I've stayed away from Dudley Zoo in the past because it's got a bad reputation and I had heard a lot of rumours about the animals being in small, cramped enclosures and generally being unkept. After one of my friends came back saying that she had been and really enjoyed it, I decided to give it a go, mainly because it was cheap. I along with my boyfriend and a friend visited recently and it cost us in total £34.50, that's 2 tickets at the student price of £11 and one adult at the price of £13.50. I thought that this was really good value and is a lot cheaper than other zoos I have visited.
The entrance to the Zoo is through the shop, even though they have big gates with turnstiles but these are not in use and perhaps are under improvement. The entrance gets very cramped but the staff are very quick and helpful so you aren't waiting for long. First impressions of the Zoo was that it did look a bit dated, there's peeling paint everywhere and the paths could do with revamping but once we started seeing the animals we forgot all of that and started having a really enjoyable day.
Dudley Zoo is on a hill and you have the option of either using the chairlift (which again looks quite dated) to reach the top or you can walk round seeing the animals on the way. This Zoo is definitely not wheelchair or pushchair friendly as we had to walk up quite a lot of steep hill and climb a fair few steps to reach the top.
The Zoo has a wide variety of animals and the enclosures are built in a way which allows guests to get up close to the animals, the animals all look happy and have spacious and attractive looking enclosures. One enclosure I really enjoyed was the penguins which are built with a bridge above so you can look directly down at the penguins playing in the water and sunbathing. Other animals which I particularly enjoyed seeing were the tigers and the giraffes.
There are various talks and feeding sessions available to go to so you can learn more about the animals as well as a birds of prey display held in the castle grounds. They fly around about 4 different birds of prey including a kestrel, buzzard and an owl and teach you about the birds and falconry. The staff that do this are really informative and cheerful.
As well as the basic animal enclosures there are several walkthrough exhibits, these are the Wallaby Walkthrough, Monkey Tails and Lemur Woods. There's also a Farmyard for younger guests to get up close to various farm animals.
There are a couple of reasonably priced restaurants or you can get a pass out to your car if you've packed a picnic and don't want to lug it round the zoo.
If you're not a big walker or you have small children with you there is a train which takes you to different points throughout the Zoo and leaves from the entrance.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this Zoo; the price was very reasonable for what you get out of it and is a lot cheaper than other Zoos. It is a bit dated and could do with a revamp but the animals are healthy and happy which at the end of the day is the most important thing.
* Prices - :Adult (inc £1.25 donation) £13.50*
Adult (without £1.25 donation) £12.25*
Children (3-15 yrs) £9.50
Child with Disability £7.00
One Free Admission for Carer with Disabled Visitor
Under 3s FREE
Car Parking (all day - Pay & Display, exact change required) £3.50
* Open 10am-4pm
Dudley zoo has a reputation among locals of being a little rubbish. Apparently twenty/thirty years ago the zoo was home to many large animals including elephants and a killer whale etc. None of these animals were housed in suitable shelters and the zoo was generally considered quite a cruel and miserable place. When animal welfare laws became a little stricter the zoo were forced to part with many of these animals which now leaves most people's opinion of the place being something along the lines of 'there is nothing there.' I've very rarely heard a good word being said about the zoo.
This is probably the reason it has taken me so long to visit Dudley zoo. About eight years ago my family moved just outside of Dudley and the house we currently live in is so close to the zoo on a clear day you can see the back of it from my bedroom window. There have also been a few occasions where I've been able to hear the Lions roar from my home. Given I am a animal lover and have always enjoyed day trips to safari parks and zoos it does seem a little strange that it has taken me a whole eight years to actually go there.
But I did recently decide to give the place a try. Partly because I was annoyed at my little Sister spending the entire duration of the summer holidays sat on the internet or PS3, partly because I had a voucher which enabled one free child admission with a full paying adult, mostly because I was just curious.
So a few days ago me and my Sister woke up earlier than usual and embarked on the ten minute bus journey to the zoo. I have to say we had a thoroughly nice day out!
Dudley zoo is located within walking distance of Dudley town centre in the Black Country, West Midlands. It is about eleven miles west of Birmingham and easily accessible via car and just about all forms of public transport.
