At the beginning of June, I was treated to a day out somewhere I had been dreaming about for some time. It was one big surprise as I had not only been blindfolded throughout the entire duration of the journey, but my hopes of visiting had somewhat dwindled. Yes, we were going to the land of animals – Chester Zoo.
The last time I visited Chester Zoo was for my sixth birthday – it was quite the eventful day as I had chicken pox and received a dolphin balloon which I absolutely cherished. This time, however, I wasn’t celebrating my sixth birthday again – oh no, it was my 25th!
As soon as I managed to take off my blindfold, I wasn’t just struck by the sunshine but a huge wave of excitement rolled through my body as we embarked on a pretty epic day of exploring the zoo.
I’m not going to lie, it was packed. But then again, it was a bank holiday and the sun was out! We began our day of exploring by stopping off for a drink – a refillable one too! I’m not sure when Chester Zoo introduced the free-refills if you buy a large cup initiative, however it was pretty cost effective for our day. The drink stayed chilled for some time and it really quenched our thirst.
We made our way over the hill and passed by the elephants, before heading into the butterfly house. The butterfly house was an extremely humid environment, filled with beautiful flowers where butterflies landed for a short rest. I loved the bright pops of colour from the flowers, mixed with the mesmerising patterns of the butterflies wings. Once we had walked through, we made our way to the jaguar enclosure.
We walked through and couldn’t see a thing. But it was only as we left the enclosure, we spotted a large crowd by the fence peering over to the jaguar grounds. We spotted him – in a little hut, simply staring at the crowds. It felt pretty surreal to see the jaguar stare at us – straight in the eyes. But that was just the beginning of our adventure!
The crowds moved in one direction – straight to the realm of the red ape. Again, it was a super humid environment and you could smell the ape’s home through the glass. There were a few apes playing and swinging around – however walking through the hut we didn’t manage to spot many inside. As we left the realm, we spotted more playing outside and it was so nice to see them enjoying a spot of sunshine.
It was at this point we revised our map and stopped for a quick bite to eat. We didn’t bring a picnic with us (something I think we’d do next time) so instead we opted for a hotdog and another refill of our drink. It was a tad pricey, but I guess that is to be expected. We chilled out on a picnic table for a short time and began planning our journey to see what else we could find.
We didn’t have to wander too far before we came to one of my favourite animals – the penguins. I had watched the Channel 4 ‘Secret Life of the Zoo’ where they documented the animals at Chester Zoo and I pretty much fell in love with the penguins from watching this. I loved how they interacted with each other – and how they cared for one another. Whilst we watched the penguins, it was easy to spot the ones which were brave enough to jump into the water and the ones who needed a little encouragement. They waddled around up on the rocks and dived into the water to keep cool. I only wish I could have joined them! Near to the penguins, we also spotted the otters. Memories of one of my favourite childhood films – Andre – came flooding back.
Up next we stopped by the Malayan sun bear enclosure – but we only managed to see them from quite the distance as they chilled out in the shade. We continued walking and found ourselves next to the lions. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The lion and lionesses were big, strong and beautiful. All three were asleep as they lay in the sunshine and they looked so peaceful. I couldn’t believe how close we were to the lions and I was just mesmerised by them. Apparently there are only 350 Asiatic lions left in the wild – a figure which certainly shocks and saddens me. The lions looked like they were rather chilled out but I couldn’t help but wonder what they think of about being watched all the time?
We took a bit of a de-tour as we continued on our journey and passed the giant anteaters, before finding ourselves at one of my favourite parts of Chester Zoo – the fruit bat forest. Now, I hadn’t quite told Bogdan how the bats simply flow freely above people – rather, he thought they would be behind a glass screen. We wandered in and it was super dark. I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. As we walked further into the home of the bats, the musty smell instantly hit us. We passed through some fringed doors, before being in the thick of it. As we stepped in a huge bat, possibly the size of a seagull quickly swept across Bogdan’s head – a welcome greeting indeed! We wandered through and could hear echoes of people shrieking as the bats flew here, there and everywhere. I on the other hand was in an absolute state of laughter as I loved Bogdan’s reactions. We made it out unscaved but with sore sides from all the laughter.
The next animal we saw wasn’t as scary – rather it was a spectacled bear enjoying a huge ice lolly! Bears have quite a sentimental and nostalgic meaning to me as my granddad used to tell stories of them when I was younger. As we watched him tucking into his lolly and licking the melted ice away, I thought about the types of stories my granddad would tell about his little treat. It was so enjoyable watching him as he used his instinct to break up the ice – and even to how he was sitting!
