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Make Mine A Monkey!
Twycross Zoo (Warwickshire)
Member Name: karenuk
Twycross Zoo (Warwickshire)
Advantages: Great variety of animals, good enclosures and conservation programmes, well priced
Disadvantages: Not so pleasant in wet weather
Living in Leicestershire now and only having been with my boyfriend two months, our first Valentine's Day together was hopefully going to be a special one. So when he asked me how I wanted to spend our special day together, he was only mildly amused when I suggested a day out at Twycross Zoo! He already knows how much I love animals and particularly monkeys, so when I realised how close we now lived to Twycross Zoo and that it had been the World Primate Centre since 2006, I was desperate to go.
We chose the Sunday before Valentine's Day, but annoyingly, it turned out to be really cold, very windy and pouring with rain. Undeterred, we arrived around 11am and paid £13 each to go in. (£9 for children, £11 for concessions.) Not too many families had bothered coming out in the bad weather, but there seemed to be lots of couples, so maybe it isn't such a bizarre idea for a romantic day out!
On arrival, you enter the big main centre for the place which contains toilets (with glass windowed views into the snow leopard enclosure and above the hand basins are display cases of leaf-moving ants!), the gift shop (with a great variety of souvenirs and not too overpriced!) and various places to eat and drink. You walk through this to go to the place you pay, then are given armbands which you use to go in and out as you wish. You are told to go to the nearby Information Centre if you want to book a tour round the Tropical House (free, every hour, takes fifteen minutes) and you can buy a well-designed Guide Book for £2.99, which we did. (The Information Centre also has maps for free, which is handy!)
The various areas are well-signposted, so you can head for your favourite animals. Unsurprisingly, it was the monkeys I went to straight away and what a wonderful choice of them there is at Twycross Zoo! Apparently, Twycross is the only British zoo to have four species of great ape! There are all sizes and so many varieties here, I was in heaven! Lemurs, marmosets, spider monkeys, gibbons, chimpanzees (The PG Tips chimps were from Twycross), orang-utans and gorillas, amongst other lesser known ones. They all have outside and inside enclosures and thanks to the weather, most of them were snuggling up indoors in the warm!
They are well organised and each enclosure is signposted, so you know what you are entering. The zoo I know best is Bristol Zoo, so it was interesting to compare it with Twycross. The gorilla areas in Bristol are beautiful and Twycross may be slightly inferior in this respect, but Twycross does have two separate gorilla families in separate areas. I especially love Silverback Gorillas and have taken some really nice photos of Jock at Bristol Zoo. Sadly, the Twycross gorillas were not co-operating and I didn't manage to get any decent photos of them.
Photographing the animals is one of the primary reasons I visit zoos and it is annoying trying to photograph them through glass, as the reflections are terrible. I managed to get some good pictures though and a few I was very happy with.
No matter how many times you visit a particular zoo, each time will be different. On this occasion, the orang-utans had a new baby who was a great attraction. We were lucky enough to be there while one of the volunteers was visiting. She obviously had a rapport with one particular orang-utan as it came over to her and sat down nearby (though on the other side of the glass!) while she showed her various little trinkets she had brought. These included a silver bracelet, a shiny ribbon, a fir cone and a Santa ornament. As the woman took them out and showed the orang-utan, the interest was obvious and it was amazing watching their relationship.
I experienced my own "monkey bonding" in the World of Small Monkeys where I developed a nice rapport with one of the emperor tamarin monkeys. Not a kind I was aware of before, they are quite small and have long white moustache-like wisps of fur which give them a very cute appearance. I was photographing them through the glass window, when one came up to the glass and started looking at me. He would stare into the lens, tilt his head and then began putting his hand up to the glass as if trying to touch me. He seemed to like the red sleeve on my coat and was trying to catch my camera strap too. I was in love!!
I have always associated Twycross Zoo with giraffes and it is also well-known for its elephants, so we saw these too. The elephants do training sessions as well, which can be viewed at certain times. They had a gorgeous young elephant amongst the four we saw. There are many other animals there and we saw capybara, mara (like big rabbits!), prairie marmots, Scottish Wild Cats, sea lions and one meerkat! (Not sure where the others were!) I was looking forward to seeing the Bat-eared foxes and the Aardwolves, but they were all snuggled up asleep in dark areas!
By this time, both of us were muddy, cold and wet, so we went back to the main centre (Himalaya) to get some food and drink. It was quite a good place to eat. We both had jacket potatoes with beans and cheese, coffees and a slice of gateau each and it came to £18. The seating area is bright and colourful and was large enough to accommodate everyone, as well as being considerably warmer and drier than outside!
Afterwards, we braved the elements again and visited the other parts of the zoo we had missed. I especially wanted to see the penguins and they were lovely, but can't compare to the amazing facilities at Bristol Zoo where you can walk underneath the water and watch them swim above and around you. Twycross at least has a glass side, so you can watch them swimming up close though and I got a couple of nice photos this way.
I do like big cats, but we only managed to see one leopard and he looked a bit unhappy, on his own and pacing his enclosure restlessly. We never got to see the snow leopard or the lion and they don't have any tigers sadly. It was only a minor disappointment though and the amazing array of monkeys certainly made up for it.
We nipped back to see "my" Emperor Tamarin again, before leaving the zoo and on the way out, my boyfriend bought me a cuddly monkey for £6.50. (He probably reckoned that was better than standing in the World of Small Monkeys for another hour, as I waved a sad goodbye to my beloved monkey!)
Overall, despite the weather, it was an excellent day out and we will definitely be going back.
Atherstone, Midlands CV9 3PX
0844 474 1777
Open daily throughout the year from 10am (only closed on Christmas day)
* 31st October 2010 to 27th March 2011 - close at 4pm
* 28th March 2011 to 24th October 2011- close at 5.30pm
Summary: A great day out
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