We recently visited Dartmoor Zoo during half term. Although living in Devon for the last 13 years I had not got round to actually visiting this zoo before instead always going to Paignton Zoo instead.
Finding the zoo wasn't very easy, we use a satnav and still got a little lost trying to find the entrance to the zoo. We found it wasn't sign posted very well at all.
The parking at the zoo was ok, we had no trouble finding a parking space. The car park is very bumpy and the walk from the car park to the zoo is not very wheelchair or pushchair friendly as it is such a long steep hill.
The entrance price was pretty average for Zoo's in the area.
I was a little disappointed with the range of animals at the zoo, there was just one lion, one cheetah and 2 tigers (if I can recall correctly). There was quite a variety of birds though and 2 packs of wolves which I have to say was very enjoyable. The wolves were obviously used to visitors and were happy to stand close to the perimeters of their enclosure so you were able to see them very well. Whilst there we also stayed to listen to one of the zoo keepers give a talk about the wolves and we found it very informative and interested.
We were very impressed by the zoo keepers through out the park. Several of the enclosures had keepers giving talks on the animals.
The zoo keepers were also very good both ours and other people's children who asked them many questions.
Overall my kids did enjoy it and I would recommend the zoo to others but it is in no way a large zoo and there are several steep hills throughout the park.
Although I do not live far from Dartmoor zoo I have never been and it was only when my boyfriend suggested he needed to go due to it being related to some uni work that we went. Usually when I think of Zoo's, this one doesn't tend to pop into my head as it is not that well publicised, although I think this is about to change with the release of 'we bought a zoo'.
===What it is?===
Dartmoor zoo was originally called Dartmoor Wildlife park and if any of you have heard of the film 'we bought a zoo' you may know of the story behind the zoo. Basically the Mee family bought the zoo back in 2006 which I find unusual as I have never come across a zoo that has been owned by a family before. The zoo closed for a while before reopening in 2007 after some major refurbishment work. The zoo is also the winner of the Eden Channel's Top Wildlife Attraction of the Year 2011. The zoo is set in 33 acres of woodland with surrounding views of Dartmoor countryside and has the widest range of big cats in the south west.
===Location and how to get there===
To find out how to get to the zoo I had a look on their website which I have to say I found incredibly helpful, not just for directions and such but for all sorts of other information too. There are two main ways to get to the zoo being bus or car. The zoo is located in Sparkwell which is just 5 miles from Plymouth city centre which is very close to me.
To get here by car you need to take the Plympton turn off from the A38 and follow the brown 'wildlife park' signs until you get to Sparkwell village. Continue another 300 yards or so and you will see the zoo. I did not travel by car and so cannot comment on how well signposted this was and I can't honestly say I was looking out for signage while on the bus. On arrival there is ample parking right next to the entrance with directions to go further up for those requiring disabled parking.
The website was fantastic in that it even gave the timetable for the buses so yesterday my boyfriend and I headed into town to find the right bus stop. This stop was easy to find and was located right at the bottom of town. To get to Dartmoor zoo you need to catch the 59 bus which is easily identifiable as it is a much smaller bus than usual. A return cost us £3.15 each which I found very reasonable, the driver was helpful and the bus stopped literally outside the zoo - brilliant! The bus took around 30 minutes or so which was fine although buses do not run particularly frequently - once every hour or so.
===Prices and opening times===
Dartmoor zoo is open every single day of the year (even Christmas?!?!)
Summer (April to November): 10am - 6pm
Winter (November to April): 10am - 4pm
Prices are as follows:
Adult - £10.95
Concession - £9.95
Child (5-15 years) - £8.95 and under 5's are admitted free of charge
There are also some group discounts available with groups of 15 or more, with each person receiving £1 discount.
I paid a concession rate as I am a student but I think just £1 reduction is pretty poor when you think that this is the same rate that OAP's would also have to pay which I think is a bit much. Overall I thought that the entrance prices were very expensive as I know that Paignton zoo is far bigger, would probably have lots more to do and see and would only cost £2 more than this zoo. Having said this I tried to not let the price but me in a negative mood as the zoo may well be worth every penny and would of course be a totally different experience than other zoos like Paignton or Bristol.