Near to the spectacled bear enclosure, we spotted a large field with lots of yellow flowers in bloom. We looked over and didn’t think too much about it. However it was only when we peered over the edge we spotted a family of capybaras! These giant sort-of-guinea-pigs were playing in the long, tall grass with the family’s babies tumbling about. They were such entertaining and adorable creatures to watch and even if they are indeed the world’s largest rodent species, they couldn’t help but put huge smiles on peoples faces.
By this point, we had reached a bit of a conundrum as we seemed to keep going round in circles. After revising the map a little further, we made our way to the islands. Here we experienced the tropical environments and unique wildlife expeditions of six South East Asian islands. There was over 60,000m2 of space to explore and I think we managed to cover the majority of this! We ventured through the lands of Panay, Sumba, Papua, and Bali, before gazing at Sumatran tigers and experiencing the monsoon forest. My favourite part of the island had to be seeing the tigers – they were so beautiful and walked with such grace and power. The monsoon forest was a fun element of the islands as we walked through sub-tropical temperatures and saw a whole array of animals from monkeys and crocodiles, to exotic birds and even tortoises!
After exploring the islands and suffering from a case of wanderlust, we headed back to the ‘mainland’ of the zoo. We began exploring a new part of the zoo and found our place next to the zebras. One of the things which struck me about the zebras, was how big they are! We chilled on the wall for a short time, before making our way to the rhino area. As we walked down the little lane, we suddenly spotted a huge rhino appearing from underneath the by-pass. He just wandered by and we stood there, in utter shock, as he strolled by next to us. It was an incredible moment to see the rhinos so close – but little did we know, we were about to get even closer!
Just off the rhino path, we found the meerkat hut. As we gazed into the hut, we spotted around thirty meerkats standing on their tip-toes and playing with their young. I couldn’t believe how small they were and loved watching the way they played and interacted with each other.
We continued walking round the path, hoping to see the rhinos again. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to spot any nearby, so we were close to giving up on seeing the rhinos again. That was before we walked towards a little, unassuming hut. Here we saw one rhino chilling outside before moving indoors. I can remember the sound of him moving ever so clearly. His large feet, grazed the floor and the sound reminded me of sandpaper gliding a piece of wood. He wandered inside and we followed. As we walked into the hut he was stood there, in front of us, chewing on a bail of hay. We were so close and it was such a surreal moment. He was so calm and the room was silent, apart from his feet sliding along the concrete. We didn’t take too many photos, as we just wanted to live the moment and appreciate seeing this majestic animal for real.
It was approaching closing time and so we decided to head back. On our way, we thought it would be a fun idea to take the monorail back throughout the park. We queued for a short time, before embarking on the monorail which took us back through the rhino and zebra area. As it was near closing time, the monorail only ran to the lion enclosure. I didn’t particularly mind as it was a great base to explore, and we got to see the lions again. This time, the lionnese was awake. Her beige-caramel coloured fur looked so silky and smooth. The other lionesses and lion were still sleeping, but it felt very surreal to see them up close.
The zoo was beginning to fall quiet as people left. At this point, we were still wandering our way back through the park and thought we would make a quick stop by the dinosaur exhibition. I didn’t quite know what to expect with the dinosaur section, but I was pleasantly surprised. When I was younger, I loved learning about dinosaurs – albeit I was pretty scared of them too! The exhibition caught us by surprise as we learnt the size of the dinosaurs. A few of the dinosaurs were already huge as the models, but upon reading the facts about the species, we realised some of them were at least three times the size of the models! It really helped to bring the significance and sheer size of these jurassic creatures to life. As we approached one of the dinosaurs, we stood reading about it and were struck by a bit of a surprise as it sprayed water on us – so if you’re planning a visit, look out for that!
We said our goodbye to the fantastic dinosaur exhibition, before making our way to the exit. I had one more stop I wanted to make – the elephants. We did pass them on our way into the park, but as they are one of my all-time favourite animals, I just had to see them again. I remember seeing the elephants when I was younger at the zoo and I was always so amazed by them. There was only one elephant outside but we managed to spot him as wandered around his home. Unfortunately the inside enclosure for the elephants had closed for the day and I forgot about it earlier – but that leaves us with one more excuse to go back again!
Our day at Chester Zoo was lovely – full of laughter and amazement. I had such a wonderful afternoon and it was one of those days which will stay with me for a very long time.