Newest Review: ... about the animals etc there is one big disadvantage to visiting Exmoor Zoo with young children - the toilets. There are 2 sets of to... more
Daddy's takin' us to the zoo tomorrow
Exmoor Zoo (North Devon)
Member Name: markysparky
Exmoor Zoo (North Devon)
Advantages: Small, friendly, plenty to see and do
Disadvantages: Lacking a number of the larger animals found at other zoos, location
Last week I visited Exmoor Zoo for the sixth time (spread over a period of about 15 years).
Where is it?
There's a big clue in the name and it is indeed hidden away in the midst of darkest Exmoor, North Devon's National Park. It's more precisely situated just off of the A399, 10 miles north of its junction with the A361 (near South Molton). The Zoo is a few miles from Lynton, Woolacombe and Ilfracombe.
It's not overly well signposted so keep your eyes peeled for the small brown Zoological Park sign from the A399. When you take this turning it's about 300 yds to a smallish car park (50-70 spaces a few of which are for the disabled) next to the main entrance. The larger, overflow, car park is not further distant.
This is a small zoo (in comparison to the likes of Paignton, Marwell or Chester zoos) but with plenty of interest.
As you enter the hut-like structure that serves as a combined payment area and gift shop you'd be forgiven for wondering whether this is a worthwhile place to visit. It has none of the modern trappings of turnstiles or multiple payment kiosks - just one wooden counter and a till that wouldn't have looked out of place in Arkwright's store in Open All Hours. But don't be scared off by such facilities, persevere.
When purchasing your entrance tickets, you are also given an A4 paper map of the zoo layout together with a list of the activities being held that day.
I'm not a great fan of seeing animals in captivity but those here seemed to be in fine fettle and with a reasonable amount of space to move around.
I was with my wife and my 2 kids (9 and 7) and our favourite animals were:
- various members of the monkey family, mostly smaller breeds (the one exception being an enclosure with 3 gibbons). These included marmosets, tamarins and howler monkeys. It was enjoyable watching the antics of these little fellows both through the perpex windows into their indoor quarters and as they swung around, performing feats of great gymnastic ability, in the great (fenced off outdoors).
- ring-tailed lemurs. There were about 8 of these wonderful creatures and we were transfixed by their leaps, tricks and interaction with each other.
- Big cats - we glimpsed both the cheetah and the rare black leopard which forms part of a "beast of Exmoor" section
- meerkats - 8 meerkats reside in a walled off area. They're always crowd pleasers with their upright posing and scurrying activities
- an armidillo. My kids loved seeing this little fellow zooming around his walled home at top speed. He was "cute" and "funny"
- plain old rabbits and guinea pigs. The kids were free to go and pet these animals and they were more interested in these than some of the more rare and unusual species.
The supporting cast included:
- various exotic aviary birds (the obligatory parrots and some lovely large white owls, sorry I forget the breed, amongst them)
- other birds and fowl. Peacocks and some fowl freely roamed the paths of the zoo. The likes of cranes, ibis and herons were centred around a central lake area
- a very small reptile house which was home to a cayman, a few snakes, spiders and not much else
- maned wolves
- bat-eared foxes
Believe it or not but we didn't see the Humboldt penguins (I'm not even convinced that they were actually there!) and didn't realise until after we left the zoo.
There is also:
- various raised, stepped lookout platforms.
- picnic areas both outdoor and under cover
- an indoor cafe. Prices were fair (£1.50 for a coffee, £3.00+ for a well filled, reasonably sized baguette) and there was plenty of choice and our baguettes, sausage roll and drinks were all tasty and above average fare.
- an outdoor snack "chalet" selling a slimmed down range of drinks and snacks
- some outdoor children's play equipment, including 2 trampolines and a climbing frame
- an outdoor encounter zone where there are frequent opportunities to learn about, and hold/stroke, various creatures such as snakes, large (yes and hairy) spiders and a large millipede. Very educational and the kids enjoyed these encounters
- the aforementioned gift shop - well stocked with, mostly, soft toys and other typical zoo souvenirs. Prices weren't excessive. You have to pass through this shop to exit the zoo (parents beware)
- a few toilets that seemed well maintained and in cleanish order
There are a number of daily activities (in peak season one every 30 minutes) which include the encounters (above) and such as feeding various animals (meerkats, wallabies, lemurs and others) and guinea pig fishing (we missed that delight so I can't explain further).
An adult ticket is £8.25, a child (3-15) is £6.00 and the under 3s are free.
Concessions are £7.25 and there are various group rates and annual membership rates. a family ticket (2 adults, 2 under 16s) is £26.50.
You can redeem Tesco Cubcard days out vouchers here (though only against the full individual rates).
This is a great place to spend an enjoyable few hours. It is a very laid back enviroment and you feel very close up to all the animals. On the day of our visit, in the school summer holidays, it wasn't at all crowded and there was plenty of room to roam and enjoy.
There are no elephants, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, tigers etc but the smaller animals here together with the many organised activities were equally as interesting to my family.
I wouldn't travel a long distance to visit the zoo but if you're holidaying in the West Country it should be one to consider. I'll be certainly revisiting the next time that I'm in North Devon.
Summary: A great place for a family to spend a few hours
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