Our visit to Colchester Zoo in Essex was quite possibly my favourite day out of our summer holiday. It was a proper day out with Tin Box Tot’s grandparents and older cousins, which made it extra exciting.
A bit about the zoo
Colcheter Zoo is a privately run attraction with more than 270 species of mammals, reptiles, fish and birds, all of which you can observe in beautifully kept surroundings. Each enclosure recreates the animals’ natural environment, so you are warned that you may find it difficult to see some. However, I think the majority of visitors would prefer to see happy animals at a distance than distressed ones up close.
When you first walk into the zoo you’d be mistaken for thinking it wasn’t very big. The hedges and cafes at the entrance make it feel quite enclosed. But as you begin to explore the different footpaths the rest of the 60 acre park reveals itself.
One of the first things we came across was the Kids’ Safari adventure play area just inside the entrance. Tin Box Tot made a beeline for the highest point on the play equipment with Mr Tin Box in hot pursuit. She’s a little dare devil and often makes my legs go wobbly with her fearlessness about heights. We only managed to tear her away to look at some animals because her cousins were coming too.
You are given a handy map of the zoo with your tickets and we decided to take an anti-clock wise route starting with the capuchin monkeys, exotic reptiles and fish, and saki monkeys.
Next were the playful sea lions, whose aquarium you walk through on the way to the orangutans. At the other end of the 24m underwater tunnel you where you are hit by a wall of humidity recreating their the apes’ jungle habitat.
After the apes our circular route took us past the penguins, sun bears, spider monkeys and meerkats. Here we had a pit stop.
Feeding time at the zoo
We took our own picnic but there are plenty of places to stop for food and drink as you wander around. This was handy as every three hours I needed somewhere to stop and feed Tin Box Baby. I could have also used one of the five private feeding rooms situated alongside toilet facilities around the site – they looked a bit like school changing rooms but at least you weren’t sitting next to a loo when you fed.
There are more than 50 animal encounters and displays during the day. After eating lunch we stumbled across the American Adventure show in the Wild Display arena. We got up close with skunks, a peregrine falcon, barn owl and parakeet while hearing about their history.
Next was my highlight of the day: meeting two African elephants.
Tin Box Tot was a little uncertain when we got up close up, but having one gently take a piece of carrot from my hand with its trunk was magical.
We finished our day overlooking the zebra, rhinos and giraffes in the Kingdom of the Wild before walking back up past the wolves and hunting dogs to the zoo entrance.
We really should have studied the map harder at the start of our day as we managed to miss the majority of the Edge of Africa experience, which housed kangaroos, more apes and the cheetahs. We also missed the land train that takes you past the flamingos, baboons and lemurs.
However, we still spent a whole day looking around. I reckon we could have easily filled two days and would love to go back next time we are in the area.
Peak season admission costs £21.99 for adults, and £14.99 for three to 14-year-olds. Off-peak prices (£1 off for adults and 50p off for kids) start on September 3. There’s a good discount if you buy your tickets online before your visit.
Disclaimer: we paid for our own entry to the zoo.