Being lucky enough to live within driving distance of a zoo, it is a place that we, as a family frequent quite often. I know not everyone is in favour of zoos and I respect people's views on this but Colchester Zoo does a lot for animals in the wild as well as those within it's care and I find it a lovely place to visit.
LOCATION AND ADMISSION
The zoo is located just south of Colchester and is well signposted with brown tourist attraction signs from the A12, junction 26. There is no bus service directly to the zoo, but car parking is ample and free. The car park, however, is basically a field with some concrete walkways so care should be taken when parking in wet weather. Although a little bumpy, access is fine for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
The zoo opens at 9.30am, with last admissions at 3pm (winter months). The zoo closes at 4pm (this is usually later in summer). Admission prices also vary with the season. In peak summer, adult tickets are priced at £16.99 (£17.99 on Bank Holiday Weekend) and child tickets (aged 3-14) £10.50 (£10.99). Under 3's are admitted for free and seniors (over 60) and disabled have various discounts. Full price lists are available from the Colchester Zoo website.
For those that are likely to visit more than once a year there are one year (gold) and two year (platinum) passes available for adults and children that cost just a little more than two entry fees a year and mean that you can just visit the zoo anytime you like for no further cost (with the added bonus of avoiding any queue!). It is also worth checking the website before visiting as there are sometimes some offers and discounts advertised here.
Colchester Zoo has a large variety of animals and various displays/feeding times throughout the day (50 per day!). There are over 270 species homed at the zoo. Animals housed at the zoo include lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, sealions, zebras, various monkey species and meer cats. There is also an area of more 'familiar friends' such as goats, pigs, guinea pigs and ponies. In this area, you can get up close with the animals and feed them.
All the animals are housed in environments that closely replicate their natural habitats. The animals look to have plenty of space and are well cared for.
There are various opportunities throughout the day to spend some time with different animals. For example there are two public giraffe feeds and two elephant feeds each day. Here everyone can queue to receive a piece of fruit to feed directly to the animals. This is a really personal touch and makes the day special as you can experience something that you will rarely get the opportunity to. When I have attended with younger family members, this has always been a highlight for them.
THE ZOO ITSELF
The zoo is quite large in area - 60 acres. Although the zoo is large, it doesn't feel quite as big as this to walk around. Don't get me wrong, by the end of the day you know that you have done a lot of walking and it is tiring, but the animals are so well spaced that you don't really have to walk far to see anything. There is always something to stop and look at so you don't realise how much you have walked! The zoo is divided into areas named after the species that is housed in that area for example otter creek, tiger taiga and lion rock. This helps in the general navigation around the zoo and you are provided with a free map upon entry which is really easy to use so you can't really get lost. It is very open though, so if the weather is bad you will get wet. There are a few enclosed areas but these get very busy if there is a rain shower.
Even at peak times when the zoo is really busy it does feel like there is lots of room to move about - it is not cramped of claustrophobic at all in the general areas. The areas that can get busy and be uncomfortable are those that are more restricted - for example the underwater viewing tunnel where you can walk underneath the sea lions and watch them swim. These areas are best viewed early in the morning and avoided when really busy.
Generally access around the zoo is good for those with pushchairs. There are some steep areas that can be tiring on your arms but most are accessible. In areas where the ground is too steep or there are steps, there is usually an alternative route so that you don't miss out on any of the exhibits.
The zoo has always been very clean when I have visited. Picnic areas are kept clean and frequently washed and bins seem to be emptied regularly - I have never seen any overflowing with litter. There are also a lot of staff present throughout the zoo, who always seem very courteous and helpful.
There are various picnic areas throughout the zoo, with plenty of benches and tables. Some are also under cover. This is a refreshing change from attractions such as this having very little provision for those who bring lunch, hoping instead that you will opt to purchase from their own (often overpriced!) restaurants. There are also numerous benches scattered around the park for anyone to stop and take five if the walking is proving a little tiring.
There are two road trains that operate around the zoo. These operate most frequently at peak times and take you on a tour of the zoo. This is something that most children enjoy! Also for the children there are four adventure playgrounds as well as an indoor soft play area.
There are various cafe and eating outlets scattered around the zoo as well as ice cream vendors. There is also one or two soft drink machines. There are a lot of toilets and most also have a baby change facility. Although there are a lot of toilet areas on the map, each tend to have just three or four toilets so there can be queues particularly in summer months. The toilets are generally clean although they tend to be in outhouse/cabin buildings so can be cold!
There is a gift shop that is craftily placed at the exit of the zoo - you have to go through this to get out of the zoo. You can also purchase things like a zoo keeper experience day or adopt an animal - great for an unusual Christmas gift perhaps!
MY OVERALL OPINION
As I have said, the zoo is always clean and tidy and is really welcoming. It is a great place to visit and you can easily spend a day here and still not see anything - this is why I would recommend investing in a years pass if you live in Colchester or the surrounding area. There are so many animals to see that there should be at least a few of your (or your children's!) favourites. The displays are really good fun and informative too, the zoo keepers are obviously very knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. There are also placards at each exhibit detailing the species and facts like what they like to eat - this, together with the displays, can make the day educational as well as fun for the little ones (and adults too!).
I find the zoo layout really easy to follow and it is easy to find your way from one animal to the next. The zoo is also not overly smelly (there is inevitable some 'animal' smells!). Some zoos that I have visited previously have really smelled, particularly during hot months, and this can be a little off putting, especially at lunch time!
I do think that the admission price is a little steep. I understand that the zoo costs a lot to run and that they also support conservation in the wild but I think that the children's tickets in particular are slightly too much. At peak time, a family of four can expect to pay £54.98, which is quite a bit. There is no family ticket option like some attractions have and I think that it would benefit the zoo and families if there were.
There is plenty to see and do here and the variety of displays offered means that you can easily go four or five times a year and see something different each time - making the gold card well worth the money! I would definitely recommend the annual pass if you live nearby as you can then just pop along for an afternoon here and there rather than make it a day out every time - there is always ample parking.
The children that I have visited with have always had a fun, but very tiring day. Aside from the animals, they always enjoy the play areas which are well spaced throughout the park - usually near a picnic area so that you can combine lunch and play time. The indoor play area is also nice if the weather is a bit miserable as you can grab a coffee in there while the children let off steam - although there are not that many tables so it can get a bit busy (there are usually a lot of pushchairs to negotiate too!).
I usually take my own lunch and make use of the vast picnic facilities - I have never had any trouble getting a table - so I can't comment on the quality of food here if you do wish to dine. There is a Southern Fried Chicken outlet, pizza lodge, barbecue, wrap shop, chip & dip and hotdog stand. Therefore there is a variety of food, but not much in the way of healthy options! I've had hot drinks in the coffee shop and these are reasonably priced and, from what I could see from the menu, the food looked quite reasonable in price too. The gift shop is quite expensive but offers a large variety of gifts and keepsakes so there is something suitable for most budgets. I disagree with the ethos of putting a gift shop in a place that means you have to walk your children through it to leave but understand completely that this is exactly why it is located where it is!
Overall, the zoo is well worth a visit and is a great family day out with plenty to do and see. Definitely recommended.
Having grown up in Colchester, the zoo was always a regular place to visit during the holidays. I have seen this place grow from a somewhat dismal zoo (in the 1960s) to a place that is incredibly well-run with something for everyone.
The zoo is in Stanway, a few miles outside Colchester town. Buses to run there from the town centre, but access by car is probably the best. There is ample parking, though do get there early during the summer as it gets very crowded.
Admission fees are very expensive and start at £15.99 for an adult, rising to £17.99 during the peak season, with child fees starting at £9.99 rising to £10.99. They do consessions for disabled and carers but insist anyone asking for this shows proof of disability. My obviously disabled son was turned away on one occasion because he did not have proof with him, despite the fact that anyone could see he had a disability!
Once you enter the zoo there is plenty to see and do. The zoo is vast and covers a great area. It is fairly steep in places too so not easy to walk if you aren't steady on your feet. Apparently those who aren't able to walk far can hire wheelchairs at the reception, though I would think pushing someone up the hills in one would prove very difficult in places.