The zoo is open every day except Christmas day from 10am. In the winter months last admission is 3pm and 4pm in the Summer. The zoo closes an hour after these last admission times.
Admission prices are as follows:
Adult including £1.20 donation - £12.50
Adult not including £1.20 donation - £11.30
Children (3-15 years) - £8.90
Child with disability - £6
Concessions (adult with disability/senior citizen/student) - £9.90
Under 3's - free
One free admission for carer with a disabled visitor.
These prices are a little cheaper than other zoo's I have visited throughout the UK but then other zoos I have visited have had a lot more to offer then Dudley zoo. Within say this I still feel the admission fee is good value for money and I certainly cannot complain paying just £12.50 for myself and my little Sister using my voucher!
If you do live local to the zoo and plan to visit regularly then you can purchase a membership for just £18 which gives you unlimited access to the zoo for a whole year. This would pay for itself pretty quickly!
In terms of animals, well no, it's not the best zoo I have ever been to. But it's no where near as bad as I had heard it to be! There are definitely more smaller animals than anything else but these can be just as interesting and fun to look at and the zoo does still offer larger animals as well.
I wouldn't like to say how many animals there are but according to the zoo's wikipedia page (so don't take this as gospel) in 2006 the zoo had 940 animals and 163 different species of animal. This information doesn't sound too far fetched to me personally.
As I have mentioned, I have heard the Lions roar from my house before so I knew that the zoo had them. Upon visiting I found the zoo actually have three lions, two female and one male all of whom were beautiful! The Lions are Asiatic Lions which are apparently one of the rarest animals with only 500 left, 300 of which are in zoos and wildlife parks.
The zoo has a whole collection of different primates. From Lemurs and Spider Monkeys to Chimps and Orang Utans. There are two primate related attractions. Lemur Walk allows you to freely walk through what felt like a bit of rainforest to me (probably due to the fact it was raining but still very humid at the time) getting up close and personal with over 30 lemurs. You're not allowed to touch them but you very easily could if you were allowed.
Then there is Monkey Tails which is like a giant greenhouse. It's pretty similar to Lemur Walk in that many smaller monkeys will roam around close to you but you're not allowed to touch them. There are also a few lizards to look at in Monkey Tails.
The zoo also has one of the largest colonies of Humboldt Penguins. Sixty in fact. These were a particular highlight of my visit, very entertaining to watch!
African Hunting Dogs, Black Bears, Kangaroos, Otters, Sea Lions, Giraffes, Tigers, Reindeer, Snow Leopards and Lynxs are all found in Dudley zoo along with many more.
The good news is, the animal's now seem to be housed in good accommodation which is suited to their needs. The only problems I saw were the Giraffe enclosure which still looked a little small for all all three of them in my opinion and the fact there was only one Tiger. Given Tigers are not solitary animals I thought this was a little cruel. Other than that, everything was perfectly fine by me!
One thing I did like was the farmyard. More commonly seen animals such as rabbits, goats, chickens and pigs freely roamed around whilst members of the public were allowed to touch them and even stop to have a picture taken with them! All under the supervision of a few zoo keepers of course. I must admit I did like sitting down stroking a couple of goats, it's not every day you get to do that!
Another thing I most liked about the zoo was the fact tarantulas were not housed in the reptile house as they usually are. I'm afraid I suffer with arachnophobia rather badly and normally refuse to go into reptile houses due to my constant awareness that there are a couple of huge hairy spiders near me. I love snakes though (we used to have one when I was a small child so snakes always trigger happy childhood memories for me) and so not being able to go into reptile houses is often a huge disappointment for me.
I was, however, free to roam the reptile house at Dudley zoo with ease and peace of mind looking at least ten different species of snake along the way!
Navigating your way around the zoo is fairly easy as well. You're given a map on entrance which makes things a lot easier but everything is clearly signposted as well. If this still isn't good enough for you there is nearly always a zoo keeper near by to help you if you've lost your way.