===Finding your way around the zoo and the layout===
After paying our entrance fees Mike and I were excited to see what the zoo had for us to see but we felt rather confused as to exactly where we were supposed to be headed. We started going up as this was the only way to go and saw some wonderful capybaras (look like super cute giant fat hamsters) but after this got confused as there was no signage to help us and we had not been provided or offered a map at the entrance.
I have to say that I think the layout of the zoo and lack of signage at times really frustrated me. It was only when we got further into the zoo that there was some simple signage although once we got to the restaurant we were able to collect a free map which helped a little. There seemed to be no logical way of getting around the zoo and we found ourselves just wandering down different pathways, often wondering if we had already been in that area before or not.
The paths through the zoo are quite often hilly with un-level surfaces which was not a problem for us but I could see this posing a problem for wheelchair users or those with pushchairs.
Once we got into the main part of the zoo the first thing we found was the restaurant which was brilliant as I was starving! There was plenty of seating in the Jaguar restaurant although it certainly didn't look particularly inviting. Everything was very clean in the restaurant and there was also an area for children to play in which unfortunately looked nowhere near as clean as the rest of the restaurant.
Having paid what I thought was over the odds for my entrance fee I was hoping for more reasonable prices for food but I wasn't overly impressed. Bottled drinks were £2 apart from bottled water which was £1.20. I found that the hot drinks were more reasonably prices but that the amount you got was far less. The range of food was pretty poor - sandwiches (£3.95 each) , panini's (£4.95 each) and a limited range of hot meals (6.95 each or 2 for £12). Admittedly these are all reasonable things to expect for a lunch but even the range of fillings for the panini's and sandwiches were limited. In the end Mike and I decided to go for a ham and cheese Panini each, one of just 3 choices of fillings, and paid an extra £1 to have one with chips. The restaurant wasn't busy when we were in there yet it must have taken around half an hour for our food to come out. The Panini was ok but barely touched my hunger and the chips were just lukewarm, not overly impressed at this point.
I also went to the loo in the restaurant and found these to be shabby, dirty and certainly did not smell too pleasant either. These definitely need a bit of refurbishment or perhaps just a more thorough clean.
The gift shop is also in the restaurant and offers the usual things, pens and books up to large cuddly toys that are around £25 or so.
===The animals and enclosures===
The first animals we came across from leaving the restaurant (aside from the very cute meerkats just outside) were brown bears. I have to say that they were very impressive and due to the type of enclosure the view was just amazing. Some of the enclosures at the zoo are not the typical wired fence, more like just a wall with a bit of electric wire over the top which doesn't sound great but they were perfectly safe. This means that you can see the beautiful animals properly without all that annoying wire in your face. Other animals we saw were : velvet monkeys, couti, otters, agouti, various falconry type birds, other birds, foxes, reindeer, racoons, otters, goats (including some very cute baby ones)and a range of big cats ( lions, tigers, lynx, and a jaguar). There is also a cheetah but it must have been shy when we were in that area as unfortunately we did not see it.
I think that on the whole the enclosures looked suitable for the animals, and were generally of good sizes but some looked like they could definitely do with some updating. One enclosure had some metal fences in it lying on the floor which seemed a bit inappropriate unless this is some form of enrichment? Most enclosures were accompanied with informative signs about the animals, but not all which I think is a shame. Generally speaking I would say that the animals looked happy enough although sometimes we did think that they looked incredibly bored - but maybe they just like doing nothing?
The highlight for us was definitely the big cats, particularly the tigers who were just magnificent. It was brilliant to be able to see them so close up for once and allowed us to take some lovely photos. During the day the tigers were fed and this was advertised on the board near the start of the zoo, so we plodded to the tiger area at 2.30 to see this happen. A volunteer led the talk ( they seem to have a lot of volunteers) which was very informative although you could tell that she was a bit nervous. The keepers had strategically placed 3 chunks of horse meat around the enclosure and it was just wonderful to see the tigers bound out of their cage and onto their pieces of meat. I was expecting them to start ripping chunk outs but interestingly they seemed very happy to begin by licking their meat (apparently they have very course tongues and this helps to remove the fur).
There were a few other things going on that day - I think one was otter feeding, a close encounters (something to do with reptiles) and something else that I can't remember, but definitely a few things to make your day that bit more interesting.