As to the animals, there are so many different species on show that it is hard to know where to start. I have to say that the current owners of the zoo do make sure that every animal is well housed and get the best possible care. When I was a child all the animals there looked miserable, but now they all look very contented and in good condition. I have to salute the owners, the Tropeano family, for turning the zoo into what it is today.
There are animals from every part of the planet, from lions and tigers to penguins and sealions. I personally love the big cats, elephants and the seal-lions, where you can walk under the sealion's pool and watch them swim. There are so many animals to see!
Each enclosure has information by it to say what the animal is and where it comes from. There are little quizzes for kids to try too. The whole place is very educational. They have lots of different displays throughout the day too, so you can get up close and personal with many of the animals. My favourite is always the birds of prey display. Not only is it great to watch, but a welcome sit-down too!
As to the facilities, there are several places where you can eat, plus a covered picnic area if it rains. There are also lots of ice-cream kiosks and places to sit down too, which after a while you really do need as there is a lot of walking involved on trip to Colchester Zoo! Thre is also a really nice play area for smaller children with a huge pirate ship to explore.
Anyway...back to the animals.
Feeding times of the animals are at different times of the day and a list of these is on the guide that you are given when you enter the zoo. I have to warn you....if you go to feed the elephants it does get rather messy if they have watered them first! We got covered in goo once! Yuk! The zoo do allow people to give food to some of the animals. Children will love this!
There is a small animal area with pygmy goats running round so that children can stroke them, which is lovely. Plus a wonderful old shire horse that has been there as long as I can remember. He's gorgeous!
In one area there is a beautiful lake and a little train runs along it which you can take and see some of the zoo's sights if you wish. The flamingos look lovely as they wade across the edge of the lake.
Colcheser Zoo has a very good breeding programme for endangered species and every year there is something new to see. There was great excitement a few years back when Kito, the baby elephant, was born. We saw him when he was really tiny and he was so cute! Conservation of species is very important and I believe the zoo plays a huge part in keeping some species from dying out.
To sum up, if you want a great family day out with something for everyone, then it is worth a visit. I happen to think Colchester Zoo is the best in the country, and that isn't being biased because I have grown up with the place. It's a fact!
Colchester Zoo in Essex is a great place to go any time of the year, whether with your family, your loved one or your friends. Usually open from about 9.30 to 6.30, I would recommend that you make a whole day of it, as this is necessary if you want to see everything there is to see.
The zoo is packed with all kinds of animals, from the elephants, hippos and giraffes of the Africa zone to the penguins and sea-lions. Whatever your favourite animal is, chances are it will be there. Throughout each day you can view feedings of the majority of the animals in the park - the times are denoted on the free map you receive upon entry - and this is an experience not to be missed. For me the highlight was the penguin feeding (they are my favourite animal) as they are incredibly playful and funny little creatures.
At a price of about £16 in peak season (July and August) and £12 the rest of the year, it is definitely affordable, but there are usually vouchers that can be found online for £25% or even £50% that you can acquire ust by giving your details and printing it off.
One drawback is that it is kind of in the middle of nowhere, so unless you are driving it is tricky to get there by public transport or walking, however I definitely would recommend Colchester Zoo as an experience for anyone who has a chance to see it.
We like to go out at least once a month and one of the places we visited recently was Colchester Zoo. It's about a 45 minute drive from where we live and it's relatively easy to find until you get to the actual stress with the zoo on and then it's very easy to drive past it without realising as we learnt after driving up and down several times!
The zoo is open every single day of the year (Except Christmas Day) from 09:30am and we arrived not long after this. The opening times vary throughout the year and on our visit they were closing at 5pm but in peak season they are open until 530pm with the grounds closing 1 hour later. For opening times and other information you can visit http://www.colchester-zoo.co.uk/ .
Prices range from £15.99 - £17.99 for adults, £9.99 - £10.99 for children and £12.99 - £14.50 for senior citizens. To check what price would be relevant on any date just go to http://www.colchester-zoo.co.uk/index.cfm?fa=content.list&page=201§ion=7 .
Once we found the zoo it was easy to park as there was ample amounts of space and while we did not visit on a particularly busy day we were able to find a space right by the entrance to the park. There were disabled spaces available but obviously we didn't qualify for one of these so we didn't park in one. It took just a few minutes to enter the park, pay, get our guide books and begin exploring. The entrance to the park is also the way you end up exiting so it's simple to get back to your car. Also, right by the entrance/exit there are two different gift shops. One is selling your standard gift shop fayre (cuddly toys, magnets, pencils etc) and one is selling more luxurious carved animals and other expensive gifts/souvenirs.
There is a whole array of animals to see, as you'd expect, including primates, sealions, penguins, reptiles, big cats, birds, dogs etc. There are lots of different animals, tens and tens of them, to see and, for the most part, I think we saw almost every single animal that was on offer in the zoo except one or two that were elusive and hid away from our cameras. If you want to see a full list of animals in the zoo you can find it on the Colchester Zoo website.
Overall I must say that we had an absolutely fantastic day. The layout of the zoo is fantastic with lots of signs everywhere directing you to your nearest food area, toilet or the next set of exhibits. If you are on one side of the zoo and want to work your way towards a certain exhibit it's quite easy to follow the signs and make your way over to the other side of the zoo. All the paths entwine with one another so you don't have to go miles out of your way just to get to an exhibit. The animals are well set out so that every way you walk you will see some animals along the way and there are enough to keep you occupied for the whole day.
The animal enclosures seems to be kept clean and tidy and it was fairly common to see staff around the site busy working at feeding the animals and cleaning out their enclosures. Also, there are lots of times during the day that you can meet the keepers, they will talk to you about the animals or even let you ask them some questions or get up close and personal with the animals depending on what time you stop by and what's going on that day. While we didn't actively go to many of these talks, except a one on meerkats, we were lucky enough to walk past the penguin enclosure when they were having a feed and it wasn't one of the tours. The keeper called over to us, directed us round a corner and we were able to stand right next to the penguins as they ate their 3 kilos of fish! It was fantastic as we got some wonderful photographs and got to watch them eating for about 10 minutes while she talked to us a little about the penguins.
Overall we had a fantastic day at the zoo, we stayed there for the whole day from about 10am to about 430pm and we had some food while we were there. We ate in the chicken place and we had some food which wasn't too bad, a little like a cheaper version of KFC. We also stopped several times to use the toilets and they were clean, fresh and in good working order. There was several areas to buy food and drink on the way round and we weren't left feeling thirsty without a place to go or in need of the toilet without one near by. The gift shops gave us about twenty minutes entertainment as there was just so much choice, the more expensive of the two shops was definitely our favourite with jewellry, ornaments and candles on offer, just what girls like really!
If you are looking for a fun day out then why not give Colchester Zoo a go? We had a fantastic day and for about £16 it was a reasonably priced day out working out at about £2.50 per hour for all the entertainment we had. There is plenty to do and see and it will easily keep you occupied for a whole day.
This fantastic zoo is among my top 3 places to visit.
It has so many fantastic animals on display including big cats, small mammals, birds etc. My favourites are the Fennec Foxes and the Chimpanzes. Seriously cute and entertaining. Mind you I also love the massive Africa enclosure with the elephants, giraffes, rhinos etc and the underwater sealion tunnell which has not long been built.
You can really tell that this zoo cares for its animals and makes a real effort to provide stimulating environments for all of them. The cages are done beautifully with viewing windows at different heights so that even the smallest of children can see inside. They really try to minimise the use of the old fashioned bars instead using plastic/glass, wood etc, etc which adds to its overall appeal.
Lots of extras are all included in the cost of entrance including a train which takes you around parts of the zoo, a few childrens adventure playground areas where the children really can let of some energy, an indoor play place (great for if the weather is not that good) and a roundabout.
Plus this zoo has fantastic falconery displays and other animal shows which give everyone ample opportunity to get up close and learn more about the animals.
There are quite a few places to grab something to eat and unlike some tourist hotspots the food is fresh, hot and reasonably priced. However there are also lovely areas with picnic tables or plenty of grassed areas to have a picnic.
