Hugo’s big wish for his birthday was to go to Edinburgh Zoo. He’s a real animal lover, and tigers are his favourite, so what better place to celebrate turning 11? Luckily we were given the opportunity to review the zoo and its new exhibit, Creepy Crawlies, so perfect timing really!
Where is Edinburgh Zoo?
It is located on Corstorphine Hill, in the Corstorphine area on the west side of Edinburgh. It isn’t too far from the city centre, and there are several bus services which stop nearby. All travel options are detailed on their website, as well as parking details. We travelled by car and parked on-site, for a cost of £4.
Planning your visit in advance is a good idea,
as there are over 80 acres of parkland to explore! It was especially important for us, as we’ve mentioned before that Cal has mobility problems. I also fell off the loft ladder a couple of weeks ago and have been suffering with sore ribs and leg pain, so a right motley crew we’ve become! In actual fact, most small children would struggle with a lot of walking too, so it is worth planning in advance to pinpoint the things you don’t want to miss, and the route you want to take. The Edinburgh Zoo website is brilliant for this, with downloadable maps, apps and even webcams!
So for us, the must-see animals were the tigers (in the Tiger Trail), giant pandas (you need to book a time slot for this), and the Creepy Crawlies. The tigers are right at the top of the hill, so we had a small dilemma. We knew that Cal would struggle walking uphill, even with stops on the way, but was I fit for pushing Her Ladyship in a wheelchair uphill, if at all? Thankfully, Edinburgh Zoo have a mobility vehicle, a kind of minibus, which you can utilise on request, and which has various stops around the park. The brilliant part is, you can just call a mobile number and have the vehicle pick you up at one point and drop you at the next, throughout the day. So we decided to take the bus to the top of the hill and work our way back down, which is obviously the easiest way to go. This service was an absolute Godsend actually. I’ve never seen Cal so happy or relieved for a long time. It made her day that she didn’t have to worry too much about restrictions or starting her day in lots of pain or exhausted. (And ours too, far less moaning!!)
So our day got off to a flying start.
It was much quieter starting at the back of the park and working forwards too, and the views across Edinburgh were simply spectacular. We only saw one tiger, and the whole lion enclosure was not accessible, as well as the surrounding area. This meant a bit of a round trip on the tiger trail to the viewing tunnel. Now is a good time to remind you why – Cal gave me a little lecture to the same effect. Zoos like this are not just about providing animals for our entertainment. They are about breeding, conservation of species, and trying to provide as natural a habitat as possible for the animals. This may mean that, from time to time, certain animals may not be on view, as they are hiding out in their habitat, as nature intended. Or it may mean that they are inaccessible completely, as in the case of the lions who were being given some peace and privacy during their breeding season. So please don’t be too disappointed. There is plenty more to see…
Toby was keen to see the koalas. These gorgeous little sleepy-heads are truly adorable! We also got to walk among the wallaby which was a real treat. His other favourites were the Sun Bears, who didn’t fail to put on a show for us either. Right next to these was a favourite of mine, the casawary. I just love the prehistoric look of them, with that killer claw! Very Jurassic Park!
Between the animal exhibits are play areas, for our own little animals to run off some of their excitement. Such a great idea! There are also places to buy refreshments, and also lots of picnic spots. The one thing I would say is that the food isn’t that cheap (we paid £26 for 2x hotdog & chips, 2x chips, and 3 drinks), so there were plenty of people eating their own food at the picnic tables. It’s good to have the choice.
So, on to the insects!
The Creepy Crawlies exhibition was in the Budongo lecture theatre, a fabulous modern building with great education facilities. The light was quite dim, so I apologise for the photos, but the biomes were fascinating, and the staff were so helpful and knowledgeable. There was a fantastic installation where the kids could climb under the table and pop their heads up inside the tank in glass domes. It’s quite difficult to show in a picture, but fabulous in real life!
We also got to hold the Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches, even if I had to go first before the boys followed! We had a very close look at the giant stick insects too – they look more fierce than they are! I’d really recommend bringing your kids here. They can get close to some fascinating creatures, and learn so much about them too. The exhibit runs until 29th October.
When our time came for the panda viewing, Cal was ecstatic to find that one of them (the male), was out and about, chilling out and chewing his bamboo in style! The boys weren’t so impressed, even after we explained how rare these animals were, and how people come to Edinburgh Zoo from all over the country and even further afield, to see them. Apparently they were ‘boring’!
They were more keen to see the penguins, these funny, entertaining little guys who made us all laugh. The penguin area is vast! (Edinburgh Zoo has Europe’s largest outdoor penguin pool, at 65 metres long). It’s great to watch them diving and swimming around. We didn’t realise until we walked around, that there is an area to watch them actually swimming underwater. The penguins really put on a show, coming over and showing off! We were also there in time for the famous penguin parade, where some of the penguins take a walk with the keepers around the path and back to their enclosure.
There were so many other animals, too numerous to mention…
As my good lady wife is great at recording the events, I’ll share a few more of her photos and a video with you.
We would thoroughly recommend a visit to Edinburgh Zoo. It is fabulous for families, and people of all ages, and there is so much to gain. It is both fun and educational, and the staff are fantastically knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the animals they care for.
We would go back again and again, and I’m sure we would see and learn something new each time. We are really looking forward to the Giant Lanterns of China, an evening exhibition running from 1st December until 25th February. It’s a display of over 450 giant lanterns, producing 34 huge animal-themed installations. It sounds fabulous!
Disclosure: We were given entry tickets to Edinburgh Zoo in return for this review. As always, all opinions are entirely honest and our own.
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