The last time I visited ZSL London Zoo, I was a little girl. I don’t remember a huge amount, but I do remember being in awe of the gorillas. I also remember it was a giant zoo, bigger than my imagination could’ve even dreamt up, with so many different animals. I genuinely remember it being the best zoo I’d ever visited – so when I was invited to visit with my little ones this week, I jumped at the chance.
ZSL London Zoo is located in Regents Park, with the nearest tube being Camden Town. You can drive, jump on a bus, or jump on a water taxi to reach it, so it’s very accessible. We got the underground to Camden Town and then walked, which took about 15-20 minutes with little legs. It’s a really pretty walk, alongside Regent’s Canal with its resident houseboats and over bridges. We had pre-bought tickets, so joined that queue (much shorter, so I’d recommending buying online before you go – you save 10% by doing this too) and then strolled straight into the zoo.
Our favourite animals
The reason we were there was obviously the animals – and I was nearly bursting with excitement to see the childrens’ faces when they spotted them. Wilfred’s favourite – without a doubt – was the Tiger Territory. He loves cats, so it was always going to be the way – but when he spotted a tiger resting above our heads, he couldn’t take his eyes off it. Just at the right moment, it woke up and turned to look directly at him and I think his day was made already.
Stanley’s favourite was the Land of the Lions. This amazing part of the zoo has been styled to look like a colourful Indian village called Sasan Gir, complete with houses, street food stalls, lion transportation vehicles, and lots more. It’s really clever how they’ve done this, because you really do feel like you’ve stepped out of London and into India – and the Asiatic Lions are the icing on the cake.
Mabel’s favourite was the penguins. She was stunned into silence as she watched them dive into the water and pluck fish from the bottom of their pool. The glass wall makes this a really magical experience – and we stayed watching them for a good 20 minutes, as they performed somersaults in the water in front of our noses.
My favourite was the giraffes – because we just had the most magical moment. We walked into their indoor enclosure (the only family inside) only to discover they were all outside. But just as we were about to walk out again, a giraffe walked indoors and right up to the edge of the enclosure where we stood. He or she then proceeded to eat and drink a few feet from us, so close we could see the individual hairs and hear its breathing. I’ve been up close and personal to giraffes twice in my life before, feeding them in both Kenya and Abu Dhabi, but I have never been stunned like this. I think it was the fact we were stood at the same level, suddenly aware of its height and beauty.
My husband’s favourite was the Gorlla Kingdom – because how could you not be stunned and amazed by these incredible creatures? A gorilla was sat right by the glass of the enclosure when we walked past – and seeing its human-like expressions and sheer size was really special.
But they weren’t the only animals we fell in love with. The African Hunting Dogs were a big hit with the children, the snakes had us all mesmerised, we spent a long time watching the komodo dragons, and we adored the plump pygmy hippos. There were so many more too – bugs, birds, mammals, and fish.
The Conservation side of the zoo
But as much as we loved the animals, the zoo isn’t just about entertainment. ZSL London Zoo is run by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), a charity dedicated to conserving wild animals and where they live. Ten per cent of what ZSL invests in displaying gorillas and tigers, for example, goes to protect the same animals in the wild. In fact, the zoo entry fees underpin its conservation projects in 50 countries – and as a big animal lover, this is really important to me.
Our day was brilliant. We genuinely did enjoy every second. I was scared it was going to be really busy during the summer holidays – and despite people being there, the zoo has enough space and enough exhibits to make it feel quite calm and quiet even at the busiest times. We only had to wait 30 seconds or so at the busiest parts of the zoo for someone to step aside so we could have a look too. We ate our (home-made) picnic lunch in a really calm and quiet part of the zoo, where there were several benches free around us. Nothing like the busy atmosphere I was imagining.It was just a lovely day and I can highly recommend visiting with your children. We will definitely be back!
Visit www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo for more information
Written in collaboration with ZSL London Zoo