All in all I think the entrance fee to this zoo (think it was approx £18 per adult when I last went a few months ago) is worth every penny as you really don't have to spend any extra cah once in and you easily have a whole days worth of things to do once in.
Don't forget you can also change your clubcard vouchers to vouchers to get in too so great for all those points hoarders like me!
We recently visted Colchester Zoo for the first time and I really loved it - it is now most definately my favourite zoo/animal park in the UK!
It was a bit of a mission to get there as it is on the outskirts of Colchester but once you are there, there is plenty of parking and certainly plenty to see and do.
One of my favourite aspects was the sheer volume of 'Animal Encounters' they run throughout the day. Other zoos do this, but I've not been anywhere that does it on the same scale as Colchester. The only downside was sometimes things clashed which we would have really liked to see.
Another aspect which rates this zoo very highly for me, is the layout of the enclosures. I didn't see any enclosure which I thought was on the small side for the animal as can sometimes happen, especially with big cat enclosures. There was a fabulous display of leaf-cutter ants! I know they are not usually a bit attraction but at Colchester the display was open , with a pool around the ants to keep them on their island. It was fascinating just watching them!
The variety of animals was fabulous as well, with some unusal additions (including a white tiger) as well as the usual zoo favourites. Sadly the lion had just died so it was very sad seeing his empty enclosure.
We went over the Easter holidays so the place was packed with children. It is great that they can learn so much more about the animals through the encounters and if you have children then I certainly think they would love a day out there. Be warned though - the exit is through the gift shop and the place was full of parents trying to steer children away from toys!
We only arrived there at about 1.45 in the afternoon and I wished we had got there earlier, you could certainly spend the whole day there!
Admission was around £16/£17 for adults so it could be an expensive day out for a family but there was plenty of picnic tables around so you could try and keep costs down by bringing a picnic instead of buying food there.
There is so much to see and do at Colchester zoo that you need to be very selective otherwise you find yourself madly dashing from one talk/ feeding time to another without time to catch your breath in between!
When you arrive you are given a map and timetable of events going on throughout the day. There are a wide variety of feeding times listed and the most popular ones, such as sealions, elephants and giraffees are repeated twice or even three times so it is possible to fit in what you really want to do. The penguin feeding is recommened as the penguins are bought into a room where you are waiting so you do get to see them very close up. There are also meet the keeper times for many animals such as the Komodo dragons. They give a short talk and you can then ask questions, mostly the staff are very friendly and knowledgeable.
I think Colchester zoo is one of the better zoos with most animals having a reasonable sized enclosure. The ones I feel could do with a bit more room are the elephants and hyenas. The African animals' enclosure can also be a mudbath as the grass has no time to recover.
I would reccommend arriving early to make a full day of it as there is plenty to see and you would need to visit at least twice to do it all. On busy days it can be very cramped and small children especially may have trouble seeing into the enclosures past the crowds of people. On a non peak day it is great to wander around without the crowds. On one visit we were even given a money off voucher for a future visit as the weather was bad.
One thing to think about with young children is that there are many steep hills which can make pushing buggies or wheelchairs difficult, as well as walking for the infirm or those with smaller legs! However, there is a marked trail which avoids steep hills. There are several excellent play areas for children of all ages.
With the summer holiday season here at long last we are all looking for interesting day trips to fill our time. Parents want something that little bit different to engage kids during the long school break, while the rest of us want something to enjoy while soaking up the sun, should it decide to shine. Colchester Zoo seems to tick all of these boxes nicely, and with a clutch of complimentary tickets in hand thanks to a recent animal adoption, we set off to enjoy the many marvels of the animal kingdom at the sixty acre site in the North of Essex. Colchester Zoo opens its doors at 9.30am every day of the year, except Christmas day, while closure times depend on the season, with the doors open through summer until 6.30pm, and 4.30pm during the winter months.
Despite the Satellite Navigation in my car seemingly determined to strand me in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Colchester, we eventually found our way to the zoo, thanks mostly to the many signposts and directional arrows upon leaving the A12. Colchester Zoo is on the outskirts of Colchester, about twenty-three miles from Ipswich or sixty from London. Public transport links are poor at best, meaning by far the best bet is to visit by car, or better still a coach trip if you fancy letting someone else take on the driving.
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my!
Or at least Lions and Tigers, surprisingly there are no Bears of any variety at the zoo. The animals are divided into sub sections depending on the continent they originate from or their habitat suitability. This seems an intelligent way of arranging the animals and lets you get a far better feel for the animals and their habitat - going from African elephants to King Penguins to Orang-utans would be pointless, and confusing! There are loads of opportunities to meet the keepers of animals throughout the day, so you can get the inside info on how the animals are and whether they are in a sociable mood. Displays are also plentiful in the different zones, with my favourite on the day we went being the Sea Lion and Otter feeds.
Beginning Zone - Situated immediately after the entrance, the Beginning Zone is the first section of the zoo. It seems to consist of a fifty/fifty split of animal and non animal exhibits, with the shops, ticket office, theatre and children's play area sitting side by side with some of the smaller animals in the zoo - Parrots, Iguanas and Tortoises chief amongst them. There is also the interactive Discovery centre where school trips and children are encouraged to learn about the animals, as well as studying in detail skeleton and bone structures. Most exciting of all though is the section where Insects like hissing cockroaches and stick insects can be handled. Initially filled with trepidation, I soon warmed to the idea of holding one of the giant cockroaches, it wasn't nearly as bad as first feared and I was glad I gave it a go. With 2009 marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin the Zoo has set up an interesting and informative display detailing his theory of evolution, with some fun examples of Darwin's hypothesis, and some interesting predictions about where evolution may lead to in the future.
Kidz Zone - The Kidz Zone is another section concentrating firmly on younger children and their enjoyment, with a petting zoo and a wallaby walkabout area where you can get up close and interact with the animals. The day of our visit the wallabies seemed more intent on sunbathing than taking notice of the public, but the goats, sheep and rabbits in the petting zoo were very friendly and happy to be stroked. There is an activity centre here where kids can try their hand at panning for gold, as well as another theatre with shows about pets of the world, as well as reptile handling sessions. Baby changing and feeding facilities and a Pizza bar complete this section.
Valley Zone - This section, situated to the East of the Kidz zone, is by far the busiest in the zoo, thanks largely to the impressive Meerkat enclosure. Whether a certain price comparison website advert has raised the profile of these little critters I'm not sure, but people were standing two deep around their enclosure to catch a glimpse. The Meerkats played their part for the watching throngs, standing on their hind legs and generally looking cute to the delight of all. The popularity of the section could also be because it is where the main picnic area is situated, certainly at around 12.30pm when we were there it was very busy indeed, so perhaps it would be an idea to visit this section away from meal times if you don't plan to eat there. Other animals worthy of mention in this section are the majestic looking White Bengal Tiger, who seemed totally uninterested in anything other than sleeping on her raised wooden platform. A smattering of Lemurs, Monkeys of the Colobus and Medallin variety, and Baboons wrap up this amazing, if very busy, zone.
Aquatic Zone - We timed our visit to the Aquatic Zone especially so we could witness the 1pm Sea lion feeding display. The sheer frenzy and energy these glorious mammals expel in their quest for some thrown fish is a sight to behold, the water became a churning mass of froth and speed as they raced around, all trying to get the food before others. Such is the design of the Sea Lion enclosure you can walk through a glass tunnel underneath it as well as viewing it from above, so you can witness the graceful effortlessness as they swim and glide underwater. A wide selection of fish, turtles and invertebrates continue the Aquatic theme, but I'm not overly sure how the recently opened Orang-utan Forest fits into the whole Aquatic theme. Geographical contradictions aside, the Orang-utan Forest is a spacious but humid building which houses an indoor area for the Orang-utans to play, sleep and feed in. There are several openings to a larger outside area where the animals can stretch their legs, and swing from tires on ropes to their hearts content. One word of caution, the Aquatic Zone is probably the section with the steepest hills and walkways, so it is probably a better idea to approach it from the Beginning Zone to the South, rather than the Valley Zone to the West, this will ensure the hills are mostly of the downward variety as you move through.