===Some other experiences===
As well as your typical day out at the zoo, Dartmoor also offers some experiences such as - keeper for the day, big cat keeper for the day and meeting the tigers. These range in price from £149 to £299 for the big cat keeper for the day. There is no way that I would even consider paying such money for these experiences but some people may feel they are worth the money.
I have very mixed feelings on this zoo with the overriding thought of it being very overpriced considering the condition of it. On walking around the zoo there is clearly a need for more work as many areas quite frankly looked a bit of a state. Having said this I absolutely loved the big cats and the bears and think that they make the zoo stand out a little bit more and made my day. The enclosures were another highlight as I have never been able to get so close to such big animals before and get such lovely pictures. I think that the restaurant was poor and overpriced but having said this there was also a picnic area should you wish to bring your own food. I think that I would have a better opinion of the zoo had the entrance been a little cheaper as I just think that £10 entry is just too much. I am not sure that I would go here again, I think I would prefer to pay an extra £2 and go to Paignton zoo which isn't too far away with the feeling that I would get a lot more for my money. I think that I would mainly recommend this zoo to those who are big fans of big cats as this is definitely the main attraction. I think that I would recommend this zoo for those who don't see the price as unreasonable but for me personally I don't think that I would go again. The zoo gets 3 out of 5 from me.
Thanks for reading.
About the Zoo
You may have heard about Dartmoor Zoo, through the programme 'Ben's Zoo' which aired on the BBC in 2007. It followed how Benjamin Mee and his family sold their family home and bought a run down Zoo on the edge of Dartmoor that was in desperate need on someone to give it a new lease of life.
The Mee family bought the Zoo in 2006 when there were only a handful of ex keepers spending their own money to feed and keep alive the remaining animals at the Zoo, including a number of big cats and wolves. The Mee family moved into the mansion on the site, that was also in desperate need of attention with little money to start with and considering the Zoo's weekly running costs being 4 figures it was a miracle they got anywhere. But with lots of help from some dedicated volunteers get there they did and after opening in 2007, the Zoo seems to have no desire to stop growing. They have many more new additions and are expanding all the time, Ben said in an article in The Guardian that elephants and giant tortoises were on his wish list for the future!
Great story huh? Could make a film out of that. Well Benjamin Mee wrote a book about the story of the Zoo entitled 'We bought a Zoo.' This sold all over the world and in 2009 Twentieth Century Fox bought the film rights. In 2010 the story of this dilapidated Zoo in Devon started being made into a Hollywood movie starring Matt Damon as Ben, due out at Christmas time.
Location of the Zoo
The Zoo is located on the edge of Dartmoor, just 5 miles from Plymouth. Car really is the easiest way to get here as it is a little in the middle of nowhere, however buses run hourly from Plymouth and the website states they are 'usually' reliable! The bus takes about half an hour from Plymouth but bear in mind is does not run on Sundays. The Zoo is sign posted from the main road and we found it without too much trouble.
Opening Times & prices
The Zoo is open every single day. During the summer months (April to November) the Zoo opens 10am - 6pm and during the Winter it's open 10am - 4pm.
Entry to the Zoo is charged at £10.95 for adults, £8.95 for children and under 5s are free. There is also an offer called 'Wet and Wild' where you can get a half price ticket to the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth if you visit both attractions.
We visited on a rainy Bank Holiday Monday and when we paid for our admission we were told if it doesn't brighten up and we don't see a lot we would get some free tickets to visit another time, which I thought was a nice touch. Luckily the sun did eventually show it's head and we had a good view of all the animals, so we didn't take him up on the offer.
It's easy to find your way around the zoo, and we were given a map at the ticket booth too help us and make sure we didn't miss anything.
As you walk up the drive from the ticket booth to the main part of the zoo you are met by Sika Deer, Capybara, Rheas and Tapirs. We were very lucky to see the mother Capybara and her babies right up close by the fence. Needless to say, I wanted one! The Rhea was also right by the road sitting there rather comfortably. It was only on the way back when it was still there, that we realised it was actually sitting on eggs. It even had a stretch to give us a view. After talking to it and calling it 'Mrs Rhea' I was informed by a rather smug boyfriend that is was in fact the male who incubates in eggs.
