Friday 12 June 2015

Family visit to Marwell Zoo, Hamphire

On the way to our Devon break we stopped in Winchester and spent the day at Marwell Zoo. Well actually we arrived about 1pm and stayed there until it closed at 6pm, so we spent a fun five hours looking around.

I'd been here before with my parents years ago when JJ was a toddler but I found it had changed quite a bit in the last ten years. Marwell is not the biggest zoo but I was very surprised when I was told on entry that we would not be given a map/leaflet to help us get about but luckily there were some large maps in the zoo so we could plan our route. Truth be told, as it is not that big you can get around it all very easily especially when you have older children like us.

If we had wanted a guide, we had to buy one which was £3 and then as we came through the gates there was a table with spotter booklets that we could buy for £1 each. This is where you can stamp (or emboss more accurately) your book in six places around the zoo, but I've never had to pay for one of these before, they have always been part of the entry price. I don't like lots of extras when we go for a day out, I prefer one price with no surprises.

When we arrived the car park was really full and we worried how busy the zoo would be and if we might actually find it uncomfortable with the amount of cars there but I have no idea where all the people were hidden, it never felt too busy, not like London Zoo. At every enclosure, we could get to the glass/ fence easily enough if we waited just a few moments and as soon as we arrived we were able to secure a picnic table to enjoy our lunch.

After our lunch, the kids spotted a nice sit-on model train and they asked us for a go. Upon investigating we found this was another thing you had to pay separately for and the cost for the 5 of us would have been £12.50, a bit too steep in my opinion for a few minute journey. Thankfully there was a land train/ tractor ride which we could ride for free and you can go on as many times as you like (people permitting of course). We found this quieter as the day went on and better to board at the Rhinos than anywhere else as at other stops often no-one got off and thus there was not any room. The main first stop by the entrance/ gift shop was always the busiest place.

Probably the thing I liked best about Marwell was how well we could see the animals. I don't know if we just had a lucky day or because it is not too big the animals can be seen but whatever it was we managed to spot everything we wanted to - giraffes, tigers, meerkats, lions, rhino, hippos, otters, owls, penguins and so many more.

The girls really enjoyed the play parks, of which there are two. One has a bucket swing, climbing frames, massive slides and smaller equipment and the other has a sandpit, monkey bars and other fun equipment. JJ at age 11 years and 5ft tall felt that both parks were a bit young for him. In fact, he wasn't too impressed with the whole zoo as the parts he normally likes are the interactive and learning ones and there was very few interactive learning opportunities for the kids and no fun activities for them to get involved with. At other zoos, the kids have been able to race against the clock, test their strength, record their roar etc.

There are some opportunities to watch the animals being fed but we didn't pay too much attention to these and just managed to stumble upon the giraffes and the otters being fed which the girls found very interesting. There is a programme of planned talks and feeds though and you can check those out here. 

About halfway round there is a small gift shop selling sweets and a few souvenirs and then at the end there is a massive shop which my kids all fell in love with and came away with a stuffed toy each. There were some amazing pieces of art there but the £10,000 price tag is beyond my means.

The price for our family of 5 to gain entry to Marwell Zoo is £74.00 and comparable to other similar zoo venues. There were plenty of catering outlets on-site and the food in the Cafe Graze looked really good quality and very tempting. Of course, the prices are not cheap but they never are at attractions like this, w just enjoyed some lollies and a cuppa, which were fairly priced

Personally, I think Marwell Zoo will suit those with younger children best as it will feel enormous to them. They will really enjoy the land train and the parks are aimed at them too..


Disclosure: I was sent complimentary tickets for entrance to Marwell Zoo but I could not use them last year and thus our recent visit. I was not instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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