Lakeland Zone - No prizes for guessing that the Lakeland Zone consists of three lakes of varying sizes, situated to the South of The Valley Zone. To me this was an ideal place to rest a while, as it seemed less cluttered and noisy than the neighbouring zones. The animals found in this section were for the most part the sort you would find on any lake in any park in the UK, with various species of water fowl enjoying a leisurely wade. There were a couple of exceptions to this rule though, with a smattering of flamingos stood sentry in the smaller lake and some terrapins lined up on a tree branch protruding into the water. Perhaps because of the tranquil feel to this area there were a few food establishments and plenty of seats and benches, so those wishing to make the most of the relative quiet can do so while enjoying a snack or lunch.
The Heights - The Heights are a long swath of animal enclosures and eating establishments stretching from the Aquatic Zone in the North of the Zoo to the African Zone in the West. Those willing to walk the long distance from one end to the other are rewarded with some of the finest animals in the Zoo. The Amur Tigers were impressively majestic while the Wolves relaxed style belied their power and poise. The Komodo Dragons stalked their enclosures, looking for all the world like prehistoric hunters, while the Philippine Deer were as skittish as you'd expect. As with all the other areas of the Zoo there were a smattering of eateries and refreshment kiosks, and an abundance of toilets and changing facilities.
African Zone, incorporating Spirit of Africa - Very much the meat and drink of the Zoo, the African Zone is where the tradition large zoo animals are housed. A family of Giraffe feed from specially constructed towers while a brace of Rhino roll lazily in the dust. All watched by an attentive looking Ostrich and four Zebra, their tales swishing lazily at errant flies. The other side of the walkway houses the Elephant Kingdom, a spacious enclosure consisting of sand, a mound and a watering hole. Alas both of the Elephants were at the far end of their enclosure, away from the general public, no doubt seeking out some much needed shade to enjoy. Other animals in this Zone include an impressive array of Warthogs, Hyenas and Cheetahs, and some quarrelsome Mandrill Monkeys who seemed intent on having a full scale domestic argument in front of the watching public. The Africa Zone is by far the largest in the zoo, so it is perhaps a good idea to take advantage of the Tanganyika Road train which tours the section every fifteen minutes.
The whole Ethics/Morality argument
It is an oft argued point that animals such as those found in zoos should not be held in captivity, but rather left to freely roam their native environments. I fully appreciate and understand this view, up to a point. However, to simple say that Zoos are no place for wild animals is to belittle the tireless work that Zoos like Colchester undertake to encourage conservation and active breeding programs both within the zoo itself, and in the wild. For example, one pound from every admission ticket goes to the Action for the Wild charity which supports a nature reserve in kwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Over seventy species of animals at Colchester Zoo are part of breeding programs due to risks of endangerment or even extinction in the wild, And with glorious beast like the Amur Tiger numbering fewer than 400 in the wild, they need all the help they can get. Colchester Zoo are also committed to ensuring the animals in their care as comfortable as possible and their conditions as close to those they would encounter in the wild, and they seem to be on the right track with their award winning enclosures and contented looking animals.
Feeding time at the Zoo
Snack kiosks are plentiful and intelligently situated around the zoo, so you are never more than five minutes from refreshment should hunger strike. There are also a plethora of vending machines offering up myriad of cold drinks to keep energy and hydration levels topped up during hot days. Food outlets vary from pizza bars, fish and chip restaurants to coffee bars, all offering up a variety of snacks to suit your mood. There is also lovely picnic area near the Meerkat enclosure where you can either buy goodies like sandwiches, cakes and fruit from a kiosk or supply your own and sit in the sun picnic style. Because of its central location though, this area was very busy, with seating very much a premium at peek eating times. My recommendation would be to avoid the main thoroughfares and head for the Playa Patagonia coffee shop in the Aquatic zone, due east of the Meerkat enclosure. Here you can purchase a nine inch baguette with various fillings, a cake, and a hot or cold drink for £5, with plenty of seating both in the shade and in the sun an added bonus. This value for money seems to be prevalent throughout the zoo, because they have you as a captive audience with no competition they could really sting you on the refreshment pricing front, and yet they don't, food and drink is all very reasonably priced, well made and tasty.
Access for the old, infirm and disabled
Colchester Zoos layout can best be described as undulating, although the majority of inclines are manageable. There are a couple of exceptions - entering the Aquatic Zone is a very steep climb, pushchairs and wheelchairs are advised not to attempt it. The zoo does have an easy route suitable for all which is marked with a continuous yellow line on the walkways. If a wheelchair is required the zoo are happy to supply one for a small charge. There is also the opportunity to enjoy some sections of the zoo riding on road trains. The Umphafa road train does a circuit of the African Zone every fifteen minutes, while the Tanganyika road train does the same around the Heights section. This is a nice way to enjoy the zoo exhibits while giving your legs a well deserved rest. Finally, those who are hearing impaired are also well catered for, with induction loops fitted at the pay desk, theatres and other interactive exhibits.
Will small children enjoy the experience?
I should say they would. All of the enclosures and exhibits have low viewing windows to allow little ones to see the animals up close. There are also many play areas, activity centres and interactive exhibits to keep them engaged, and all are pertinent to the animals nearby. For example, there are a set of hanging rails next to the Orang-utan enclosure, so children can see if their dangling and swinging skills are on a par with the long armed primates. Just after the entrance in the Beginning Zone there is a soft play complex, encompassing ball pits, crash mat areas and even the opportunity to have your face painted to match the fiercest lion or scariest tiger! School parties are also well catered for; there are interactive quizzes for some of the animals, and a petting zoo section where you can get up close and personal with animals like goats, sheep and pigs.
Of course for all the good intentions of the zoo in helping to conserve and breed species, it is at heart a business. Colchester Zoo needs over £27,000 a day to operate, with the majority of this sum taken up by staff wages and animal feed. An adult ticket costs £15.99 while children can gain entry for £8.99. There are a couple of shops on exiting the zoo, one selling the sort of fare you would expect - mugs, pens and cuddly toys of virtually every animal just seen. The other shop is altogether more upmarket, selling wood carved animals, delicate chinaware and even small items of furniture. There is also the option to adopt any of the animals in the zoo, alas you don't get to take that cute little Meerkat home with you, but the most expensive £110 Gold scheme does get you a plaque next to the enclosure and eight complimentary tickets to the zoo, valid for a year. Even the cheapest Bronze adoption offers up two free tickets, as well as a photograph, certificate and regular news of your adopted animal. If you decide you want to make trips to Colchester Zoo a regular occurrence there is the opportunity to buy a gold or platinum card which gives you unlimited access for one or two years respectively. These cards start at £39.99 for an adult and £23.99 for a child, with the more expensive platinum card also offering admission to a smattering of other zoos in this country, as well as Topeka Zoo in America and a couple more in Denmark and The Netherlands.
I am really struggling to find any facet of the zoo which left me feeling less than happy. There are some fairly hilly areas to walk up and down so those that might struggle in such situations should maybe ask about the free loan of a wheelchair, or alter the path travelled to avoid the steepest inclines. It is also fairly hard to get to the zoo using public transport, with Colchester railway station a good three and a half miles away. There is a free bus shuttle service connecting the station to the zoo, but this is only once a day and not all year round. Finally, and I'm really being nitpicky here, the Orang-utan forest enclosure was a little on the hot and humid side, not a place you'd want to spend much time in, for fear of passing out or sweating yourself into a puddle.
As you can guess my visit to Colchester Zoo was a positive and fun experience, with the many plus points detailed above. It just had that sort of feel about it that you cannot always quantify - the staff seemed happy, they were all courteous, helpful and attentive, and the many walkways and thoroughfares were clean and uncluttered. But much more important than that, the animals themselves seemed happy in their surroundings; all of the pens were spacious, clean and you could tell they had been designed to give the animals the very best experience and living conditions. The little things also seemed to be taken care of too, there were plenty of hand gel dispensers scattered around so that hygiene could be adhered to after petting animals or using door handles or hand rails.