There are a lot of steps and steep hills though. Disabled access isn't exactly wonderful. I lost count the amount of parents I saw really struggling with pushchairs. In fact, I saw a few give up trying entirely. Typical of the British weather, when I went it started to rain. The steps and slopes became rather slippy and were really quite dangerous! Me and my Sister both slipped a good number of times as well as many other visitors. Walking around was really quite scary!
I did notice a few restaurants and kiosks selling food and drink. I had packed myself and my Sister a picnic lunch so in terms of quality and cost of food and drink I cannot comment. Past experience would lead me to believe it was overpriced, these places usually are. Toilets were easy to find and appeared regularly during our walk around the zoo. These seemed to be in a tidy condition and I have no complaints there.
Once you've seen all the zoo has to offer in terms of animals then Dudley Castle is definitely worth a look at. The castle is located in the grounds of the zoo, in fact the zoo is pretty much built around it, and entrance is included with the zoo admission price.
If you're fit enough and brave enough to walk up and then back down quite a high, spiral, steep stair case then you can stand at the top of the tower and look down on the rest of the zoo whilst looking out on pretty much the whole of the Black Country!
The castle was built in the 11th century and is now a listed building. There are a number of buildings around the site of Dudley zoo which are all very old and listed. Once you get to the site of the castle the zoo turns into a bit of a local history museum! It's very informative and information is presented in a way which is understandable for both children and adults.
There is an awful lot of history to learnt at Dudley zoo as well as animals to be looked at!
So, Dudley zoo is a zoo and local history site. But there is more! It's also a mini children's fairground! There's a children's roller coaster, inflatable slides, dodgems and a few other rides aimed at the young. My sister felt she was 'too old' for these rides (she's 10) and I certainly was so we didn't spend too much time at this part of the park although there were plenty of little ones having a run around, giggling whilst their parents finally got to sit down.
The rides operate on a token basis. You purchase tokens from a kiosk. Most rides are one or two tokens per person. I remember the tokens were £1 each but you could also buy in 'bulk' at a cheaper rate although I really do not remember the prices or number of tokens available I'm afraid!
All in all, it's a fairly decent zoo. My Sister and I had a nice day (even with the rain) and would happily return again. I once heard an older women describe the zoo from her childhood memories as a 'concrete prison for animals'. I am pleased to say the zoo is no longer like this, thoroughly a much more happier and enjoyable place to be!
I would be a little disappointed if I had travelled far to visit the zoo but if you live locally or ever find yourself in the area I would recommend you take a look!
*A brief history*
I know that review writing is all about personal opinion, and there will be plenty of that to follow, but I couldn't properly review Dudley Zoo without first explaining some of the history of the site.
There has been a castle on "Castle Hill" since 1070, although some sources suggest that a wooden fort had stood on the site as far back as the 8th century. In the second half of the 13th century, work started to build a stone castle on the site, and this castle has it's own long and detailed history, too much to go into here! After the castle was ruined in a fire in 1750, it became a "romantic ruin" and was still popular as a site for fetes and festivals. In 1937, however, Dudley Zoo was built on the surrounding land, and cleverly incorporated the castle ruins as part of the attraction. Thus, visitors actually get two attractions for the price of one, when they visit, as the castle is also free to look around, once you have been admitted to the zoo.
An interesting feature of Dudley Zoo, are the old art deco style buildings dotted around the zoo. These are actually listed buildings. They were created in 1937, by Berthold Lubetkin's Tecton Group. The group had previously designed buildings at London Zoo, which led to this commission. The buildings explored the use of concrete, which at the time, was probably thought to be a good idea, but time has not been very kind to these structures. Unsuitable as animal enclosures, many have fallen into disrepair, whilst others have been incorporated into newer enclosures, or hidden behind bamboo panels! Most people consider the buildings ugly, although they do have fans too, but they have to stay, as the law regards them as historically valuable, just like the castle.
Dudley zoo is a place that I always visited with my family as a child, as it is only about 20 minutes away from where I live in Walsall. Back then, in the 1980's, I remember that they had lots of big animals, such as elephants and polar bears. They all looked very sad, pacing up and down in their concrete enclosures, but I suppose that back then, there was not as much concern for animal welfare as there is today. Likewise, some of the great apes were housed in very small, unsuitable enclosures, and looked thoroughly miserable.
