As a family we love a day trip to a zoo and have been to so many over the last few years, venturing to new ones every time we have a spare day and no plans. But this summer we had a couple of days away in Colchester and it was the first time we’d been close enough to Colchester Zoo to visit. In all honesty we weren’t expecting much – just another zoo but we came away having had the best zoo visit we had in a long time and Colchester Zoo is now my favourite zoo so I should really explain why.
We got to Colchester Zoo just after opening and it did take quite a long time to actually get into the zoo. We had Tesco Clubcard voucher tickets and with these you did get a short straw when it came to getting in as there was only one collection point – rather than the main tills which were all open to everyone else. It took us about forty minutes of queuing but then we found ourselves at the start of the park, map in hand and wondering where to go first.
But, amazingly, Colchester Zoo has a yellow line going around the zoo that shows you the way. I think it’s meant as an accesible route but we found it really helpful. There are also dotted yellow lines to show you extra routes to take. The lines make sure you see everything in the zoo and as it’s so big you don’t get lost either. This line got a huge thumbs up for us and I hope it’s something other zoos and tourist attractions adopt in the future.
The route led us through a indoor jungle area and another Africa area and then into the sea lion enclosure which literally took my breath away. Their pool has a tunnel through it that you would usually see at sea life centres but instead you had sea lions doing backflips right above your head. It was incredible.
The sea lions led through to the orangutangs who had a huge enclosure and, as the enclosure was being cleaned when we visited, one of the orangutangs was in a smaller inside enclosure and we were able to see him really close up. He was beautiful and something I had never seen so close before.
We then walked around to where the penguins were and got to watch a penguin show where some of the keepers introduced us to the penguins, taught us about their lives, their habitat and the sort of things they liked to do. It was really interesting and LP especially loved this part.
We stopped for lunch at one of the many food outlets, getting the children reasonably priced lunch boxes and then they had a play on the adventure playground. There are so many play parks dotted around the zoo that there’s always somewhere to stop and rest for a few minutes whilst the children play.
We carried on around the zoo, seeing bears, meerkats, lions.. There were so many animals, all in lovely enclosures and with so many different viewing platforms. Colchester Zoo also put so much effort into educating you about the animals, where they come from, how long they live for etc. There’s always something to read and facts to find out which is great for keeping children entertained and so much more exciting than just seeing animals through glass.
There was an amazing butterfly house that was really busy – with a queue to enter – but well worth going into. Butterflies would land on you, fly right past you and sit so close to you – the chidlren loved it.
One of the children’s favourite parts was the Familiar Friends area where they got to get up close to goats and sheep, feeding them and walking amongst them. There were some really small goats that LP would have taken home with her if she was allowed!
We went in a Lorikeet rainforest and paid £1 per child to get them a cup of nectar each to feed the birds. They both loved their but we did have to be patient to find a bird that actually wanted to eat.
Towards the end of our day we found the elephants, giraffes and zebras – an amazing sight in big areas where you can see them from afar. The children loved seeing these animals as to them lions and giraffes are what zoos are all about!
Just before we went home we found the Colchester Zoo train and had a lovely ride around the park where it stopped at the lemur enclosure for us to have a walk through with them.
We had a fleeting visit to the chimpanzees before we left and wish we’d had longer to stay there. They were in a pretty amazing enclosure and were so friendly too. They were lovely to see.
There really was so much to look at throughout our visit to Colchester Zoo and at the end we left feeling like we had only scratched the surface. We had such a lovely day there but I know there was still more to see and do – soft play being something I know the children would have loved but we didn’t get a chance to do.
We can’t wait to go back to Colchester Zoo in the future and it’s definitely a firm favourite for us as a family. We had such a lovely day out.