As you get to the top of the drive and pass the Lechwe (antelope type thing), guinea fowl and Pygmy Goats, you find the Jaguar Café on your left which is guarded by the Meerkats and you have a choice of two paths to take you around the Zoo. A rather inquisitive Ostrich watched us as we decided our plan of action and we went straight ahead in search of Bears.
As I mentioned it was quite drizzly and many of the animals were tucked up and as we passed the Coatis, raccoons and reindeer, and most disappointingly bears, we saw little more than huddled up balls of fur. We wandered round the Zoo a few times though and and later on they came out to say hello. We got some amazing views of the Brown Bears, a species I'd never seen before. They really put on a show, wandering around posing and even having a swim in the stream at the bottom of the enclosure, right by their adoring public. These bears I think were the highlight for me, and probably most people who visit Dartmoor Zoo. I just wanted to cuddle one however I was quite aware they would be more likely to eat me for breakfast than cuddle me back.
Onward past the cheeky Vervet Moneys and sleepy Silver Fox (or blob of grey fur) and we reached the Wolf and big Cat enclosures, another highlight. These guys really gave us our money's worth with the gorgeous Wolves running right past us and the Tigers, the stars of the show on that day, really pulling in the crowds. The Amur Tigers are in a fantastic enclosure, both for them and the public. The front of the enclosure has no wire so you can get a really great view and some great pictures of the tigers. (Don't worry, it's all safe, your kids won't be lunch!)
Next to the Tigers are the Lions who couldn't be more disinterested in us, until the Tigers were fed when they came up to the side to see why they weren't getting any! (They are fed on alternate day
s.) Opposite the Tigers is the home of Dartmoor Zoo's beautiful Cheetah, though don't expect this one to put on a show. It seems her favourite hobbies were hiding and sunbathing. Other big cats to see here are the Jaguar and Lynx.
We finished off going to see the otters, aviaries and chasing the pygmy goats around trying to get to stroke them, though they weren't having any of it!
Talks and Displays
We tried to catch as many of the talks as possible. The timetable of things going on throughout the day is designed so it's possible to get round and see everything that's going on. The big cat feed and talk is alternated between the tigers and lions everyday to avoid fat cats! We saw the tigers the day we went. The were being fed huge chunks of what we were told was horse meat. It was exciting to see them charge out and find the meat the keepers had placed around the enclosure, though once found they took it and hid with it so the view of them feeding was somewhat limited!
The otter feeding involved two girls that were on a keeper experience day and were given the job of throwing the food to the otters whilst we were given a talk by a Zoo keeper and volunteer, who seemed to do pretty much everything that day! It was funny to see the otters getting so excited, squealing away only to be complete unable to get the bits of fish due to the kids poor throwing skills, luckily after some failed attempts they got the hang of it!
Next to the restaurant is the education centre where they have animal encounter sessions. Yep, the same guy was doing that talk too! In this teeny little room there are a collection of reptiles and creepy crawlies. Each day they get a few of the residents out for the public to see up close and even hold some. The day we visited we got to see some huge stick insects and giant snails. You are still able to see the other animals whilst all this is going on and Kevin the Boa was a bit of a highlight as was the best named animal ever 'Kelloggs' Corn Snake.
The other show we saw was the falconry show. The show is done by an outsider this time, a professional falconer, who really looks the part! First up was a sweet baby owl who couldn't yet fly and hopped about between the kids sitting on the floor and generally being very naughty. Of course misbehaving animals is always great entertainment! After this we were treated to some flying displays and a very informative talk on the birds. In fact, all the talks and demonstrations were both enjoyable and very informative. The people here really know their stuff and clearly care very much about the place.
The Jaguar Café is the only place on site to get something to eat. This place really is about the animals and isn't in danger of becoming an amusement park with hot dog stands and ice cream everywhere. The café serves a selection of hot and cold drinks and snacks, however we decided to bring a picnic. There are picnic tables out the front of the café, with a brilliant view of the moor and that nosey Ostrich!
As we sat down to eat out picnic it rained. A lot. Well it wouldn't be a British Bank Holiday without a picnic in the rain surely? As we were reaching the end of our lunch we heard that the café had given permission to some others to eat their own food inside. Grrr!
We did pop inside later for a coffee and a rest and the drinks weren't badly priced. Though a little tip even if you intend to drink inside, order a take way drink because you get a bigger cup for the same price! In here is also a small gift shop area and the loos, which were basic but clean.