Truly a great day out, combining interesting displays, contented looking animals and a well run and maintained location. My advice would be to get to the zoo early as the crowds start to build around lunchtime. Also, grab a welcome guide at the ticket office, it folds out into a large map which really helps you plan your route and get the most out of the day. If you dislike crowds it's probably best to avoid visiting during school holidays or at weekends, and the hillier parts of the site are probably hard work in the really hot weather. Five stars out of five from me, I really cannot wait until I revisit this lovely zoo.
After reading some of the other reviews for this zoo I feel quite bad that I am about to put a negative review. Unfortunately after a recent visit we came back feeling quite disappointed.
We have visited a few zoos and find them quite enjoyable. My 11 months old loves seeing the animals which is why I chose to take her before the summer time rush.
Ok so we have just visited perhaps the largest 'zoo' in the world in the form on Disneys animal Kindom so I guess anything was going to be slightly disappointing. But this was more than slightly disappointing.
Although the zoo was very clean and well kept, and the staff were friendly, the fact that the zoo was quiet seemed to have an impact on the way that they operated. Some of the staff seemed although they couldn't be bothered and when we went to see some of the shows that were put on they didn't even complete them properly.
Most of the animals weren't even anywhere to be seen. They had been put elsewhere and were really hard to find! The ant colony had actually died and literally were nowhere to be seen!
The zoo was really hard to navigate around and the map that we were given was really hard to understand. We missed so much, we didn't even see the farm animals which my daughter would have loved.
It is a terribly designed zoo. The disabled would never be able to visit easily and the pushchair was really hard to push. There was really high slopes and steep slopes which could easily cause an accident. So many times I nearly let my daughter slip down the hill because it was out of my control. Very scary.
The animals of course were really great. The elephant feeding time was so exciting and my daughter loved it. Short and sweet though. The zoo covered a lot of ground and was very tiring. The animals were so spread out and we walked a lot of miles without seeing anything.
There weren't really a lot of places to eat or at least not much variety. Food was expensive and not that great.
Fortunately on this particular day we chose to go to the zoo with my brother, this made it all worthwhile but if we hadn't it would have been a very disappointing day!! Ticket prices were reasonable though compared to some zoos I have been to at £14 for an adult.
There were a few shops for souvenirs which were quite good and we enjoyed looking around them. It was so surprising to see how quiet it was considering it was the middle of July and I think this is what made it more disappointing.
However I do hope you enjoy going to see the animals, they of course were all lovely and cuddly and well worth visiting!!
Went just for the day, and found it very enjoyable! Although the ticket price looks like a lot (around £14 for an adult, half that for children), it is easily worth it for the sheer variety of fauna you get to see.
The big outdoor African bit was easily the most impressive in my opinion. An elephant spotted us from the other side of the enclosure and came all the way over to us, then posed for pictures before wandering off again. Very intelligent creatures!
Other things definitely worth finding are the pigmy hippo (so cute!), Sasha the white tiger (incredibly cool, haven't been spotted in the wild in over half a century) and of course the meerkats (which are now impossible to look at without imagining a smoking jacket and a Russian accent).
One thing I will say is that most of the best stuff is outside, so be sure to go on a nice day. It was pretty cold when I went, which meant that we ended up rushing round some things which was a bit of a disapointment. The penguins in particular are a favourite of mine, but due to our poor timing we missed the show :(
Honestly, if you move quickly it is possible to see everything in one day. But if you're like me, and enjoy watching the shows and taking your time, it's a bit of a push. I'd recommend prioritising what you want to see, and planning your day around that. There's nothing more disappointing than noticing something on the leaflet on the way home that you really would have liked to see.
The other factor to consider is that although they do cater for wheelchair users, the path provided is very limiting in what you will get to see. Maybe something to consider for those who are affected by this.
There are plenty of food outlets to cater for a variety of tastes, although they are mainly in one cluster around the main entrance. I can't comment on prices, as we took packed lunches. This is something which I would recommend doing, as it gives you that much more freedom to plan your day (but please don't be tempted to feed the animals).
And one final tip: be sure to go on the train ride for some unique views of enclosures! This includes the wild dogs, which can't be seen any other way. It's comfortable, warm and free, so going round more than once is definitely an option!
With half-term coming up what better place to take the kids than Colchester Zoo.
I have been today to avoid the rush , it is such good value with plenty to do, like face painting, meeting the animals ,as well as feeding them by hand.
The amount of enclosures just go on and on with unusual creatures like the Komodo Dragons, Aardvarks, Red Pandas and Giant Anteaters. They also have a small selection of new born animals as well.
It is very difficult to fit every thing in , so if possible it is great to get a Goldcard which I have purchased. This is due to the goldcard being just over twice the entry fee, but gives you unlimited entries for a year. It is also valid in many other zoos in this country as well as a few abroad.
As the zoo has 40 different display times it is difficult to see them all on one day. It also caters very well for families that wish to take a picnic of their own. It has some of the most lovely picnic areas spread across the whole area. If on the other hand you wish to eat out it has a large selection of varied food areas such as a Coffee House, Pizza Bar, Chips an Dip, Southern Fried Chicken as well as the Tradional Food Bar.
There are toilets scattered at varied places that don't seem to be to far from each other.
There is also a Train that takes you through the Zoo on a 10-15 trek which is free unless you wish to make a small donation. Also the are several play areas where the kids can play while mum,dad,nan and grandad can have a well earnt rest. It is worth its weight in gold for value!
Be it raining or sunny !
Over the years Colchester Zoo has seemed to just keep growing.
I purchased a gold card several years ago. At this time it was about £30 for a year membership for as many entries as you like, plus discounts in the shops.
This year I purchased another for £38. Compared to the £15 single entry fee, this is a complete bargain for a year.
I believe it takes many visits to the zoo to actually see what it really has to offer, mainly due to the size of it. Every time you go there are many new attractions. Some of the best in my eyes are the elephant and giraffe houses. These huge houses for the animals, then go out into a big spacious area for the outside. Elephants have a very spacious area with rock and water features, while the giraffes also have rhino, zebras and other animals mixed with them. It is a great open space which means the animals arent restricted.
I believe many of the areas for the animals are cruelty free, as they have many options of what they may do in there space, with almost all animals having an indoor and outdoor area.
The shows can be spectacular, while can get very crowded at times, especially during the summer months. The zoo is also very well looked after by the staff who all seem pleasant and enjoy their job.
One main problem is the hill in which the zoo is on. While there are plenty family friendly areas, such as feeding the animals and rides and attractions, the zoo is based on a long, steep hill in which can be a struggle for many familys with many kids or push chairs.
Great attractions at the zoo however, especially as there always seems to be something new on every visit.
Having two kids, a zoo is a must to show them, and also a bit of fun for me. Colchester is our nearest zoo and a good one at that, has acres of space and seems they are always doing something to improve the park here. entry is around £15 for adults and £8 for children I think. But for Christmas we got some money so we bought some yearly tickets which pay for themselves after just 3 visits so well worth it if you have young children. Enclosures are fairly adequate for most of the animals in there and the shows are pretty good when they're on, My favourite thing to watch is the Lions and tigers getting fed. I think My kids like watching the bird shows however as they fly quite close to you.
Certainly requires a full day to get round the whole zoo as there is loads to see and also playgrounds for the kids just in case they do get bored of seeing animals.
But if like us you buy a yearly ticket then you don't have to be pressured into seeing the whole zoo in one day, because you can come back another day and see the bits you missed.
I adore animals (you'd never have guessed that would you?!), pet or wild, I don't mind- I just love to be around them and love to learn about them. The idea of a zoo is something I'm quite undecided about, I think some house animals in poor conditions purely for the benefit and entertainment of humans and that is something I don't agree with, however, I do believe there are some zoo's out there that genuinely care about the animals they have, put their needs over that of guests and do all they can to help improve and protect the species by breeding programmes and the like. To me, Colchester Zoo is definitely of the latter type and a place I enjoy visiting very regularly and am extremely grateful to have it within a 5 minute care journey from my house.
Colchester Zoo opened in 1963 and is located in the Stanway area of Colchester in Essex, it covers 60 acres and is home to an impressive 5666 animals from 345 different species and is considered to now be one of the best zoo's in Europe. I feel it is certainly one of the best I have visited, and boy, have I visited A LOT of zoo's around the world!
