As you know, we have been venturing out much more recently. I have this horrible feeling that we may be heading towards another lockdown so I want to get my tribe out as much as we can but as safely as we can. Basically trying to live my life in the moment and enjoy every second.
The next adventure that we ticked off during the summer holidays was a trip to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo which is another place that as a family we have never been to. My mum reckons I went when I was younger but I honestly cannot remember.
Whipsnade Zoo is located in Bedfordshire, North West of the M25 and about an hour and a half away from our home. It was a bit of an early start for us but a very easy journey. You never know when it comes to the motorway.
I will start off in saying that I wish I had done a little more research into our day out than I had. I knew you could bring the car in but at an extra cost and as our entrance was gifted, I just assumed we’d be parking in the free car park and visiting the zoo on foot. So that’s exactly what we did.
We arrived about fifteen minutes early, parked in the free car park and headed to the entrance. Whipsnade have created a safe underpass to get from the car park to the entrance. This has been made to be a one-way system to help with social distancing.
The social distancing and new safety signs are animal-themed. I think this is a fun touch to help remind guests. The social distance markers on the ground were also paw prints, these can be found in high traffic areas of the zoo too and outside the toilets/food outlets.
There was a bit of a queue but once opening time passed, the queue moved quickly. I was able to use the toilets during our wait time and found them to be clean and hand sanitisers provided outside too.
Although there were desks at the entrance to allow for a more staggered arrival, it did feel quite confined as you all walked through the entrance building and out into the zoo.
I grabbed a paper map and we decided to head for the Europe area of Whipsnade. The zoo is divided into different continent; Europe, Africa, Asia and then there’s Base Camp and Hullabazoo.
I felt mixed first impressions about Whipsnade. I hadn’t quite realised that cars could drive around, it made me feel a little on edge having to cross the road and not being able to let the girls walk around freely. However, later in the day when we experienced the zoo by car I could see how great it was, I will explain that bit later.
Europe at Whipsnade Zoo is home to Lynx, Wild Boars, Brown Bears, Wolverines, Reindeer and Penguins.
As we turned the corner to see the Brown Bears, Eva let out cries of joy. She was so excited to see real bears in front of her and it was incredible to see them interacting with their toys.
As we headed for the Penguins, a cute little wolverine came out of hiding and ran across his enclosure. I’ve also never seen one of those before so that was rather lucky.
The Penguin enclosure had a short queue outside. The numbers allowed inside has been restricted and is a one-way system is in place too. As this was our first ever visit, I can’t comment on how this area would usually run but felt very safe knowing safety measures were there to keep us distanced.
There was a hand sanitiser station here too, we are getting into the habit of sanitising our hands whenever we see one at the moment to make sure we are on top of hygiene as children love to touch random things all of the time!
The penguins seemed very inquisitive. I loved how there were little life-sized penguin signs to compare your height to the different penguin species. Elsa loved running up to each one and seeing if she was taller or smaller. It’s a wonderful touch to keep the children engaged.
After watching the penguins waddle and swim, we took a rather windy walk towards the Africa area.
One of my favourite animals is the Rhino but sadly their inside enclosure was shut for safety reasons and we couldn’t get an up-close encounter with them. There were a few out in the paddock so we decided to find a bench and have a mid-morning lunch break. My girls honestly never stop asking for food.
Elsa had started to complain a little about walking, we’ve been trying our absolute best to not take a pushchair with us anymore. At Whipsnade, if you plan to experience it completely by foot then be prepared for a lot of walking. On a usual day pre-virus, then they have a free bus that can take you around the zoo with bus stops. Sadly, this is not in operation at the moment.
It was lovely to see the giraffes roaming around their paddock and inquisitive of their visitors.
As we wandered towards the Lion enclosure, I started to get a migraine. My migraines are a bit intense and start with an aura which is my warning sign. It’s sort of like looking at the sun and getting those spots floating around that obscure my vision.
I instantly knew this was going to ruin my day and always try my best to continue as much as I can. I have specially prescribed medication to help with the symptoms during a migraine so I took this straight away.
The Lion enclosure has a beautiful glass area to view them in, but because the Lion’s were happily sunbathing right near this, there was a large queue to see them. Whipsnade Zoo staff had organised a one-way system and were there to monitor the viewing. This was so reassuring.
Each area of Whipsnade Zoo has it’s own set of toilet facilities and there are some food outlets dotted about too. They are operating a limited takeaway service at the moment.
