About a month ago the Zoos were told that they were allowed to open – yipee, something we can do, no more staring at these four walls!
Savannah hasn’t been to the zoo since she was a baby and therefore technically this is her first zoo visit. Nate has been many times and enjoys Whipsnade.
We tried to book tickets the day that they were released but the site crashed – of course. Then they introduced an online queuing system…there were 6,000 people in front of me in the queue – gulp! That is long even by British standards.
We got a ticket for a morning slot; you must buy a ticket if you wish to visit Whipsnade (currently), you cannot purchase tickets on the door. It also states on their Facebook page that they are not accepting vouchers from third-party vendors such as Tesco Clubcard vouchers (currently). Additionally, if you want to visit all day you must choose a morning slot; you can arrive at 10am and stay all day. An afternoon slot will limit you to 2pm-6pm (though you can see a lot of the zoo in that time). Parking is easy, it is a 1 minute walk, right next to the zoo, and I have never found it full.
We went at the end of June and was worried that it would be packed with people; but because they limit the numbers who can buy tickets, I need not have worried, it was fine. It was not even as busy as it normally is on a weekend and we were there on a Sunday.
If you arrive early or exactly on time you will have to queue, but they had socially distance space markers on the ground. They have a one-way system through the entrance and around the shop, and toilets are one in one out (but at least they are open). They had hand sanitisers at the entrance and water.
We let our little one choose her favourite animal and set off to find it – the Giraffes. The Giraffes are in the middle, so on the way we saw Monkeys (she found them funny, and I loved the look of awe on her face – her first time to see wild animals in real life – she looked like “wow are those real”.
The giraffe platform was closed at the time, but re-opened on 4th July, we were able to see the baby giraffes outside – the parents were hiding though, I guess they didn’t like the rain!
We also saw hippos (my favourite), flamingos, tigers, elephants and lions (you have to join a socially distanced queue to get into the lion viewing area. I like the signage though as it kept the kids entertaind whilst we were queuing (for all of 5 minutes). A lot of animals were hiding.
Whipsnade is huge (for those who have never been), so if you have tiny people with little legs I recommend a buggy, scooter, micro trikes etc. You are also able to pay extra to take your car into the site. Whipsnade is actually the UK’s largest zoo, set in 600 acres of land – no wonder we have never managed it even over a full day.
There were no food outlets open, except one icecream van and there were limited snacks in the gift shop (bottle of drinks and chocolate bars mostly). The restaurants were not open, so it says on their website to bring your own lunch to eat in their picnic areas; which we dutifully did. However, since it was raining all day, we could not sit down at the picnic benches to eat, so we left early to eat in our car. We did however find a small covered area to sit and have a snack, the only time I sat down in 4 hours (ouch).
During our visit in June the following areas were closed or not running for our safety:
- Aquarium (now open)
- Butterfly house (now open)
- Sealion show (such a shame as it is our favourite!)
- Bird show and other talks
- Outdoor play area
- Indoor play area (Hullabazoo)
- Indoor food areas
- Train ride
It was a shame that so much of it was closed, it is no longer a whole day out, but this is a zoo, and the animals are the main attraction, so on a non-rainy day it is probably much more fun and we look forward to taking Savannah back there when she can enjoy the sealion show, and play in the park and soft play, go on the train and we can all stop for a lunch to rest our feet about half way round, as we used to do. However, the most important thing is that zoos are still open, and we need to support them so that our kids and grandkids will have zoos in the future to enjoy.
In terms of expectations, take your own food, be prepared for a lack of seating if it rains all day, and not everything will be open right now, but if you check out their facebook page, they update that regularly. However, it is a big open space, so definitely a perfect place for social distancing.
I’ll leave with this funny pic…