The zoo is very easy to find, well sign posted from Colchester town and nearby motorways and there are regular buses that stop right outside the zoo. Upon arrival, there are plenty of car parking spaces with designated disabled parking, posts to secure bicycles to, an area for coaches to park and several 'over-flow' car parks which are used on the busiest days when the normal car park is full. Each row of the car park is named after an animal so it's very easy to remember where you have parked your car and on very busy days, such as school holidays or during the height of the summer season, the zoo organises the car park very well, having marshals out to direct you to your parking space and prevent the whole thing descending into chaos! There is a toilet block in the car park also, this I imagine would be very handy for those who have travelled long distances as you don't have to wait until you are inside the zoo to go to the loo, or good for those with kids.
After you've parked your car you can make your way to the large black entrance building to buy your tickets and make your way into the zoo. I won't list admission prices here as they change regulary, but they can all be found on the zoo's website. You will have to que a fair while on busier days but sometimes the zoo organises staff to come out in animal costumes to entertain the kids so the wait won't be too bad for them. Once you've purchased your tickets, you'll be given a map and you're ready to start your day.
Colchester Zoo is 'separated' into 6 different zones, each colour coded on the map and well sign posted around the zoo. As soon as you leave the entrance building you will find yourself in the Beginning Zone.
The Beginning Zone, as you will have probably guessed from the name, is the first zone you will enter after leaving the entrance building. Here you will find a toilet block with baby changing facilities, picnic areas, an indoor kids soft play area, a small fast food outlet serving hot chicken meals and drinks and a large children's Ark themed play area as well as several animal enclosures.
There is a walk through Iguana enclosure and a combined enclosure housing a Sloth and Marmosets and there is several smaller exhibits dotted around which house various small birds which to be honest, aren't all that exciting. The Beginning Zone is also where you will find Customer Services should you have any questions or need any help, I've always found staff in here to be very helpful and very pleasant.
After leaving the Beginning Zone, you will find yourself in the Aquatic Zone, which is where most of the zoo's water dwelling creatures can be found, aswell as the zoo's main restaurant and an ice cream parlour. In the main aquatic house there is plenty to see- various tanks full of fish from around the world, a few snakes and more Iguanas and a very impressive marine tank full of 'Nemos' which kids will no doubt love. A large Koi carp pond can also be seen, with a little bridge to walk over and look down at the fish on.
This area has to be my least favourite part of the zoo however as I feel that some of the tanks are small and overcrowded, but having said that, the Penguin and Sealion facilities are very impressive and a real credit to the zoo. The Sealion pool is one of the largest in the world and is filled with salt water, not chlorinated, and has a 24 metre clear glass tunnel running through the middle of it so you can experience the sea lions swimming over your head. You'll find various other smaller enclosures in the Aquatic zone including Meerkats, Porcupines, Squirrel Monkeys, Toucans and various frogs, snakes and lizards.
The zoo's newest attraction, Orang-utan Forest is also located in the Aquatic Zone and is home to the zoo's male Orang-utan, the female sadly died shortly after they were moved into their new home. The Orang-utan Forest is huge and absolutely amazing, one place you must be sure to visit whilst at the zoo.
Following on from the Aquatic Zone, you'll come to the Valley Zone. This area is home to Spider Monkeys, Giant Anteaters and Leopards amongst others and the star attractions in this area are most definitely Sasha, the beautiful White Bengal Tiger and the zoo's pair of African Lions. An undercover picnic area and a children's play area aswell as a small shop selling ice creams, snacks and hot and cold drinks can also be found in the Valley Zone.
Here we also have the Falconry Arena where there are several displays a day showing off various birds from around the world, from huge African birds of prey through to the birds we find in the English countryside. All the displays here are a pleasure to watch, it is nice to see the bond the birds and their handlers clearly have and they are very informative too, with plenty of seating and an area suitable for buggies and wheelchairs. It's not very good if it is raining though as the Arena is open air, although I'm just being picky now.
Moving on from the Valley Zone, you'll find the Lakelands area of the zoo. This is quite simply a large lake full of Flamingos, Pelicans and British water birds aswell as a few terrapins. Nothing too impressive in my opinion and there are food outlets poorly situation by the lake- you just get ducks mobbing you for your dinner! You can also find a poor excuse for a seal pool, which is home to two Harbour Seals, I really do not like this enclosure, the pool is very small and very shallow and the seals always appear miserable to me, although, that said, I don't suppose I really know what a happy seal looks like, so I'm probably just being daft!
Following on from the let down that is Lakelands, you come to the African Zone which will quite simply make you forget your previous disappointed! It is quite simply breathtaking. Two extremely large open enclosures run alongside each other, with a walk way between the middle. To your left there is the zoo's herd of African Elephants, and to the right is a mixed African themed paddock which includes Rhinos, Giraffes, Ostriches and Zebras all happily living together. I love this area of the zoo, it looks amazing and the animals have so much room and seem so happy, you also get the feeling that you are really on Safari with all the African animals surrounding you. It is also nice to see different species mixing together like they would in the wild and you even get the chance to feed the Elephants and Giraffes at various times throughout the day.
If you keep walking you will come across more African animals including Cheetahs (in a sadly heartbreakingly small enclosure), Hyenas, Baboons and Vultures. There is also the large Kingdom Of The Wild building, which is the indoor area for the animals in the mixed African paddock and also home to several other animals including some Meerkats, Pygmy Hippos and Monitor Lizards (avoid asking the keeper if they are similar to milk monitors like my fiancé did, you'll just look like a prat). Inside here you can also find a few tanks of fish dotted around and some small glass enclosures housing various bugs and the like.
After the African Zone, you'll find the Kidz Zone, or Familiar Friends as the zoo also calls it. This is the 'farm' part of the zoo, lots of goats, chickens, pigs, sheep, one or two cows, some gorgeous horses and the opportunity to feed them all which many kids will love to do. Although do be warned that the zoo does let the goats out to roam freely around this area and they like to bite and chew anything remotely edible and have been known to head butt you on occasion too.
Around this area you'll also find the barn type building where you can find more farm type animals- donkeys, ponies, reindeer in the winter and lots of pet animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, ferrets and chinchillas and a pretty pointless pitch black enclosure for the nocturnal Pygmy Gliders. Kids also have the chance to do 'Panning for Gold' and there is a Pizza restaurant here aswell.
The last zone there is to mention is the Heights Zone, perhaps the largest zone in the zoo and home to many beautiful animals. Firstly is the zoo's pair of stunning Amur Tigers (or orange tigers to me and you!), these two have an amazing enclosure, very big with plenty of foliage and even a pool and they always seem very chilled out. A Chip Shop and snack shop are nearby also if you get peckish, as well as the Zoo Train, which will take you on a little ride around the Lakeland Area of the zoo and see some Lemurs amongst other things along the way.
Further up are the Grey Wolves, loads of them- about 10 or so and they all simply look like German Shepherd Dogs to me, but beautiful all the same and its nice, although pretty eerie to spend a few minutes listening to them howl.
Keep going and you'll come to a collection of enclosures which are known as 'World of Wings' which, you may have guessed, each house a different type of bird. There are Vulture, Eagles and Owls in them but not all can be seen all year round as some move to warmer (off-show) areas during the winter months. To be honest, I find these enclosures pretty boring, birds don't do much y'know.
After the bore that is World of Wings, the Komodo Dragon enclosure is next. The enclosure really is very impressive and is one of the zoo's newer projects, its huge with a retractable roof and plenty of room for the animals, it all looks very natural aswell if you get what I mean. The pair of Komodo Dragons that the zoo has are still very young though, so no where near their full adult size, this is a little bit of a let down at the moment as they appear nothing like you'd expect them to be, but I'm sure it'll be worth the wait once they do grow.
Opposite the Komodo Dragon enclosure is home to a pack of African Hunting Dogs and moving along you'll come to the 'Wilds Of Asia' building, which to be honest, doesn't contain much except an absolutely huge Burmese Python that scares the hell out of me everytime I go in there, a couple tanks full of Asian fish and an enclosure that houses some type of lizard which I can never find as it is so well camouflaged!
