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We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo
Member Name: jennikitten
Date: 22/09/09, updated on 22/09/09 (144 review reads)
Advantages: Educational, lots of animals, good photo opps
Disadvantages: Anti-zoo debate, could be busy at peak times, isn't cheap
Last month I realised that I hadn't had more than a couple of days off since last Christmas, and so I decided to take some time off work to spend with the boyfriend. We've both been through a lot over the past few months - he got hit by a car and broke his leg, failed his exams because of it, and ended up spending the summer working full time about a hundred miles away whilst trying to revise. I had been stuck in a stressful job for almost a year far away from everyone I knew and really hated it, and had to look after Joe as well.
So I think we deserved some time off! I originally wanted to go to Portugal, but time restraints meant we had to holiday in the UK. As Joe's still on crutches, we also need somewhere easy to get around, so we chose Chester.
Of course I wanted to test out my new camera, and Chester Zoo is one of the biggest zoos in the country. The admission is now far more than suggestion in the description above, and with Gift Aid included, an adult admission was around £14. Joe got in a bit cheaper as a student, and as we paid together the Zoo got a Gift Aid donation from both of us which was good.
We got handed a map after we'd paid, which was heavily picture based and easy to look at, which is good for kids. I was quite surprised at how many different kinds of animals there were, since I only remember visiting once as a kid. However, at the beginning I did feel it was a bit dominated by rhino and buffalo!
The zoo has a couple of gift shops with cuddly and ceramic things to buy as well as some clothes, greetings cards, stationery etc. I think there's something there for everyone, from tacky to stylish. We didn't buy any food there because we thought it would be too expensive, but there's a cafe and a self-service restaurant which seemed to sell burgers amongst other things. For those bringing their own food there were a lot of picnic benches and tables situated close to the animals. These were also useful for Joe as he had to stop and rest a couple of times. The toilets were easily found near the main entrance, but we didn't use them.
The animals were great - I loved the giraffes, otters, monkeys and red pandas the most. They also had specific animal talks and feeding times listed all over the zoo, and we caught the end of the sea lion one. Other animals include penguins, flamingoes ('mingoes' as we heard one kid call them), bats, butterflies, snakes and lots of other things.
There weren't many kids around because of it being September - I imagine it gets very busy in peak times though so that's worth considering. Also if you really want to see a particular animal it might be worth checking that they are going to be there/awake or whatever. I really wanted to see the lemurs but they're being kept in at the moment because a few females have just given birth. And we didn't see the elephants - not sure why their area was empty.
Other things to do include the monorail, which is generally less than 4m off the ground and provides an aerial view of most of the zoo. I assume that costs extra; we got the boat ride instead, which was about 15 mins with a narration from the boat driver of what we were seeing and that cost about 32 each. It covers a different area though and was lovely and peaceful (beautiful day), so I thoroughly recommend it.
We got the bus to the zoo from Chester, and it cost £2.60 for a return and took about 15 minutes. In the zoo itself we spent about 3 or so hours there because we were getting tired, but there's easily enough to do for the whole day if you space it out a bit or you have kids who want to go on the playgrounds.
There were a few people in wheelchairs, and of course Joe was on his crutches and had no problems with doing and seeing pretty much everything. The staff were really nice and helpful in that respect too.
I know a lot of people are anti-zoo, and I'm quite torn on the matter myself, particularly as there was one monkey who was obviously really unhappy and some of the animals had their backs permanently turned towards us. However, in some cases where the animals would otherwise be extinct it has benefits, plus the educational value for students and children is another advantage. Compared to the amount of visitors, keepers, zoologists, biologists etc., there are really few animals in comparison and so as long as they are well treated I think it does more good than harm.
It's not a place to go to frequently, and the price may put some people off, but it's worth doing.
Summary: I had a good time!
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