We used the toilet facilities at the Africa Outpost, they are unisex and have a paw-printed queue area. Each time we used these toilets throughout the day, there was a small queue but it was bareable. I found the toilets to be clean and well replenished both times we used them.
Our next stop was close to the Africa Outpost and it was to visit the Hippos. I always find it hard to spot Hippos in a zoo environment and was pleasantly surprised to find two of them wallowing in the water. I was able to film them popping up for air too.
After a quick walk through the one-way Cheetah enclosure, we headed down into the Base Camp area. One thing that I found wonderful about Whipsnade was the size of the animal enclosures, they had so much space to live freely and happily.
We spotted flamingos and pelicans on our walk as we passed swiftly through Base Camp and into Asia. To see the Tigers, my husband’s favourite animal.
By this point in my migraine, I had started to feel very sick. We decided to stop off in a bus stop near the Base Camp restaurant to eat the rest of our packed lunch picnic.
It’s hard for me to explain just how rough my migraines make me feel, I go from feeling absolutely fine to barely being able to move from nausea and head pain. It’s horrendous by itself but I also hate the way it makes my daughter’s feel too. They get so worried.
After they had finished eating, my husband decided to take them into Asia and see the Elephants, Sloth Bears and Rhinos. I stayed resting in the bus stop by myself trying to pretend everything was ok.
I think my little tribe was gone for about an hour. I hadn’t felt any better and the girls had started to get a bit irritable from the walking, so we decided it might be best to make our way out of the zoo and head home so I could recover properly.
As we headed out, we came across the Hullabazoo Farm. I gave my camera to Freya and my phone to Eva so they could capture photos and take over my filming for a bit. They did an excellent job if you ask me.
The Hullabazoo Farm is resident to the typical farm yard friends like free roaming chickens, pigs, goats and even a stunning peacock. I thankfully began to feel a little better at this point too.
The Hullabazoo area is also home to the indoor and outdoor play areas. We’d spent the entire day telling the girls they would be able to play in the play area, without realising that it was actually closed.
I’m not entirely sure why it has remained shut as we’ve been to lots of different attractions that are either based on outdoor play or has some sort of play equipment that has opened up. The girls were so disappointed.
The play area looks great fun for all ages and I really hope we can return when they open in the future.
Whipsnade have an Aquarium and Butterfly House that we were all hoping to visit but the queue was very long. So we decided to sadly skip it. I also noticed Sealions on some of the advertising banners but we could not find them anywhere and they don’t appear to be on the map either.
The gift shop at the entrance to the zoo also had a large queue so we avoided that, much to our bank balance’s delight!
My husband was sad that we hadn’t got to experience the zoo by car and suggested we head back in to see if we could come by car. As we had gifted entrance, the staff at the car entrance allowed us straight in. I felt quite guilty that my girls had found the walking tiring when actually we could have enjoyed the zoo by car.
The ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is not a safari park. Eva explained what a safari park is very cleverly in my video. A safari park is where animals roam freely around your as you drive through their enclosures.mWhipsnade has nearly all of their animals contained and you view from the outside of the enclosure. However, there is a small Car Safari area in Asia where only cars can enter so we hadn’t been able to see the animals in that section by foot.
To enter with your car it costs £25 on top of the entrance fees. I do think this is quite pricey considering the entrance cost. The road through the zoo is one-way for safety. You are able to go around the zoo as many times as you like.
There are lots of places to pull over to park and see the animals. It meant you could get out out at various points around the zoo. As I had begun to feel a bit better, although nowhere near back to normal, we were able to experience the zoo from the comforts of the car.
The girls found this half of our day so joyful. They were pointing and getting excited about the animals in a different way. I hopped in and out with Freya and Eva to see the Elephants that I’d missed earlier in the day, and we were able to explore through the Asia Car Safari.
I’m glad that we got the opportunity to experience the zoo by foot and by car. They were both very different experiences and I can see the positives of doing it in both of the ways.
Walking enables you to have lots of bonding family time with chats, whereas driving helps conserve energy and make it a fast-paced adventure.
I filmed our day out so that you can come along with me. It features Eva taking over the vlog for a little bit too.
You must pre-book your tickets at the moment to visit ZSL Whipsnade. It was a brilliant day out for all ages but with the play equipment not yet open, the day out would definitely be a more animal-focused one.