The Zoo as with all places now, offers a range of extra money spinners in the form of animal adoptions and experiences. Compared to other places we'd visited we all agreed these were quite steeply priced, from £49 for a child mini keeper (small animals) half day up to a whopping £299 to shadow a big cat keeper. For those into photography they also do photography tours with a professional photographer. I guess though Zoos like this need the money so I would begrudge the prices too much though I do think setting these experience prices too high could price some visitors out of doing them altogether.
Overall, we had a fantastic day at the Zoo, despite the weather in the morning. We spent the full day here, first ones in, last ones out and we managed to see pretty much all the animals. I will be visiting again, perhaps minus the picnic. I hope this Zoo goes from strength to strength as it's doing good work and I eagerly anticipate the film, and hopefully this will give the place an even bigger boost.
Official Site - www.dartmoorzoo.org
Wiki page - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dartmoor_Zoological_Park
Unoffical fan site - www.benszoo.co.uk
My 2 children and I arrived at the zoo just before 10am. Coming from Plymouth I found the signs to the zoo not great and only found it easier as I had done a virtual drive on google maps steet view before leaving the house.
Once paying (we went on single parent tuesday which is a great idea as it saves you over £4 on the adult ticket price) we got given our map. The map was a little disappointing as it was just an A4 map printed of the computer which contained no information about any of the animals or facilities and didn't even list the feeding times or events happening during the day.
Walking round the zoo I found some areas to be very shabby and run down. There were unused or broken enclosures left in sight that were overgrown with weeds, grass and plants with caved in roofs or broken fences/cages. Some areas I thought to be quite dangerous to children should have been blocked off from public access and view, instead the path walked right past them.
I found that many of the enclosures that did have animals in were also quite overgrown and it was quite difficult to see some of the animals. All the animals we did see were fantastic though. Some did look a bit sad or bored and I thought some of the enclosures were quite small.
The big cats were gorgeous although one of the tigers looked quite stressed as we went back to see them a few times and each time one tiger just spent all its time pacing back and forth along the back fence of the enclosure. The 4 baby Capybara we saw were really cute and sat with their mum right next to the fence for us to see. The 2 baby reindeer were also sitting in full view with their mums close by and were lovely to see. The pygmy goats were great fun and there were quite a few baby goats. The children thought it was funny when the baby goats kept on escaping out of their enclosure into the chickens, ducks and guinea fowl enclosure by squeezing through the fence as the fence had gaps between each slat. A fully slatted fence would have been better. I was quite surprised that there was no member of staff supervising as there were a lot of children running around screaming and chasing the goats with no parents telling them off even when they picked the babies up to put them back in their own enclosure. It was a bit concerning to find the hand sanitizer empty on the way out of the enclosure, although we did find some at the restaurant. The meerkats outside the restaurant were fun to watch although we thought there should have been more of them to see. It was great to see all the animals and the only one we never saw no matter how many times we went back to see was the jaguar. Unfortunately there were no members of staff on hand to ask any information about the animals. There were however boards at each enclosure with information and animal names.
We decided to have lunch in the restaurant, which seemed quite pleasant and spacious. Unfortunately the food was a little disappointing. There was hardly any choices for children so my son had the childrens spaghetti bolognese which was £4.95. My son took one bite and spat it out. I tasted it and it found the sauce was very bland and quite watery. My daughter has a jacket potato and beans for £5.95. She managed to eat some of it but the potato skin was quite overcooked and very hard and black. I had a french brie and bacon pannini with chips for £5.95 which was very nice but the chips were a little overcooked. The drinks were fairly priced but as for the food i think the kids would have been happier getting Mcdonalds on the way home.
I didn't have a pushchair or a wheelchair but I think it would be quite difficult for people using these to get around some parts of the zoo. The main carpark was quite bumpy and not that flat, although disabled people could drive up to park outside the restaurant. Some of the paths were quite difficult for people with wheels to use but the main problem I saw was getting to the pygmy goats. To get to the pygmy goats you go through a gate into the chickens, ducks and guinea fowl enclosure. This is all grass which was extremely bumpy with no path at all. There were little ditches which you had to get over to get to the goats enclosure which small children were falling over in and I did see some people give up trying to get their pushchair to the goats enclosure even though they really wanted to pet them. You can just see them through the fence on the way in if you are not interested in petting them.