Keeping moving, you'll wander past some Red Pandas which are very cute but do nothing other than sleep, a pair of very entertaining Otters and several other enclosures containing various small monkeys, birds and a species of small deer rather amusingly named Kirks Dik Diks.
At the end, is the well loved Chimp World, home to the zoo's resident Chimpanzee's. There surely cannot be one person who doesn't enjoy watching these, I know I could watch them for hours. The enclosure is very large, with indoor and outdoor areas, plenty of play equipment and things for them to climb on. One of the Chimps at the zoo though does sit there consistently rocking, notices are displayed explaining this is because the Chimp starting off life in a laboratory and they believe this is what causes the rocking, whether that is true or not, I do not know. The other Chimps all seem extremely happy, but it is very distressing to watch the rocking Chimp.
Also in the Chimp World building, in a separate enclosure of course, is a pair of Crocodiles, well, poor excuses for Crocodiles anyway! They're not 'proper' Crocodiles, but a Slender Snouted variety instead. Whatever they are, they are very boring as not once in all my trips to the zoo have I seen them move, I starting to wonder if they are infact statues.
The zoo has many food outlets including a Wrap Bar, Pizza Restaurant, KFC style fast food eatery and many different coffee shops and snack kiosks. I've eaten at most of them and the food hasn't been too bad and the places are fairly clean, I'm a vegetarian so options are somewhat limited for me most of the time but the food I have eaten has been quite tasty. One thing to take into account though is how high the prices of food are, a 500ml bottle of soft drink will set you back £1.40 and ice creams are around £1.50, sandwiches £4 and hot meals, well, an awful lot! It's best to take a picnic I think, there is plenty of nice places to eat it and you can leave it in your car and only go and get it when you need it.
There are plenty of toilets dotted around the zoo, at least one toilet block in each zone, each with disabled cubicles and baby changing areas. The toilets are very clean and it is clear they are checked regularly, sanitary bins and dispensing machines are provided at most of them.
-Visiting With Children-
I've taken my god children to the zoo many a time with me and they have always absolutely loved it. The zoo is EXTREMELY hilly in places which makes a push chair very hard to push and the natural design of some of the enclosures means that kids can't always spot the animals within very easily which can often frustrate them and also some of the viewing windows are a little too high for children to see into which can cause a few problems.
There is plenty of things to keep kids occupied though, other than the animals. Face painting is generally always available and there are many play areas dotted around the zoo and the Panning For Gold is generally a big hit, as is feeding the animals in the Kidz Zone. The zoo hosts many themed activities throughout the year for Easter, Halloween, Christmas etc and these are always a lot of fun, the zoo makes a huge effort and they are well worth going to.
All the food outlets are generally quite happy to provide hot water to make up baby milk or heat jars of baby food for you and high chairs are available in all of the restaurants.
* * *
As I mentioned at the start of the review, I have been to many zoo's all around the world and I still think Colchester is one of the best I have visited. It's a large, modern zoo and it's clear they really do care about the animals and that's something I like. I also love the fact they do not make the animals perform- yes, they do some displays, but there is no sea lions balancing balls on their noses, or monkeys riding bikes, all the displays are purely factual and the animals, such as the sea lions or birds, are just doing natural behaviours which pleases me.
The zoo is very hilly in places, but that can't be avoided, it makes it quite hard to walk around at times and I'd hate to do it pushing a wheelchair, but there is a route detailed in the map which enables you to see most of the animals whilst avoiding the biggest hills in the zoo.
The enclosures are generally all really lovely I think. There are some which are in obvious need of upgrading and the small enclosure that the Cheetahs are in really does break my heart but there really are some amazing ones, such as the ones for the African animals, Lions, Sealions, Penguins, Orang-utans, Chimpanzees and Tigers. They are also all very well kitted out, with plenty of foliage and enough things to keep the animals occupied and the keepers are about a lot. They are all very open too, no iron bars here, I like that a lot.
The animals seem happy, which is a great thing to be able to say about a zoo. There is some that can sometimes look a little depressed but the vast majority do seem very happy and content, there are no animals, except for that poor Chimp, that spend their entire day rocking or pacing up and down their enclosures and for me, that says a lot about how much the zoo cares for their animals.
Overall, an outstanding zoo with very little faults I can find. The animals are happy, the majority of the enclosures are excellent, the staff are friendly, there is plenty for kids to do, entrance fee is reasonable and the zoo genuinely does seem to have its animals best interest at heart and seems to do all it can to keep them happy and help educate the public.
A highly recommended and thoroughly enjoyable place to visit.
Colchester Zoo is open from 9.30am every day except Christmas Day, closing times vary.
Colchester Zoo is situated in north east Essex and was first opened in 1963. It is open all year round from 9.30am until 6pm from April - September, and 5pm from October - March (6.30pm in the summer holidays). It is quite well signed up when you get near Colchester and can be located off the A12.
You may recognise Colchester Zoo from the popular channel 5 documentary 'Zoo Days' presented by Connie Huq. The zoo has always been popular but I think it has pulled in even more visitors since the programme was aired.
This is yet another place where I have visited more times than I would like to admit to. My most recent visit was a couple of days ago so thought I would write a review of it whilst it's fresh in my mind.
The zoo can get really crowded during peak times such as summer weekends and school holidays, although this doesn't really affect the experience as the park is big enough for everybody. The only thing which can put a downer on things is queing for food stands, sinks (particularly nearby the elephant enclosure), trying to find a table to eat at and having to wait around to see certain animals (particularly animals such as the orangutan). If you go during weekdays or winter months you can pretty much get the zoo to yourselves - although some food stands and shops may be closed during these times. The zoo has many indoor and undercover areas but is primarily an outdoors zoo, so check the weather forecast before you leave or take an umbrella and coat (or suntan lotion and hat if you're lucky!). Colchester Zoo is a whole day out so my advice would be to get there early.
When you arrive at the zoo you'll notice there are plenty of car and coach parking spaces. Parking is free. There is an indoor lobby area where you pay for your tickets. There are 6 pay stations so you can through pretty quick. There is also a shop before you pay where you can buy things like animal ornaments and sculptures (this is not a shop for children, although there is a childrens souvenir shop on exiting the zoo). Ticket prices are as follows:
Adults - £13.99 - £15.99 (depending on the season).
Children (3-14 years) - £7.50 - £9.99 (depending on the season).
Under 3's - Free.
Seniors (over 60) - £8.99 - £10.99 (depending on the season).
Ticket prices can work out a little expensive, although in my opinion it is good value for money. You can also save 5% if you book online at the website.
The park is set out in different zones. There is a yellow trail on the ground which you can follow around the park but which I have never used - I prefer to do things my way thankyou sir! When you get your tickets you will also be given a map which I really suggest you use as the park is huge and has lots of different nooks and crannies to explore. You are also given a leaflet of animal talks, shows and feeding times which is really handy. Whilst the zoo is totally accessible to wheelchair users and pushchairs (where there are stairs, there are also slopes etc) it also has very steep hills and can prove extremely awkward.
As you make your way into the park you will find yourself in 'Beginning Zone'. There is an indoor walk through 'Iguana Forest' which is a very hot and humid enclosure. There are 4 iguanas in there (I only saw 1 the last time!) and a couple of tortoises. Keepers also do talks at various times throughout the day. There is another walk through enclosure which is outdoors and home to 2 sloths and a number of emporer tamarins. I have only ever seen the sloths outside once, although the tamarin monkeys are usually outside and can get really close. The keepers also do talks here throughout the day. Nearby is an indoor discovery centre where children can learn about wildlife and join in educative activities for free.
There is also an indoor play area and an outdoor play area. The indoor area is called 'Kalahari Capers' which is great for children of all ages and has a seperate area for toddlers and under 3 year olds. It has slides, ball ponds, climbing equipment and is totally padded. It's totally free and has a coffee shop for mum and dads to have a sit down in the seating area whilst the kids have a run around. There is usually face painting too and of course, toilets. The outdoor area is called 'Ark Adventure Play Area' and is situated next door to a southern fried chicken restaurant which again is very handy for the adults.
