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Day out at Dartmoor Zoo
Dartmoor Zoological Park (Plymouth)
Member Name: saryns1224
Dartmoor Zoological Park (Plymouth)
Advantages: Very close to the A38 and Plymouth with fair admission fees, especially Single Parent Tuesday.
Disadvantages: Some parts not that accessable to wheelchair or pushchair uses.
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.
Summary: A great day out that kids will enjoy and very fairly priced.
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