As a young child, my family and I lived in Berkshire (we moved back to my native homeground in The North when I was 12). One of my favourite treat outings as a kid was to Whipsnade Zoo. I have such fond memories of seeing all of the animals there. So you can imagine my delight when almost two decades later I discovered it was only a 40 minute drive from where we live in Hertfordshire. And now I’m a parent, I have a brilliant excuse to go regularly as it’s a great place to introduce Little H to all the different creatures!
Where is Whipsnade?
Whipsnade is run by the Zoolological Society London (ZSL) who also run London Zoo. Years ago both zoos had a loosely equal mix of animals but over recent years the larger animals, especially those that need roaming space, have been moved to Whipsnade, leaving London Zoo to focus more on smaller animals. Whipsnade is sat right on top of the Dunstable Downs with astonishing views and tonnes of space to see the animals really roam around. It’s really easy to get to from the M1 junction 9.
What animals can I see there?
As I mentioned, Whipsnade is mainly big animals, with a few little cute ones like meerkats thrown in for good measure! There are also a few other activities available. Some of my favourites include:
Elephants – At one point they had two herds because they had the original Whipsnade matriarch and then the one that was relocated from London. I’m not sure if that’s still the case but they have a lot of these amazing animals to see. Over the last few years there has always been at least one baby elephant to see too!
Sloth bears – Whipsnade has the only pair in the U.K. They are really cool bears with big tufty ears. Their claws are really long for finding food though so not as cuddly as they look!
Giraffes – They rebuilt the giraffe enclosure a few years ago to build a raised platform to watch them from. They are an active gang always mooching around the paddock. Except when we went and it was raining and they wisely stayed indoors.
Wolverine – Until a few years ago, Sam and I didn’t realise this animal even existed. We thought we were a bit stupid until Sam’s parents also thought the same. So we felt better! Anyway, this dude is solitary are rarely comes out in public, but on our latest trip he was lolloping around. Little H loved him!
Lemurs – There is a walk-through enclosure where the lemurs can bound around you. They are curious little chaps and often come quite close. In the past I have seen people really regret that they didn’t properly heed the advice to wrap-up their food…
You can see a full list of animals on the ZSL website.
Is there anything else to do?
The Choo-Choo Train – Little H screeched for this most of the morning on our last trip. The train goes through the Asia experience where you can see the hooved animals. The only other ways to see these is by car (more on that later) so it’s worth doing now-and-again. We’ve only done it once because you have to pay extra, but it was worth it!
Hullabazoo Soft play and petting zoo – There is also a indoor picnic area and cafe with a soft play and a petting zoo. We have never been in there but I always see plenty of families heading that way.
Wild Bite cafe and other eateries – We have never bothered taking a picnic with us because it’s nice to buy food on a day out. We always get lunch at the Wild Bite cafe and whilst the food isn’t cheap, we’ve always found it to be really tasty and good quality. The kids meals are also cooked to order so they are guaranteed to be fresh. At the other cafes you can buy sandwiches, hot dogs and things. They are also great to grab a quick tea break!
Anything else I need to know?
Experiences – Whipsnade offers loads of experiences. Sam and I have each had one as a birthday gift. A few years ago I bought Sam a Photography Master Class. He went around the zoo with an expert and got some amazing shots. They even got to stay in the park after hours which meant the animals behave differently! A few months later Sam gave me a Keeper for a Day experience. It was one of the best experiences of my life. If you’re interested the check out my post about it.