Newest Review: ... this before. With the guide book you are given a large map of the zoo, some children's workbooks and as it was the 80th celebrations the... more
Conservation at its best?!?!?!?! Hmmmmmm.........
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park (Bedfordshire)
Member Name: Mummy_to_2
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park (Bedfordshire)
Advantages: lots of animals, attractions, things to do
Disadvantages: expensive, hidden costs sometimes, busy!
On our recent visit down south to my father's house we decided that as the weather was brilliant we were going to take a trip to a zoo or safari park.
After researching the available options we settled on ZSL Whipsnade.
We visited the zoo during the 80th birthday celebrations, hence why I'm including the zoo's history in my review.
***HISTORY OF THE ZOO***
ZSL Whipsnade zoo was founded in 1931 by Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell, and over the next decade the animal collection was added too including the whole livestock collection from the 'Bostock and Wombwell Travelling Menagerie', and also donations from the Duke of Bedford.
Over the last 80 years a lot of important things have happened at the zoo for example during the 2nd world war the animals from the ZSL London zoo were transported to Whipsnade to protect them from the German bomb attacks, and also the 1st white rhino born and bred in captivity was born there in the 1970's.
The main basis of the zoo centre around conservation of not only animals but also their habitats, the zoo not only promotes conservation from around the world but also here in the UK.
The zoo is located near Luton and Dunstable on the M25; there are also good train and bus links to the zoo (which give discounts on entry fees)
The zoo is open daily from 10AM and varies in closings time depending on the time of year.
There is a large car-park with direct entry (via underground tunnel) to the main gate parking cost's £4 per car.
If you are visiting the zoo and doing the safari trail with your car this cost's £17 per car.
The park is fully disability adapted with many slopes rails etc ALTHOUGH disabled visitors CANNOT use the free bus service (an old London double decker) as it cannot accommodate wheelchairs, we were asked to fold away all buggies from the journey.
At this point I would sit down!!!! As we went in peak season the tickets cost around £1 more than off- peak tariffs. We paid (hold on!) £99 for 2 adults, 1 disabled adult, and 2 children ( the 3 under 3's and my brother's carer were free), the car park and a guide book (£4), to be honest I thought this was a terribly high amount to pay, having been to other zoo a lot around the country and have not paid near this before.
With the guide book you are given a large map of the zoo, some children's workbooks and as it was the 80th celebrations there were little fact guides and show times booklet too.
Upon queuing you are asked if you would like a photo of you party taken against a white screen, these photos are available to buy at the exit of the park. I did think this was a great idea as it gives to a real memento of the day. Upon leaving we found the photo and were charged the grand sum of £20 from it although it did include 2 x 8x10 pictures, 3x 6x4 pictures 2x key-rings and a CDROM, each photo had had a background of animals and jungle etc morphed onto them. A great touch but really just another way to get money out of you.
Once through the ticket booths you enter the main square with the main shop, and also different stalls selling snacks, drinks etc, this is also the first stop where you can get the free bus tour, which we decided to do first.
The bus service is free and visit's some of the major attractions such as the Tiger's and the Fun Park/ train and get off and resume at another point/time etc.
The bus (as mentioned) is a small old fashioned double decker, so wheelchairs cannot get on and all buggies mush be put down....not easy with 5 children ranging from 8 years to 6 months!!! I was disappointed though as there was no commentary through speakers on the bus and the driver was too busy on his phone (at one point) to answer some one's question. Overall though the bus journey gave the children some excitement and they seemed to really enjoy that part of the day.
***SHOPS AND CAFÉ'S***
In all my wisdom I had decided we would go on what later seemed to be the hottest .day the year, so we were constantly on the look out for refreshments and/or café's etc, there were plenty of these dotted around as apart from the one's in the main square there are also 3 main café's the 'wild bite café' these include BBQ's, the 'lookout café' with views of the downs and the famous Whipsnade lion and lastly the 'mount whipsawed' which is only accessible by car. There are however lots of little huts dotted around with vending machines containing snacks and drinks; we used the main shop for drinks which was very expensive and ONLY took cash and also the lookout café which we all found very good value for money, managing to feed 4 adults and 4 children for around £20.
There are 3 gift shops dotted around ('Africa outpost', 'main store' and the 'Jumbo express' store) each selling the usual type of souvenirs such as cups, pencil cases and toy animals, and while I didn't find them too over priced they weren't cheap either. I did though like the idea of them asking to to buy a reusable bag instead of a plastic one.
We had been dropped off by the bus at the tiger enclosure (of which none were visible) as there is a huge play park with bouncy castle's, this also contains the shop and toilets and as it was so hot that day there were also various 'pop up' vendors selling ice cream. The play park itself is well kept with lots of benches and picnic table's (this is where we decided to have our 'snack'. It was at this point we decided to get out the map and plan some more it was then we realised............
***THE BAD BIT***
One point I was very un-impressed with was the fact that even though you pay such I high entrance fee- unless you use all forms of transport (walking, the free bus AND the chargeable train) you wont see all the animals, they have arranged to so some animals can only be seen via the bus and others via the train and others via just walking! I found this very bad form as I didn't seem to find it fair that to see the elephants(most popular animals in zoo) properly and the rare species of deer you HAD you take the train which cost £3.50 per adult (kid's free) NO CONCESSION'S! This journey lasted around 15 mins so not bad money for value but still rather cheeky in my opinion. Like wise though to see the meerkats you HAD to go via foot or they couldn't be seen as they were nestled away between larger more popular exhibits.
Among our favourite exhibit's was the discovery centre containing the dreaded creepy crawlies (or as my 4 year old excitedly screamed at the top of his lungs 'MINY BEAST'S') and crocodiles, each situated in separate 'climates' such as the rainforest's and the desert's. We did find this section though slightly on the small side and have definitely been to bigger insect houses at other zoos.
Attached to the discovery centre is an activity room where, for a small fee, you can make badges and dress up etc, this is also the area where function such as wedding are held.
***80TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS***
This year the Whipsnade has been open for 80 years and to celebrate the zoo have put on some special attractions around the park, each week the zoo will focus on a different animal and have lots of activities based around them, we were so lucky that when we went it was Cheetah week and lot's of special things were happening at 'Cheetah rock'. The talks are held once a day and we found it super busy and slightly over powering although our group really enjoyed meeting the big cats!!!
***NON CELEBRATION EVENTS***
When purchasing the tickets we were given a booklet with the times and places of the live talks and shows, most of which we attended. Just after arriving came the first 2 talks in the space of an hour so we did feel pretty rushed although the animals in questions weren't to far away from one another. Of course it did seem as though some talks (Tigers) were more popular than others (warthog) so I did enjoy the quieter ones more although the animal I wanted to see (the Wolf) staying in hiding.
These events are on every day the zoo is open and some have morning and evening talks so you shouldn't miss any. One I would highly recommend are the Sea Lion's, there are amazing and after the show they sometimes come up to say hello, they also have an underwater viewing tunnel for this show.
Overall we had an amazing time at the zoo and would thoroughly recommend a visit if you're in the area, yes it is expensive and the do everything they can to get more out of you BUT it is going to the animals so I shouldn't complain. The animals seemed well cared for and not distressed and gave neither me nor my party any cause for concern.
The shops and cafes overall were slightly over the top in terms of cost but I expected no different. We ended up staying from 10AM until around 5:30PM so it was a full day out and overall it did seem value for money. The kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves and to me that is money well spent, although I am in two minds as too whether I would pay that again.
I am awarding the zoo 5 stars though as like i said the animals are cared for well and the park and amenities are in good order :)
In the end I bought the photo pack too....................
Summary: A full family day out!
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