So this summer turned out to be a little different than we had expected! Having got married in December my wife and I had planned to enjoy a once in a life time safari trip to Africa to view the wildlife. Well we all know what happened next, as you can guess we have not jetted off to the African savanna!
We decided that we might not be able to visit the wildlife in perhaps the way we wished but we could still have a fantastic time right here in the UK, visiting some world leading zoos and wildlife parks on our door step. Not to mention supporting some of these institutions with the vitally needed funds they have all been sorely missing. We are lucky to live fairly close to both ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and Cotswold Wildlife Park so these were naturally top of the list. Our romantic adventure to see the renowned African “BIG 5” started at Whipsnade zoo – but not so romantically it included my parents, sister and niece, nephew! Having said that after the last few months of lockdown life it felt like such a privilege to be able to spend the day out all together.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
A huge number of measures had been put in place to make the experience safe. The day is split into 2 batches of visitors with 10am & 2pm slots bookable helping to keep numbers at a reasonable level. Right from the entry queue where 2m markers had been taped down we were ready for the ‘new normal‘. Friendly staff (complete with clear face visors) were on hand greeting everyone in the line and answer any questions. At the ticket booth we were informed of the new protocols in place around the park and my tickets were scanned from my phone, all completed contactless. The zoo is one of the largest in Europe with 600 acres of beautiful scenery, also meaning huge amounts of space for people to walk around uninhibited by the worries of social distancing. Keepers were on hand at several of the bottle neck locations to ensure that everyone got to see the animals but in a safe and orderly manner.
Of course the great British summer was ensuring we didn’t get to comfortable but with such a large site there was always somewhere to shelter that was not to crowded. The shop was open and had a good number of people browsing and hopefully buying gifts and mementos of their trip, an all-important revenue stream for ZSL. All aided with hand sanitiser upon entry and exit. The kids had the most fantastic time with the highlights being a close encounter with a Wallaby and a Cheetah who appeared to think toddlers might be on the menu.
Cotswold Wildlife Park
This time we managed to get away with just the two of us – COVID Honeymoon Part II. Much like Whipsnade you have to book tickets online before your visit, in this case its 24hrs before hand to ensure reduced capacity is meet. The first thing you notice is the parking here, they ask you to park two car spaces away from one another. You could see this was a good measure as families with kids and pushchairs etc all need that bit extra room in these socialy distant times. The site is set with the old manor house in the centre and surrounded with the animal enclosures.
Kiosks are dotted around serving take away drinks and snacks to keep customers going. Great to see this revenue stream was still flowing with people happy to queue up and wait their turn. I was most impressed to see that the disposable cup (I forgot my Bamboo travel mug) my tea was served in was Vegware compostable cup. These are made using a paper/card outer and a plant based PLA film inside NO PLASTIC, so a total win.
We brought our own picnic and sat down for lunch on the grass with the Rhinos just a few feet away. Made particularly entertaining by young Stella the 11 month old, who could not stop trotting and skipping around the paddock. Its not Africa we said but amazing to see none the less. I would recommend the trip just to see Stella.
We visited the gift shop before we left which had been organised in a safe manner. A queue was formed outside and then donning our facemask we were ushered in. It appears people were more than happy wait in line for 5-10 minutes to get in. This is strong sign to see that the appetite is still there of consumers to spend even despite the restrictions.
So great job to all at Whipsnade and Cotswold Wildlife Park that have worked hard to make these visitor sites places we can all enjoy once more. It also goes with outsaying we had a wonderful ‘COVID Honeymoon’.
We still have ZSL London zoo, Woborn Safrai Park & Longleat to visit, do you have any other recommendations??
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