*Happily, things have changed!*
In 2011, Dudley zoo is a very different place from the concrete jungle that I remember as a child. Over time, the zoo has phased out the larger animals (I was surprised to read that they even had a killer whale here in the 1960's!), in favour of smaller animals. The animal enclosures are lovely and big, with lots of sensory stimulation for the animals that live at the zoo, which all look very happy and healthy. Of the big animals that remain, there are some Tigers, Lions, Chimps, Orang Utans and Giraffes. The only enclosures that I don't really like are the Orang Utan enclosure, which is one of the old concrete buildings, and the giraffe enclosure, which for me, looks very small for these magnificent animals, especially when I am used to seeing them ambling around the Safari Park! In general though, the quality of the zoo is very high, and the enclosures have been designed in such a way that the visitors get a really good view of the animals. In fact, in some enclosures, there are tunnels that you can walk through which bring you to a glass dome right in the centre of the enclosure, for some great views.
*So when is it open and how much does it cost?*
Dudley Zoo pride themselves on being open every day of the year, except for Christmas day. The zoo opens at 10:00 a.m. and closes at 5:00 p.m. The prices are as follows:
Adult (inc £1.20 donation) £12.50*
Adult (without £1.20 donation) £11.30*
Children (3-15 yrs) £8.90
Adult with disability/Senior Citizen/Student or Young Person (16-18 yrs) £9.90
Child with Disability £6.00
One Free Admission for Carer with Disabled Visitor
Under 3s FREE
Car Parking (all day) £3.00
You can also opt to gift aid your donation so that the zoo can claim back some money from the tax man. I was surprised that the zoo charge for parking, especially as the car park is not great, but it may be because Dudley is very accessible by bus and other forms of transport.
Dudley Zoo tends to be a place that we visit at least once a year, as it is in a convenient location and is cheaper to visit that the big theme parks. We went as a family, and because my little boy is special needs, he got in at a reduced rate, and I got in free as his carer. Thje staff were really nice about this, as I had brought proof of his entitlement with me, but the staff said it was OK, and they didn't need to see it, very different from the jobsworths you get at other places! In fact, I must say that the staff at the zoo were absolutely fantastic, really friendly and went the extra mile for us on our visit.
A good example of this is when we were visiting the farm area and there were some 3 day old chicks in the barn. My son asked a member of staff if he could hold one, and immediately the man stopped what he was doing and got a chick out for him to hold, which i thought was really kind. It was the same in the discovery centre, where we attended a "creature feature" where staff members bring out various animals for you to touch and stroke. After the session, the lady was very kind, answering the kids questions and letting them play with the rats, who loved the attention!
Because the zoo is set on Castle Hill, some of the paths around the zoo can be very steep and hard to walk up. They have tried to make everything as acessible as possible, but some of the steep steps would be impossible for wheelchairs to access, and are pretty tricky for pushchairs too, as I know from previous experience. However, because everything loops round and back on itself, it is possible to see everything, and not have to miss out through lack of access, it just might mean taking a more indirect route round. Thankfully, when you go into the zoo, you are given a map, which means you can work out your route, and how to make sure you don't miss anything, because it is not a simple circuit, it is basically, a big hill, with some stunning views to reward you when you finally get to the top. In times gone past, there used to be a chairlift which took you straight up the hill, sadly, this has been closed for the last 15 years, and the old workings look really rusty. There had been talk about restoring it at some point, but it would take a lot of work. It is a bit of an eyesore as it is now. The other way of getting up the hill is by using the land train, which goes up and down the hill every 10-15 minutes. There is pleanty of room on the landtrain for pushchairs, and is ideal for parents and kids with tired legs!
