Readers, meet Chester Zoo. Easily one of my favourite day trips – or, let’s face it, any sort of trip – Chester Zoo is the UK’s number one zoo, and I’m lucky enough to live right on its doorstep. After finishing exams at the end of last week, I decided to make an impromptu visit home (the first in four years of university) and this naturally entailed a trip to the zoo!
On this particular visit, we had glorious sunshine (to the point that the glorious sunshine became not-so-glorious sunburn) and there was barely a cloud in sight. After deciding to do our usual circuit, we began by making our way towards the meerkats who were busy lounging in the shade – with one on sentry duty, of course. There were also several tiny meerkat pups buried in the furry heap of adults!
We then continued past the rhinos in the direction of the African painted dogs (which also go by the name of wild dogs, or cape dogs). These dogs have a gorgeous mottled coat and are some of the most effective hunters on the African plains – and judging by the way they were attacking the hind leg of some ex-hoofed animal in their exhibit, I wouldn’t want to get too close!
From here we looped past the Grevy’s zebra and entered the state-of-the-art Islands complex, which at 60,000m² is billed as the largest zoo development the UK has ever seen. This incredible project has recreated six of South East Asia’s awe-inspiring islands: Bali, Panay, Papua, Sulawesi, Sumatra and Sumba. I’ve visited a few times before, but this visit was by far the best as the blistering heat made the area really come alive – and the animals were all out and about! Wandering through Coral Sands, the décor and landscaping is fantastic – and there are even boats which you can take a ride on to see Islands from a different perspective at no additional cost.
The journey starts in Panay, where the Visayan warty pigs were scampering around scavenging chunks of carrot – and the piglets with their stripy chestnut coats were utterly adorable!
Southern Cassowaries rule the roost in Papua, with their impressive blue plumage, whilst the Bali starling – one of the world’s rarest birds, with estimates suggesting there are as few as fifty left in the wild – takes centre stage in Bali, the third island in the development. Moving on to Sumatra, the Sumatran tigers were resting in the shade and were scarily well-camouflaged! This photo is actually from a previous visit, but I couldn’t resist sharing it!
Further on, we spotted the Sumatran orangutans playing in the sun; they clearly expressed a preference for a standard tree over their specially-designed ropeway! We then went into the Monsoon Forest, which featured Asian giant tortoises, a Sunda gharial (one of the world’s largest species of crocodile) and all sorts of beautiful canopy birds.
The Lazy River Boat Trip (referred to above) departs from Sumba, the next island, and another of my favourite animals can be found on the final island, Sulawesi. The male babirusa have two sets of curly tusks – and when we visited they had all been rolling in the mud! My mum overheard someone telling their child that they rolled in the mud to keep themselves cool, to which the child asked why he couldn’t do the same!
Leaving Islands behind, we wandered past the spectacled bears and across the footbridge to the other side of the zoo. Like the African painted dogs, the cheetahs were feeding on a carcass – albeit in a rather more discrete manner!
We then passed Oakfield Manor and the Chinese Rock Garden en route to the red pandas – who true to form were curled up in a tree, almost hidden from view. Further on, the new sun bears were enjoying customised ice lollies – enormous blocks of ice with fruit trapped inside. At this point we opted to have our own, venturing into June’s Pavilion for some Cheshire Farm ice cream.
We then continued our circuit, taking in the penguins basking in the sun, the jaguars, the magnificent Rothschild giraffes and finally the elephants, sadly lower in numbers due to recent losses. All in all, Chester Zoo is a fantastic day out – and with so much to see, it really could fill a whole day!