I don't want you to think i'm only putting the zoo down as I can see the amazing work that has been done and what they are trying to achieve. I think the zoo could be even more fantastic with a little time, more staff and investment. Hopefully with the blockbuster film about the zoo coming out later this year the profile of the zoo will be raised and more income will be generated to help Benjamin Mee achieve this. I already have the book "We bought a zoo" which I have started reading and look forward to seeing Matt Damon in the film. I wish Ben every success with the future of the zoo and although there was some issues that we found on our day at the zoo I look forward to visiting again and seeing the improvements that I know will be made. I know the staff work very hard and seem passionate about the zoo and its future and I know they will continue to do so.
Dartmoor Zoo is next to the village of Sparkwell, just off the A38 outside Plymouth. It's well-signposted from the A38, with brown wildlife park signs. The road there narrows to single-lane at times, (which is fine by me usually, but it was lined by rather solid looking walls that I didn't want to investigate in too close a detail. I prefer hedges!).
*** Going to the zoo, zoo, zoo ***
Finding the zoo car-park was no problem, and there was plenty of space to park on the day we went. (Disabled car-parking is up the hill beside the restaurant.) We went across the the kiosk and paid in. The three of us cost about £28. Currently the zoo is working in conjunction with the National Aquarium in Plymouth, so that if you pay at one you get half-price entry to the other within 15 days. The man at the kiosk had run out of maps of the zoo, so recommended we stop in at the restaurant to pick one up. He also let us know the big-cat feed was about to start, but as it was literally in moments and not having a map to find it, we decided not to rush up.
Walking up the path to the main par of the zoo, we walked past the enclosures of Sika deer and Capybara on the right. There was also Rhea, which we initially thought were emus, but were put straight by a sign on the fence. It's a fairly steep hill up. The path gives out onto the narrow road leading to the restaurant. On the left, more enclosures opened up to our view, with ostriches (which we were able to identify for ourselves!) On the right were African pygmy goats playing.
The zoo is in an attractive wooded setting, with lots of shady paths. Once up at the main part of the zoo, any slopes are far less steep and most of the paths seemed accessible for wheel-chair users.
Outside the restaurant, was a perspex-walled area in which the Meercats live. There were two up and about, with their characteristic standing pose. The children were delighted with them and we spent quite some time staring in.
I popped into the restaurant to pick up a map of the zoo and buy a bottle of water (£2). One of the tills was down temporarily, while the other could only take cash. The restaurant itself looked very clean and tidy, with a lovely mural on the wall and lots of neat tables. In the corner by the toilets was a small gift shop, with DZP (Dartmoor Zoological Park) merchandise such as plastic cups, coasters, magnets and key-rings, as well as soft toys and postcards. The prices seemed about comparable to what you'd expect to pay at other zoos. They'd run out of meercat pens, which I think would have been my children's choice out of the price range I'm willing to pay (up to £2. I'm a meanie). As it was, we didn't buy anything, much to the kids' disapproval. The toilets were a bit shabby, but clean.
Heading out armed with a colourful glossy A4 sheet map of the park, we admired the wire sculpture elephant before deciding to visit the reindeer. Where animals are is well-signposted, although I think a large scale map or two on information boards would have been useful as well. It's a relatively small zoo, however, so pretty easy to navigate.
Information on the animals is a board on each enclosure, with some information about the particular animal such as its name and habits, as well as details about its species in general. I was a bit disappointed that we weren't given a leaflet or more of a guide to the zoo than the simple map. I don't think we learned an awful lot about the animals in the end. There was an Easter trail for children, where the children had to find egg signs around DZP which had letters on them to form an animal's name, to win an Easter egg. It was £3, and partly because that seemed a bit steep and partly because the Boy is allergic to dairy, we didn't bother with it. Around the park occasionally there were warning signs not to put hands into enclosures. We felt these were too graphic, having a picture of a hand with part of a finger bitten off and a bit of blood! The children thought this was a bit much, saying littler kids might be frightened by it.
It was a hot and sunny day, so the reindeer were cooling off in their shed, but we could see them in the door-ways. The coati and raccoons were harder to spot, sleeping in their houses while we peered in through the glass like peeping toms.
