Chester Zoo Days Out

‘’It’s the best zoo we have ever been to!!”

– Bradley Darkes

Having heard great things,  Team Hedgehog decided to visit Chester Zoo during the Easter Holidays 2022. Before we get into the review here’s a little info on the zoo, (info grabbed off their website)

What is Chester Zoo

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Opened in 1931, Chester Zoo has become one of the leading zoos in the UK. Currently the zoo covers a massive 130 acres and holds a whopping 35,139 animals from more than 500 of the world’s rarest species, including:
1,571 mammals, 
1,759 birds, 
339 reptiles,
677 amphibians,
6,739 fish and 
24,054 insects.

The Pandemic aside, the zoo attracts more than 2 million visitors each year making it the UK’s most visited zoo and the country’s most visited tourist attraction outside of London!

It’s no wonder the zoo is so popular, the zoo’s conservation work is well respected across the world.
It is currently conducting 80 field projects in more than 30 countries worldwide, attempting to look after species on the brink of extinction. A great example of this is the recent arrival of Eastern bongo calf (a critically endangered West African chimpanzee), only around 70 remain in Africa!
Other high profile conservation successes include successfully breeding Asian elephants in captivity, making Chester Zoo the first zoo in the UK to do so. The zoo currently has a breeding herd of six elephants, composed of two males and four females.

So now we know a little more about Chester Zoo, read on to discover how Team Hedgehog got on with their visit…

Our Visit To Chester Zoo

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Unlike other zoos we have been to, (Northumberland and Dartmoor spring to mind) getting to the zoo was easy as it is well signposted. Upon arrival we discovered a well-designed large ‘Free’ car parking area.  Once parked, we followed the crowds to the entrance area.  This is a large modern looking open space with ticket booths and an entrance gateway flanked by shops, a café, a membership sales centre and importantly toilets, perfect for those who may have travelled a long distance to visit!

As we had pre booked we didn’t need to queue up and simply walked through the entrance gate, where a friendly zoo person scanned our tickets and informed us that the aviary walk was closed due to bird flu, and the bat enclosure was open but you must wear a mask while in there (we were anyway!)

A note on our booking experience

We tried to book online several times and each time received a server error message.
When I eventually got through to the zoo on the phone, I was told to buy tickets at the door and its basically my problem that the browser wasn’t working. I thought this attitude was quite rude, nevertheless we tried again a few days later and was able to book tickets successfully.

Once through the entrance gate, we could see the first large crowds of the day at the elephant enclosure. Still concerned about the risk of Covid we made our way quickly through the crowd, attempting to seek out a calmer location.  This is when we realised that Chester Zoo did not provide a paper map to follow (presumable to support ecological ambitions), instead it provides both a pdf map on their website and a comprehensive mobile app that covers everything from places to eat through to listing each animal location. For those people that haven’t managed to pre download a map or set up the app, the zoo has provided large maps that are placed sporadically around the zoo, supported by vague directional arrows around the site.  This presents a few problems – the large maps tend to look like exhibits themselves, with people standing in front of the maps trying to work out where to go next, thus slowing down progress whilst you wait for the map to become free. The other problem is the map on the Chester Zoo app is very cluttered and attempting to walk around whilst viewing the map on such a small screen is a little problematic, especially when in bright daylight.  The zoo doesn’t seem to have any logical order, as the zoo has grown since its inception, new areas have been added to existing areas. The CCTV footage of our visit must be hilarious, as I suspect it mainly contains us looking confused and revisiting areas, we had previously visited just to get through to an area we had missed. I think we walked past the same coffee hut about 10 times during the day!

The long walk and confused faces aside, its clear that the zoo is paying attention to visitor experiences. Team Hedgehog were really surprised to find some great theming in place throughout the zoo. The Islands area looks superb and is designed to display several island habitats containing animals such as Macaques and Tigers in a lush bamboo surrounding.  They have even thought to include a river boat ride that travels trough the various Islands. The visiting families seemed to be really enjoying the experience.

Moving on through the zoo we found that the enclosures are a mix of indoor and open-air spaces.  They all looked a good size too, with plenty of cover and foliage should the animals want to move out of the public gaze.  Since visiting I have read some negative comments about people going to see the Tigers and not being able to view one because the weeds are in the way, or that they have paid for a ticket and they saw very little.  This however misses the point; zoos have moved on from simply being there to display and parade captured animals and are now much more focused on animal welfare and this means giving these sentient creatures wide open spaces, with similar features to those in the wild. That also means that the paying public may not get to see an animal if it has chosen to seclude itself from view, and we think that is amazing!

