On Saturday, with the shine shining, we set off for a family day out at Chester Zoo courtesy of Superbreak. Superbreak offer pre-bookable fast track ticket and hotel packages so you can enjoy a brilliant day out at one of the UK's top attractions knowing you have a comfy hotel room waiting for you. Perfect for a sunny weekend or for the summer holidays!
Chester Zoo is easily accessible from Jct 14 of the M56 or Jct 12 of the M53, and is set in 110 acres of landscaped grounds. It is home to a range of over 400 rare, endangered and exotic species of animals, which are housed in large enclosures. There are some great exhibits including the Realm of the Red Ape where you can see the family of Orang-Utans at play. There is also a monorail and waterbus for anyone wanting a more leisurely way to get around and see the 11,000+ animals.
With our Superbreak ticket we were able to jump the queues at the ticket kiosks and head straight into the zoo. Armed with our map we were ready for our zoo adventure.
As soon as you arrive through the gates, you can see just how well maintained, spacious and modern the zoo is. There are lots of open spaces, beautifully landscaped areas and well kept animal enclosures. The paths are well signposted so it is easy to find the exhibits you want to see. Animal welfare is of utmost importance, and the world class enclosures provide the best environment for the animals to live in, whilst providing some up close encounters for us to enjoy.
There are Zoo Rangers on hand around the zoo giving talks, plus you can watch some of the animals being fed. A trip to the zoo isn't just about entertainment, it's also about education. Freddy learned lots about animals and their environments, what they eat and how they live.
We headed straight to the Fruit Bat Forest as Freddy was quite keen on seeing the free flying bats. Being a big fan of superheros, he wanted to feel like Batman in his Bat Cave. It is very dark in the exhibit and the sensation of bats flying past your head is quite a thrill! Freddy was very brave and spotted some of the huge Fruit Bats hanging upside down from their perches. He did complain that they were a bit smelly though!
The Realm of the Red Ape was wonderful. The brilliant exhibit has lots of interactive displays and information about the Indonesian forest and its inhabitants. The huge enclosures provide lots of space and lots for the apes to do. We spent ages watching a mother and her young baby play with a sackcloth blanket, hiding themselves and then peeping out. It made Freddy giggle to watch their antics. There were also snakes in the exhibit in glass fronted enclosures. Freddy enjoyed spotting them among the plants and branches. They were definitely his favourite of all the creatures he saw!
Around the grounds are some statues - perfect for photo ops! The life size models gave us an idea of the size of the Komodo Dragon and a newborn elephant calf. There is a lot of attention to detail around the zoo with models, pictures and information boards to keep the most curious of young minds occupied. There was a zoo ranger who was talking to the kids and comparing the skulls of a human with those of some apes. It is so interesting to see the similarities between us and other animals. There is also a craft stand where children could make animal pictures using their handprints. There is an exhibition called Hot Pink Flamingoes - Make Change Not Carbon, which includes a trail around the zoo. It raises awareness of climate change. Plus you can learn about UK gardens, bees and birds with Bloom - celebration of UK wildlife.
On such a sunny day we were grateful for so many places to just sit and relax in the sunshine. The grass is all so beautifully kept, meaning there is lots of room for the kids to run around or to have a picnic. You can even hire deckchairs!
Freddy absolutely loved the play areas. The Fun Ark is a great place for little ones to let off steam and play in the big themed area. Wherever Freddy goes, it is the playgrounds and play equipment that he enjoys the most, and he was most impressed!
For lunch we headed to June's Pavillion where we were pleased to find veggie burgers, chips and salad on the menu. A Family Meal Deal costs £25 and you get 2 adults meals, 2 kids meals plus drinks. It's not bad value at all and the portion sizes were big. You get plenty of fresh salad to add to your burger, which was nice.
The self-service restaurant is very spacious, very clean and has several different counters offering different types of food to suit most tastes. There are several other outlets and kiosks around the zoo and they even offer a homemade picnic service, where picnics are made to order. You can even add some fizz to your lunch by ordering a bottle of champagne!
Freddy went for a monkey faced pizza for his lunch, priced at £4.95. He really enjoyed it and it was freshly baked to order.
After lunch we were back to the animals. The girls all love Giraffes and we spent quite a while simply watching the family of giraffes as they wandered around their enclosure, occasionally stopping for a bite to eat or to scratch their necks on the door frame. There were some young animals alongside some much larger ones, including one that stood over 4.5 m tall. There is an enormous height chart on the door to their pen so you can see how tall they are when they walk past!
By far, my favourite exhibit was the elephant enclosure. The Asian Elephant herd includes two very young infants, Bala and Hari, who are cousins. They are so adorable. The younger elephant Bala, born in January 2013, is such a little livewire! From throwing dirt to chasing a family of ducks who had landed by the water hole to falling over a log, Bala kept us totally enthralled with her antics. She was so much like a human toddler in her behaviour and her mum kept a watchful eye on her little calf!
We were surprised to discover that one of the elephants at Chester Zoo is the same age as Ian, and they can live to be 70 years old. They are such majestic creatures and it is great to know that Chester Zoo have launched the Asian Elephant Conservation Programme to help villagers and elephants live in harmony in India and reduce the conflict between them.
The Painted Dog enclosure is great. We were privileged to see a family of incredibly rare African Painted Dogs, which are almost extinct in the wild, just after they were fed. They were very active and had such beautiful colouring.
The chimpanzees were on top form on their island home, but we were a little grossed out by the antics of one of the monkeys who took a rather large interest in his own bodily functions. Someone should let him know that bodily waste is not meant to be played with or eaten!!
The zebras, buffalo and antelope were all magnificent. The unusual aardvark and the tapir were wonderful to look at up close. The big cats were sunning themselves lazily. Some animals had managed to hide themselves away from view, but on a whole we got a good look at all the animals we wanted to see.
It really was a great day out and we all had a fantastic time together enjoying what Chester Zoo had to offer. It is such a beautifully kept zoo with so much to see and do. We didn't get to do everything on offer and somehow missed the Spirit of the Jaguar exhibit completely. That'll be first on our to-do list next time we visit, because we will definitely go again!