The brown bear did not disappoint however, as it patrolled its enclosure. It even had a wade in its pool for our viewing pleasure.
As we went past the raccoons again, one appeared at its window and started rubbing up against it. It appeared to be doing a dance, which the children found very amusing and was the sort of thing you'd see on 'You've Been Framed' (and might well, as I took a phone video of it!). I did wonder 'though if it's a habit out of boredom, rather like weaving in stabled horses, which took the fun out of it for me.
We went on, seeing various animals and then coming to the open area for picnicking. There was a pool with those inflatable balls (zorbs?). The children were very excited to have a go, so I coughed up £3 each, and they were soon rolling around inside madly. I think this was a temporary attraction, but it was really good fun for them. There were a good number of picnic tables in the area, and it was an attractive place to sit with peacocks wandering across.
Next we looked at the lions and tigers. One of the tigers was fast asleep near the fence, so we were able to get a really good look at it.
After walking around the enclosures, we went into the petting zoo which was inhabited by chickens and pygmy goats, primarily. This was fun for the children who got to stroke the goats. I was a bit perturbed by the behaviour of some children in the area, chasing the goats. I felt the petting zoo could have done with supervision by staff, since some parents obviously couldn't be bothered to get their children to treat animals properly (yet would no doubt have complained had their child got butted). The walk across to the petting zoo is criss-crossed by water channels and has no dedicated path: I saw a couple of parents struggling with pushchairs. Unless there's another way into it that I didn't see, I wouldn't consider it accessible to wheel-chair users.
We got to see the majority of the animals at the zoo, most of whom were dozing languidly in the sunshine. It was a beautiful day for the visit. There were a number of events throughout the day, like feeding times or falconry displays, but we didn't manage to time it right for any of them.
We popped back into the restaurant on the way back to use the toilets and buy an ice-lolly. I overheard a man asking staff where his hot food was, and service did seem quite slow to me, despite there being relatively few people in the restaurant. I waited a couple of minutes at a till for the waiter to return. The ice-lollies were reasonably priced, which was a plus.
*** Final thoughts ***
I think my favourite animals were the lynx and the otters, the Girl's were "the coati and raccoon, cos it was doing a funny dance" and the Boy's "the capybara and badger." (We didn't see a badger, he meant the raccoon).
All in all, we had a very nice time. DZP isn't the most glamorous or biggest zoo, and some of it looks a bit run-down and shabby, but it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.
The Boy says, "it was brilliantic. Seeing the animals, no, going in the balls was the best bit."
The Girl says, "Awesome. The best bit was the inflatable balls, they were fun."
They were actually very interested in all the animals as well!
*** Anything else? ***
DZP is the subject of a book by relatively new owner Ben Mee, 'We Bought a Zoo'. This book is the basis of a soon-to-be-released film, starring Matt Damon. The zoo has been relocated to the US for the film's purposes.
***Opening hours and Entry prices (as available from DZP website):***
"The zoo is open every single day of the year, rain or shine.
Summer (April to November): 10am - 6pm
Winter (November to April): 10am - 4pm
Admissions from 1st April 2011
Adult: Single: £10.95 Group (min 15): £9.95 (Concession- Single: £9.95 Group: £8.95)
Child (5 to 15yrs) Single: £8.95 Group (min 15): £7.95
Under 5's: Free!
Family (4 persons, max 2 adults) £35.00"
We have just ome back from the zoo. Unfortunately it is very badly signposted (if at all) and the restaurant was closed, offering only cold drinks, coffe and chocolat bars! What a let down! We drove all the way from East Devon for that. Sorry, but it is not like this that you will encourage the good will of visitors.I mus say, however, the animals all looked very happy, relaxed, even asleep. So at least you are doing the right thing as far as they are concerned. Well done for that!
I really like this zoo, we live very close to it and go there maybe 2-3 times a year. One time we went at about 4pm just because we were looking to get out of the house for an hour or so and we only had to pay for one adult allowing my son and I to get in for free.
There staff are very knowledgeable and are always at hand if you need them for anything. I wouldn't say the park is in the same league Newquay zoo etc mainly because it is different.
A lot of the bigger, more well known zoos do have a lot more variety of animals than Dartmoor Zoo but at Dartmoor you are able to get very close to the animals and because it is less popular you don't have to fight your way through crowds of people to get to an attraction.
