A good old English spring day in the North West and what to do? Why Chester Zoo, of course! Chester Zoo is located a couple miles outside the city of Chester, which you can get to by a handy bus service from the train station if you’ve not got a car. It’s a well-maintained, fun zoo and a great day out. This review is based on the ‘Low season’ (Jan-Feb, Feb-March, Nov-Dec) which is the slowest and cheapest time to visit. This meant a lot of the restaurants and additional activities (such as crazy golf) aren’t open, but it also means there are less people around! Not that I can see the zoo getting too crowded in high season, as the park is massive.
And when I say massive, I mean massive. Importantly, the enclosures have plenty of space for the animals. Each is well suited to its inhabitant and the animals looked happy and healthy. It’s always an issue in zoos as to whether the animals are having a good quality of life, and generally it’s difficult to tell. However, the animals at Chester zoo seemed unaffected by the guests. One or two species, such as the African Wild Dogs stayed in areas of their enclosure where they couldn’t be seen, but perhaps this was down to other factors such as common feeding points. The zoo made sure to point out if any of the animals were injured (such as the elephant with arthritis) and noted their treatments.
The customer areas of the zoo were extensive. There were many walkways and connecting paths between enclosures. I’d expect that anyone with walking difficulties might struggle with the amount of walking involved to view the whole park. However, there is a monorail (£2 per adult) that takes you from one end of the park to the other and there is a mobility support building that rents wheelchairs and mobility scooters. The zoo has thought about their various exhibits and thought about accessibility for the disabled. If you visit the park, expect to have sore feet by the end of your visit. Another struggle is managing to visit all of the exhibits. I would suggest giving around four and a half hours if you want to see every animal, have time at the gift shop, time for lunch and have a good walking speed.
As far as animal attractions goes, the zoos range of animals is excellent. There are eleven thousand individual animals from four hundred different species including: elephants, mangoose, warthogs, rhinos, meerkats, hyrax, various bird species, African wild dogs, Antelope species, aardvarks, zebra, spectacled bears, a wonderful free-flying bat experience, Okapi, monkey species, cheetah, camels, parrots, owls, lions, tigers, giant otters, penguins, komodo dragons, snakes, tortoise, orangutangs, jaguars, giraffes, a butterfly house and an aquarium. The highlights were the elephant paddock, which at the moment has not one, but two new-borns and one teenager. The free-flying bats were amazing, as you felt them fly right over your head. The giant otters have a viewing domed window under the water, so you can get up close and personal with the animals.
There are other customer activities around the park, including a play area, various confectionary areas (though these smaller food-sellers weren’t open in the low season) and two gift shops. There are also various talks happening around the park, especially nearing the end of the day during feeding hours. The park has a good travel deal with the local train station, where you can get your train ticket, bus ticket and entrance price at the train station for a slightly reduced fee. This was very useful and convenient, making potential queues flow more smoothly.
Overall, Chester zoo was a fun day out with many wonderful and interesting experiences. The zoo, while having perhaps too much walking between exhibits, was well presented and maintained efficiently. I would suggest a visit, especially in these low seasons where you’re not caught up in crowds and can take your time.
See below, a picture of one of the elephants at Chester Zoo: