We were invited to a preview screening of the documentary Meerkats 3D (review coming soon) in Maplin Pavilion at London Zoo and afterwards, we got to check out live meerkats and other zoo creatures.
Right opposite the pavilion, wallabies bounded around. ‘Look, there’s a rabbit!’ cried my observant 2-year-old.
The zoo is beautifully designed over a vast expanse and makes a lovely day out with an active toddler. Jed was nothing but squeals of excitement as we spotted reptiles and pygmy hippos and spider monkeys swinging.
Sadly the lions were nowhere to be found (snoozing perhaps?) but we got up close and personal with Sumatran tigers. It’s funny how much they act like house cats, preening and stretching… cats that could bite your head off if the glass broke!
We shared a brief, extremely smelly moment with bucktoothed llama (boy do they reek), cuddly alpaca and donkeys giving it some proper heehaw.
London Zoo is lovely to visit even in dodgy weather as, during sudden downpours, we easily found shelter under canopies of trees.
In Animal Adventure, the kids’ zoo, there are fountains to splash through as well as a wooden playhouse and a tipi where story-telling happens at midday. It’s in this area that we finally saw the teeny meerkats and crawled through a tunnel to get a closer look.
The zoo’s well-equipped with family-friendly facilities, baby-changing and the toilets in the Animal Adventure area were clean and fresh-smelling.
We had a quick snack at the cafe here, one of many food stops at the zoo, and I picked up a couple of 75p animal masks for the boys. This turned out to be a smart move as Jed was too busy with his new toy to notice all the goodies in the main gift shop.
The main shop is placed strategically (some might say cheekily) so you have to go through it to exit – a proper money trap.
I’ve always been somewhat ambivalent about animals in captivity. But it was a real treat exploring the wonders of nature with my little one and learning about London Zoo’s work in conservation and helping endangered species like gorillas.
Judging by the action we caught in Gorilla Kingdom, it won’t be long before they hear the pitter patter of tiny feet and paws.
London Zoo is open daily except Christmas day, from 10am-5.30pm/10am-4pm (Oct 30 to Spring 2012). Tickets start from Adult £16.60/Child £13.20, under 3s are free. Best bet is an annual membership allowing unlimited visits yearly to both London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo at a heavily discounted fee.
Visit www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo/ for full opening times and prices.