The Bat Walk is highly recommended; rather than being a dark box, the zoo has created an immersive bat experience. Once you enter it takes a few moments for your eyes to adjust to the dark, when they do you find yourself in a sumptuous moonlight world. As you walk through the room, you see bats hanging above you and flying from tree to tree. It’s quite the spectacle when the larger bats stretch out their massive wings and swoop past your head!

Other indoor enclosures attracted the crowds by promising one thing but we discovered they delivered something else.  Take the Jaguar building for example – it has a large sign outside saying Jaguar, but when you enter, the first thing you encounter is a tank full of tropical fish, high above it is a sloth enjoying a rope assault course. It seems the zoo is having to find creative ways to house its ever-expanding collection.

Moving on, we decided to create a hit list of key animals that we would like to see and made our way seeking out the list. The main ones being: red panda, lions, giraffes, elephants, reptiles, penguins, zebra, lemurs and of course a hog! Plus whatever animal we came across enroute.

We found it funny that the giraffes had a height measurement chart on the wall and they seemed obsessed with licking it, presumably to see if they had grown!

The Zoo’s sense of humour wasn’t lost on the giraffes either, we stopped off at the street food section for some lunch, only to be greeted by a zoo employee sporting a t-shirt marked ‘Feeding Time At The Zoo’… Top marks for whoever came up with that!

It’s worth noting that the food was reasonable in price but not in quality.  A chicken burger was presented as a piece of tough chicken in a black bun, and we were reminded of this a day or so later.  That brings me nicely onto the toilets… we found the toilets are a bit too sporadic, often we found ourselves doubling back a long way to find them. A slightly annoying trend was that the zoo only placed one or two hand dryers in each block, and one wasn’t working in the ladies, resulting in wet hands!

After we had eaten our black burgers, we carried on our zoo adventure seeking out the rest of our hit list of animals.  Whilst walking around the zoo one thing became really evident was the care and attention being paid to the animals. The animals that we saw looked really content and well looked after, sometimes with zoos the animals can look depressed, but we saw none of that at Chester. As we continued our hit list we came across an animal that none of team hedgehog had seen before nor knew existed… a pair of Giant Otters, they were as inquisitive to us as we where of them – putting on a great show of swimming, diving and generally looking cheeky, we could have watched them for ages.

One of the last animals to see was the first one we spotted, the elephants. By now the large crowds had grown smaller and we were lucky enough to see one having food, a baby elephant playing in the mud, slipping and sliding, and several other young ones in the water wrestling each other, all while an adult elephant enjoyed a shower.  It was a great end to our Chester Zoo experience and with that we made our way out of the zoo, had a mooch in the shop and embarked on our 2 hour return journey home.




Thoughts On Chester Zoo

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Our visit to Chester Zoo cost Team Hedgehog just under £30.00 each per ticket, whilst on an individual level this seems reasonable, its easy to see that the cost to families could be expensive. As for if the price is considered value for money, I think the cost is justified.  The upkeep costs of looking after 35 thousand animals must be huge, so its only natural some of this cost is passed onto visitors. We were surprised at how much effort the zoo has put in to make the site as accessible and family friendly as possible. As with most things in life you get out what you put in, Chester Zoo rewards on so many levels, whether it’s a young child being wowed at a massive elephant, or someone reading the information on hand and learning about the wonderful animals looked after by the zoo, Chester Zoo is a suburb educational experience. We spent a day at the zoo walking around with the Fitbit clocking 6.5 miles of walking, and there are still hundreds of animals we didn’t see.

Overall it was an amazing day out and we cant wait to return in the future.

what do you think of the review? Please rate this article and leave a comment below

The Silver Hedgehog: Rating

Value For Money - 9
Visit Experience - 9
Attraction Facilities - 8

8.7

Recommended

Chester Zoo rewards on so many levels, whether it’s a young child being wowed at a massive elephant, or someone reading the information on hand and learning about the wonderful animals looked after by the zoo.

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Words Garry

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This site is a non-profit project..

As a small, independent website run by Garry in his spare time,  we need your help to continue providing great content.

Please donate to help The Silver Hedgehog grow. All funds are put back into the website, and help provide new features.

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Buy Me a Coffee is a service that allows you to make a voluntary one-off donation in the form of a cup of coffee.

1 x coffee = £3.00

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Meet Garry

An office worker by day and blogger by night. Garry is the creator and writer of The Silver Hedgehog.  A Sci-Fi geek (don’t mention Terry Pratchett or Isaac Asimov unless you have a spare hour) and avid film fan (noted for watching Titanic 8 times at the cinema 🤩).  Enjoys writing reviews and blogs in his spare time, and is waiting for the day he gets paid for it!

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