The zoo itself is set in 33 acres of land and the animals they have range form spiders to bears. They have 200 seater restaurant (which is also available for parties), picnic area and an affordable gift shop with friendly staff. In the summer they also have face painting activities etc and shows all year round.
The summer opening hours are from 10am-6pm daily and the winter opening times are from 10am-4pm daily.
Admissions - For an adult the daily admission price is £8.95, for a OAP £7.95, child (5-15) £6.95 and for under 5' is free. You can also purchase a family ticket which is for 2 adults and 2 children for £29.00. Annual membership is also available for adults £33.00, OAP £30.00, children (5-15) £10.00 and family for £80.00.
You can also adopt your favourite zoo animal either online or at the admissions desk at the entrance.
Dartmoor Zoo is a great attraction and has plenty of things to do for all ages, it is also in a beautiful setting giving you great views to admire.
If you would like to find out more about the zoo you can visit their website at www.dartmoorzoo.co.uk or can call the zoo on 01752 837645.
Bens Zoo. O.K., the hill from the car park is a bit steep, but it is possible to drive to the top, unload passengers (who with a bit of luck will get the teas in )and then return to the car park.Come on Ben; how about a dedicated passenger drop-off point at the top of the hill. On to the animals, including the owner; all are in tip-top condition and quite frankly appear happy with their surroundings. It must be remembered that this is a new venture for Ben and a lot of his staff, and I think that what they started with and compare that to what they have now is nothing short of marvelous. Obviously any help that we, Joe public, can give either physically or financially will go a long way.
When we visited the park, all toilets were very clean,. Whenever you use public toilets you are at the mercy of the last person using them who may not be very clean in their own personal habits. My wife and myself found the staff in the Jaguar restaurant were very helpful and went the extra mile to be of service. Going the extra mile can also be said of the staff that we met. I can honestly say that I am looking foreward to my next visit and I know that the effort of driving from South Wales to DZP will be worth it.
Disappointing would be an understatement. It is very hard to see any improvement in this place since its change of hands quite recently. I visited with my family (young children and grand parents too) for the first time in years this week expecting to be impressed. I wasn't. There were stinging nettles all around the viewing areas by the enclosures, a barbeque left smouldering and unattended in a public walkway, unclean toilets in the restaurant (itself very tatty) and toilets in a disgusting state around the park. While a couple of enclosures were moderately improved most were unchanged and unimpressive housing animals that are clearly not in the best of health. Opposite the wolf enclosure there was an area which had been dug out leaving a drop of a few feet right by the viewing area that was unprotected. There seemed to be no staff in the gift shop and staff in the restaurant were unhelpful and unapologetic when they over charged me. We won't go back again.
This place is fantastic, it is on the edge of dartmoor, it is over 30 acres of land which is a very tireing day to walk around all of these animals.
They open from 10 am and close at 6pm in the summer and 4 pm in the winter
It costs £8,95 for adults £7,95 for oap £6,95 for children, under 3 go free and a family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children cost us £29
If you live local to this park they do a yearly pass which only costs £33 per adult which is great value if you intend to visit a few times.
It is in plymouth which is easily accessable from the a38
On our visit there we saw loads of animals, way too many to list here but i will tell you a few we remember.
blue and gold mccaws, tigers, cheeters, raccoons, lynx, scarlet mccaw, wolf, pelican, deer, emus, porcupine, flamingos, red foxes, monkeys, otters, owls.
They have a small selection of reptiles and spiders but not like most zoos although they do have a couple of adult red tailed boas which i enjoyed watching and seeing what my bella was going to grow up into.
All the animals here have names which i think is a lovely personal touch and the zoo is owned and run by a family, with a lot of help obviously.
The brown bears were on a diet when we went as they had been snacking too much on treats from the visitors.
You are going to think i am realy thick when you read the next bit and i think everyone at the zoo did that day but they have a jaguar which is light beige with dark brown spots, i thought it was a cheeter and the puma is brown, i thought they were supposed to be black. How blond am i.
This place is absolutley fantastic, all the animals are in cages more than big enough for them to live happily and look happy and healthy but i will warn you wear sencible shoes and be prepaired for a very tireing day.
There are places to buy food but as with all places like this they are expensive so we took a packed lunch.