beyond the budget we were on, but never mind.
I hope those of you who do visit Chester Zoo have a fantastic day, I know I'm going back this summer. The zoo does have it's downsides, but for me, the animals make up for that every single time.
Contact details taken from chester zoo website, for your informtation only, not part of review:
Tel: 01244 380 280
Fax: 01244 371 273
The North of England Zoological Society operates Chester Zoo. Registered Charity No. 306077. A company limited by guarantee. Registered in England No.287902. VAT No.595 7286 79
Summary: Great day out!
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