Liz and hubby, Mike, blog about a winter trip to Edinburgh Zoo.
Outdoors and Out of Season – Edinburgh Zoo in the winter?
Winter. Two kids under five and a serious case of cabin fever. Someone says “how about the zoo?” and you think, “don’t be daft, it’s not even open”.
So, in January 2013 we arrive at Edinburgh Zoo. After visiting in the summer we knew where it was: Corstorphine Rd and up the wiggly road to the car park (£4).
We’ve planned our route but can’t hope for everything because animals is animals and there are too many for one day. At this time of year we guess most will be sensible and be asleep (if I was allowed to hibernate…) so the kids are primed not to see anything at all.
On entering, a nice gent accepts our tickets (£15.50 (adult) and £11 (age 3-15) – concession, member, and family rates are available). (Remember to check for Money-off vouchers before you go). He says that it’s free roam to see the pandas (in the summer we booked a viewing slot, stood in a big queue, then squashed in to see them) and apparently the hunting dogs are closed (maybe they ate ranger for tea). The man gives us the quickest route to the pandas, which should pass the sea-lion, but he’s not there… much like your average city centre a crane is being brought in as part of redevelopment (except this one’s a bird).
We pass the Jungle Food Court which was excellent in the summer, not because of its over-priced food, but because of the soft-play. £2 allows parents to rest their feet for 30mins whilst their own wild animals run riot (which you’ve prevented them from doing for fear of them being eaten by a zebra). It looks suspiciously closed.
Next we pass the new ‘Penguins Rock’. In the summer they said it’d open late December/early January but we found no information on the rather cumbersome website. We phoned up and a computer answered. When we eventually spoke to someone “they hadn’t been supplied with the information”. So no Penguin Rock. Also no information on display, just the sound of distant hammering (I work in construction – I recognise the ‘It’s snowing’ sounds). Ok, they need to revamp and there are still two small colonies but they are the zoo’s logo. Maybe we missed the information board, I hope so.
We digress. The pandas are both sitting up and having brunch. The zoo-keeper is excellent; doing a bit of talk, and chatting to the folk (who wish they had panda-fur jackets to keep warm). She answered ‘the boy’s’ question with a clear knowledge (apparently it’s water, the boy was hoping for hot chocolate). She even helped a man work his new camera, which we thought was really nice.
A girl on a zoo-keeper experience was feeding the meerkats (full day costs £250 (pardon?!), 30mins with the meerkats is £35 (better…)). You’d have thought they’d keep well away from snow (probably working in insurance), but it’s always someone’s turn to keep watch. A zoo-keeper was looking after her and teaching her all sorts of things. ‘The boy’ asked one of his two animal related questions and the answer was ‘bugs and worms’ which he was pleased about.
We won’t talk about every animal, but the sun-bears were play-fighting like two kids on an old sofa and at the fun-loving Gentoo Penguins the boy announced “it’s a lovely day for penguins” to a passing zoo-keeper.
Cold and thirsty, we enter the Penguin Coffee Shop, a decent place to dry out although tricky with a buggy. There’s a small selection of foodstuff with unenthusiastic ‘baristas’.
The Budongo Trail (chimpanzees) is a building with great viewing and outdoor area, cafe, interactive exhibits and a large screen info-mertial. A free tour is underway and we tag along (by which I mean I chase a child past the guide). The guide’s really good; I learnt something about bananas that really shocked me!
Lunch. The Jungle Court is confirmed as shut despite the soft-play probably being the most profitable area of the zoo today. The other option is the ‘design awarded’ Grasslands Restaurant (a cafeteria with a picture of a couple of zebras on the end wall and a few lines of ants/butterflies). We ordered hot dog, burger, and turkey schnitzel. 6/10 and not really worth the £28.
The zoo is on a steep hill so later we catch the ‘Hilltop Safari’ (a converted trailer pulled by a land-rover) to the top.
Some of the paths are very steep and could be difficult for a wheelchair user. There was no commentary so we shivered in silence all the way up and decided to ski back down (service not available or recommended). There’s a great view from the top and there’s normally a van that sells coffee.
Time for home (exit via the shop; apron for £8.50, mug for ~£17. Didn’t stop).
It is a conservation zoo and therefore all animals need conserving (Visayan Warty Pig Jam anyone?). It funds projects and research across the world through donations and presumably does a great job. The upkeep of the zoo is based entirely on footfall through the gate, restaurants, and shop. This is probably why some bits are tired and prices are high. Our £82.90 for 6hrs was just worth it, despite the grumbles we had a great day.
As a winter attraction we expected shorter opening hours, less attractions, and sleepy animals although we actually saw more than expected. The seasonal nature of the zoo could be better addressed by reduced prices, a decent sit down restaurant, and some winter entertainment.
This post is an entry into a competition with Tots100. A family ticket to Edinburgh Zoo was received FOC. As always our opinions are completely our own and totally honest.