I have spent months and months boring my (long-suffering) friends and family about how “I just want to be able to take E to the zoo!”
Quite why it was the zoo I was so obsessed with I have no idea but through the many months of not knowing what was wrong with me, and then coming to terms with living with M.E., I dreamt of a fun day out with my hubby and daughter.
Most of my friends have memberships to the zoo and talk about going regularly. I wanted to be able to do the same!
The thing stopping us from going was purely my mobility (and unrelenting fatigue of M.E. obviously). The zoo is a big place. My limit of walking would take me to the entrance.
Last week I got around to hiring my electric wheelchair via mobilityhire.com and finally my dream of taking E to the zoo was a reality!
First things first…
How much does it cost?
Not going to lie, the entry costs are not cheap. But when you think of what you get for the money, it’s worth every penny.
If you’re disabled like me, make sure you get a registered disabled card from your local council. It isn’t technically necessary as there isn’t a national register for disabled people in the UK but this card allows you to provide proof of disability for concessions at entry.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo provide concessionary tickets for disabled people (and students and seniors) and your carer can go for free. Along with the fact that under-3s are free, we only had to pay the one disabled adult entry cost for all 3 of us! Result!
Click here to find the entry costs to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. Bear in mind the entry costs will vary throughout the year so I can’t publish standard costs.
There is free parking available at ZSL Whipsnade, which is on the opposite side of the road to the zoo entrance. There is a subway with ramp access to take you from car park to entrance without having to cross a road. Ideal when you have a toddler keen on practising their new-found skill of running!
You can drive into the zoo if you so wish and park closer to each area, but this costs extra. Car entry for non-members is £25, and for members is £12.50.
For disabled visitors, you can get one free entry for a carer OR a free car entry per paying disabled visitor. We decided to go with the free entry for my carer (hubby) rather than the car entry but may do the opposite next time.
The zoo is enormous. Absolutely enormous. We were only there for 2 hours (that is all I can manage with my energy levels) and in that time, we only got around about a third of the zoo.
We definitely plan on going again soon and will visit different sections of the zoo each time. I’m very glad I had the electric wheelchair as it is a very large place to get around. I didn’t see wheelchairs available for hire when we arrived, but I wasn’t particularly looking out for them. If you have reduced mobility yourself, I suggest you hire a manual wheelchair or use your powerchair there.
We made the mistake of not bringing the pram for E. We thought she would be happy sitting on my lap on the electric wheelchair if and when she got tired. She wasn’t happy with this. My poor hubby had to carry her for long periods instead.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo does have trikes available for hire if you either forget your pram or don’t bring it. These are available for £5 per hire.
There is the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo bus available too which drives around dropping people off at the different animal areas. For the timetable visit here.
The amount of animals on view at ZSL Whipsnade is incredible. It is wonderful how large the land is and how well the staff have created environments suitable for the different animals.
I had forgotten that ZSL is actually a charity that works around the world helping to conserve wild animals and their habitats. Amazing eh?
We got to see giraffes, white rhinos, meerkats, penguins and otters in the Africa and Europe sections. The joy on E’s face seeing these animals was so wonderful, it melted my heart.
Next time we’ll plan on visiting the Base Camp and Asia sections which have tigers, camels and elephants. Wonderful.
To see the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo map click here.
The places I wish we’d visited were the Hullabazoo Adventure Play, Indoor Play and Farm. So many different people have said how wonderful the soft play is at the zoo but we’d simply run out of energy by the time we got anywhere near it.
According to the website, Hullabazoo Indoor Play is:
“designed around different habitats enabling your children to have fun and mimic their favourite animals. You’ll be able to watch your little ones crawl through the garden, climb like an insect or journey through the Antarctic to become a penguin sliding down the ice.”zsl.org
Sounds great fun doesn’t it!
There is an incredible range of events daily, from watching the feeding of certain animals, to becoming a keeper for the day. We didn’t get a chance to do any of these on this trip as we hadn’t managed to get in on time to get over to the correct sections but if you give yourself plenty of time, you’ll be able to!
Check out the “what’s on” section of their website to find out what to look out for when you arrive.
If you don’t get a chance to do this before you arrive, there is an information board next to the entrance which tells you what’s available on that day.
The food on offer
There are several food establishments available within the zoo.
We went to the River Cottage Kitchen and Deli as that was on the route we chose.
To be perfectly honest, we weren’t actually impressed. As a wheelchair user it was not fully accessible. The only section I could access with my wheelchair was the deli part, which only had a limited selection of sandwiches and crisps. The food on offer would not be appropriate for gluten-free or vegan diets.
The main restaurant section is accessed via 2 steps. I am an ambulatory wheelchair user which means I can walk a little bit but I didn’t have the energy for this, so simply could not access the restaurant. Obviously therefore a non-ambulatory wheelchair user wouldn’t be able to access it either.
There are plenty of other cafes and restaurants available within the zoo. Next time we visit we’ll go to the Base Camp Restaurant and I’ll report back. I’ll have a look at the cafes too and report back on those too.
We noticed the majority of green space was taken up with people and their picnics. To be honest I would recommend bringing a picnic if you have a few of you as the River Cottage was not cheap.
In conclusion, it was a really good trip out. The staff were incredibly friendly and the zoo itself was fully wheelchair accessible. We liked the options available for transport around the zoo including the trikes, bus and the train available in the Asia section.
The only disappointment was the River Cottage which in my opinion was overpriced for what it had on offer, and the fact that the restaurant part was not wheelchair accessible.
I would very much recommend ZSL Whipsnade Zoo as a day out for the family. No matter what age of the children (or adults!) there is something there for everyone.
Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored. I am a member of the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo affiliate programme which means if you choose to buy entry tickets using the links from this post I will receive commission payment at no extra cost to you.
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