As I have said, the zoo houses mainly smaller animals, but they are still really interesting to watch, especially the lovable meerkats, and some of the wild cats. A lot of the zoo is interactive, and gets you really close to the animals, interacting with them rather than being a passive spectator. A good example of this is the Lemur forest, where you can walk through a "jungle" through trees and over bridges, where lemurs are running loose and swinging through the branches. It did make me think of "I like to move it move it" in the movie Madagascar though! There is also a smaller wallaby walkthrough and a monkey house, which is like a big greenhouse that you walk though with cheeky squirrel monkeys scuttling by. My kids loved the farm, which has a large yard, which you can walk around, stroking the rabbits, goats and sheep that live there. Everything is very hands on, but there are plenty of handwashing stations with ample supplies of handrub to use after your animal encounters. My kids also loved a Raven in one of the aviaries, who kept passing a twig out of the bars to them. Every time they put the twig back though the bars, she would fetch it like a dog and bring it back to them. It was utterly fascinating to watch!
People and groups can adopt the animals. At my son's school, the class have adopted a giraffe and a meerkat, and they go and visit them. You can also pay to be a keeper for a day if you are over 14, and the zoo does various other special experience days too.
Your reward for getting to the top of the big hill is the lovely castle, with its great views. Although the castle is a ruin, it is still in good enough "shape" to walk around and you can distinguish which rooms were used for which purpose. The kids loved climbing the tower, but the spiral staircase is very steep and you need to be pretty fit to get up there. In the past, part of the the castle area was an aquarium, but now it is an interactive history exhibition, with lots of information about the history of the castle and the people that visited it, such as Elizabeth 1 herself! The zoo hosts a "horrible history" show in the castle in the afternoons, as well as falconry displays in the large grassed area in the castle grounds. You could easily spend over an hour or just in the castle area, as there is lots to explore and learn. It is also the perfect place to have a picnic. My kids enjoyed rolling down the grassy hill, whilst we had a well deserved break on a bench after all of our walking!
If taking a picnic isn't your thing, there are a few places to eat in the zoo grounds. The main one is a large cafe called the Queen Mary Suite. There are lots of chairs and tables in here, and an adult meal costs about £5, a kids box meal about £4. They have some very tempting puds for about £2 each, as well as icecreams for sale. I found the drinks a bit pricey though, at £1.10 for a small 200ml carton of juice. Ouch! There is also a takeaway cafe by the entrance, which serves drinks, hotdogs and chips. By the castle there is a pub called the Grey Lady Tavern, which serves ale and snacks. There are a few ice cream kiosks dotted in strategic places too, like at the top of a long flight of stone steps! There are adequate loos dotted around the zoo at convenient intervals, which is great when you have kids.
Next to the entrance there is a kiddie fair, with about 12 rides, but the rides are not included in your admission fee. You can buy ride tokens for £1 each, or 15 for £10 or 25 for £15. As I have three kids, the third option is always best for me. Most of the rides are for very young kids, ideally between 3 and 6, but my older two, who are 10 and 8, enjoyed the inflatable slide and caterpillar roller coaster. There are not really any rides for older kids other than the bumping cars, but nobody was on them, as there was an age restriction of 12 to drive unaccompanied, and most of the kids in the fair were only tots. The fair is usually quiert compared with the rest of the zoo, and nobody really starts using it until after 12:00, although it is open earlier. Usually there is one operator to 2 or 3 rides, so you have to wait for them to close one before you can ride on the one you want.
There is also a small adventure playground. It was a lot bigger before, but they have halved it to make room for a camel enclosure! The ground in this area is very sandy, and it is that dirty kind of sand that makes your hands filthy. There are some tyre swings here, a large slide, and some little cars to climb on. there is also a small play area in the farm and by the Lemur forest and some rocking animals on the hill. There is also a small playground by the big cafe and some monkey bars by the monkey enclosure, but these play areas are very small. There is also a weird indoor sandpit in one of the old conctrete buildings, but nobody ever seems to go in there!
There is a lovely sensory garden, which is a real haven of delight, and there are some aviaries in there with small birds.
Dudley Zoo is a reasonably priced attraction, which provides lots to keep you interested and involved from opening time right until the zoo closes at 5:00. The staff are great and very friendly, and the animals all look happy and well looked after. This is a perfect place to take young kids, and has a nice relaxed family atmosphere. It is also very peaceful and tranquil, not hectic like most family attractions. I will continue to visit from year to year, as this place gets better every time I visit.
Also posted on Ciao.