Next is 'Aquatic Zone'. Despite the name this area is home to both animals which live in and out of water. Here you'll find reptiles such as cuban crocodiles, blue poison dart frogs, iguanas and small mammals such as tamarins, meerkats, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, mangabeys, capuchins, marmosets and mongoose. Many of the small mammals often have babies which is great as a lot of them are endangered species. Again keepers do talks and feeds throughout the day. There are ice cream stalls, general food stalls and a restaurant here too.
My favourite 2 animals at this area of the zoo are the sealions and the penguins. The sealion enclosure is called 'Playa Patagonia' and is quite large. It is home to 5 patagonian sealions and you can view the enclosure from above or below the water. There is a 24 metre long tunnel that runs underneath the water, you can watch the sealions dart around gracefully, ducking and diving. It's such an amazing and unusual experience. The sealions always seem quite happy and relaxed. On summer days you'll often see them sunbathing on top of the water! Leading on from the tunnel is 'Orangutan Forest' which is a new indoor orangutan enclosure which opened in 2009. It is very hot and humid and the new enclosure has a waterfall and lots of climbing equipment. It's nice to see as the old enclosure (situated near the entrance and now being reformed into something new) was outdoors and not very suitable. The Orangutan Forest is home to 1 very old and most popular orangutan called Rajang - sadly his 'girlfriend' passed away in October 2008 of a heart attack, she was 30 years old. There are also 2 penguin enclosures where you can watch the penguins from above the water or below the water through underwater windows. Another unique and enjoyable experience, particularly during feeding time.
You'll then find yourself in 'The Valley Zone'. The most popular animal here is the white tiger named Sasha. There is only 1 white tiger and he has a large enclosure full of grass, bushes and even a stream to himself. I often see him pacing backwards and fowards which feels slightly awkward to watch. I always felt like he should be housed with a mate, although I am assured by the zoo that these animals are solitary in the wild. You can view the tiger from 3 different overhead decks. One of the overhead decks is actually a tunnel which has giant advarks and margay on the other side of it. Another deck leads down a flight of stairs (and slope) to 'Lion Rock' which is home to a male and female lion which you can view from a number of different angles. Fennec foxes can be found inside the lions sleeping quarters (in a different encloure though!) which you can walk through. Opposite is the 'Falconry Display Area' where frequent bird shows take place (and sometimes fun shows just for children) and nearby are the baboons which are always lots of fun to watch. There a several activities here, one of which includes 'Crazy Sand' - these come at an additional cost (although £1.50 for a handmade multicoloured sand necklace isn't bad). On the other side of the white tiger enclosure is a rope bridge which takes you over the lemur enclosure. There are lots of different species of lemur. The bridge is not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs though so you will have to use the lion rock route to get round to the lemurs.
The next zone is 'Kidz Zone'. The first thing here is the 'Wild about Animals Theatre' which enables children to see, learn about and even handle different animals. I have never been inside because my little girl is too young to keep concentration so I can't really comment on it. There is a restaurant opposite where we had our lunch the last time we visited. £13 for 2 mini pizzas, 3 drinks and a giant cookie - not too bad considering how much some places would charge. It was also a warm sunny day so we sat outside which overlooked a show that was taking place in the falconry display area, which was really nice.
'Familiar Friends' is a great area for children. It's much like a farmyard and has animals such as horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, pigs, llamas, chickens and rabbits. Next to the farmyard stables is 'Panning for Gold' which comes at an additonal cost and 'Kokopelli's Activity Centre' where children can take part in different arts and crafts for free. You can buy a cup of food for 50p to feed the animals by hand with. There is a newly opened 'African Farm Walkthrough' where you can stroll freely amoungst goats and chickens. There is a free 'Jungle Safari train' ride here which takes you round the track twice where you pass some plastic animals, all of which are featured in the zoo. There are also foam hand washes scattered around the farmyard so everybody can keep their hands germ free. There is a 'UmPhafa Road Train' which takes you to 'Kingdom of the Wild' but I have never been on this as it always seems to be out of service! Baby animals are usually quite frequent here too.
There is a gate (with nearby drinking fountain) that leads to the 'Edge of Africa'. This area is home to Hyenas, Cheetahs, warthogs, mandrills and red river hogs. All of the enclosures are quite large and have an overhead viewing deck to get a good look at the animals. There is also an outdoor play area and toilets here.
'Kingdom of the Wild' is probably my most favourite part of the park. It is hard to miss as it is such a large area and leads on from 'Edge of Africa'. There is a large, open, sandy island which is home to a number of large African elephants, you can also visit their indoor sleeping quarters. At various times throughout the day you get the opportunity to feed the elephants by hand. It's totally free and a remarkable experience - if you ever wondered what an elephants trunk feels like, it's slobbery and hairy! Opposite is another large, open, sandy enclosure which is totally unique and unlike anything I have ever seen in a zoo. The enclosure is home to 3 girraffes, 4 rhinos and a number of zebras, kudus, ostrich and cranes. The animals tolerate each other as they would live together in the wild so it's completley natural for them. Again there is an opportunity to feed the giraffes by hand throughout the day. You feed them twigs and small branches with leaves on and they take them from you with their long tongues. There is soap and sinks for afterwards! There is also an indoor area to kingdom of the wild - this is where the animals sleep and where their indoor paddocks are situated. Inside you can also find pygmy hippos, patas monkeys, meerkats, a huge ant farm, tortoises and a selection of lizards and fish. Just outside is a walk through bird enclosure, a vulcher enclosure and an advark enclosure.
One of my favourite animals in kingdom of the wild was always the zeedonk - a cross between a zebra and a donkey (surely zonkey would have been a better name, no?) who very sadly recently passed away. He looked like a donkey but with stripey legs and zebra mane. Just so cute and unique, although I did notice he always stood by himself and looked rather sad, whilst the other animals stuck together in their groups.
There is a big lake in the middle of the zoo, this area is called the 'Lakelands Zone'. There are lots of birds to look out for including ducks, swans, storks and flamingos. There are a couple of restaurants (one of them does Quorn wraps but is pretty much unheard of!) on the edge which is nice to sit down and eat at whilst overlooking the lake. There is a nearby seal enclosure too.
'The Heights Zone' is the last zone. This is where the 2 siberian tigers are. They are male and female and live together for breeding purposes (I believe the female gave birth last year but sadly ate her cubs). There is a restaurant next to the enclosure which is nice to sit at and look at the tigers through the enclosure windows. There is also a walkway which goes through (but above) the enclosure. Feeding time with the tigers is fun to watch as the keepers put the food in places where the tigers really have to work to get it. The last of the animals are the wolves, a selection of different species of birds, komodo dragons (they were born in 2004 so are still relatively small but I can't wait to see what they look like in a few years times. They also have a large, enriched enclosure which is nice to see), red pandas, hunting dogs, pallas cats, geoffreys cat, boa constrictor snake, chimpanzees and beautiful leopard. The chimpanzee enclosure is called 'Chimp World' which has a large indoor and outdoor area for you to explore. There are quite a few chimps who are so intriguing to watch. A new baby has recently been born, although I didn't get to see it when last visiting.
On exiting the zoo you have to go through their souvenir shop. Zoo's must make a fortune by doing this. They sell pretty much everything in here - even pots of rhino poo to use as compost!
Overall an extremely good day out for all the family - from young children to adults. I used to go there with my friends and boyfriend, and now that I have a child I go with her too - it's an all rounder. There are plenty of places to eat and drink but if you want to save on money you can always take your own food and have a picnic. Another thing that I like about the zoo is that they play a big part in conservation and are supported by 'Action for the Wild' - they house a lot of endangered species and try to breed them to make up numbers. They also have facts all over the zoo to educate kids and adults alike about all of the animals and the dangers they face in the wild. I have never felt distressed by any of the enclosures (except the old orangutan enclosure which has gone now) in terms of size, hygiene or enrichment and feel the animals are genuinely well looked after. Colchester zoo also sells membership cards, adoptions, sponsorships, birthday parties, memorial benches and keeper shadowing experiences, with funds going towards the upkeep of the zoo. They also gratefully accept donations.
A big thumbs up from me!