We have annual passes to Colchester Zoo as the family in particular MO, loves animals. MO’s favourite is the Komodo dragon, BG loves the wolves and SB well he is at the stage of hating everything. We brought the annual passes as it works out if we went 3 times in a year we have got our money back. As usual on the day tickets are more expensive then pre ordering but below are the prices for gate tickets.
Adult – £22.99
Child – £15.99
Senior – £20.99
Disabled – £1150
When you get there, the car park is huge with various zones.
To make entering the zoo quicker, if you have annual passes you walk in the middle door and go straight through to the scanners and straight into the zoo, for those that preorder there are machines to pick up your tickets before you get to the main entrance and once your tickets have been collected you can also take the middle doors. They then have numerous tills on the left and right and these you will have to queue for. I did notice a Tesco Clubcard payment only side today and on the way out it looks like during school holidays there is a whole different kiosk outside by the disabled car park for you to use. There are plenty of signs on the floor and plenty of friendly staff to point you in the right direction. The queuing system sounds very confusing but actually it is the easiest and fastest queuing system I have ever been in.
If your like us and your kids moan the whole way round as they want to go to the gift shop, in the main entrance before buying tickets there are 2 shops. The left hand side is child friendly gifts, so teddies, pens and cups etc and then the right hand shop is more for the adults, decorations and ornaments etc. We got a giant bearded dragon soft toy for £15.99, if you have an annual pass you also get 10% off the shop. The souvenirs are pretty much on par with similar day out attractions. Today we brought their gifts before going into the zoo and shall do that again!
Giraffes and bearded dragon both amazingly cheap for a day out gift shop
Once you have been scanned through there are toilets to your right, however these are really busy generally as they are the first ones people see. There are plenty of facilities around. My favourite ones are the ones situated by the koi carp area and the new chimpanzee enclosure, they are the biggest, and their disabled/child changing area is better then the other toilets. All toilets work and are cleaned but they get used a lot so they are the 2 I personally would recommend.
There are various play areas around. However I don’t really like using them as they are all high climbing frames and slides. Dad took the kids to the one near the giraffe and elephants today though, so I could feed BBG, convienantly there are toilets located next to this park. This park had rubber chippens as the flooring so wasn’t really wheelchair accessible, and not very pram friendly. Due to MO needing a lot of supervision, especially when it comes to play areas, we tend to not go to these at the zoo as they are either wet from rain on the low season or crowded by children on the high season but the kids really liked playing on here today. They are all generally zoo themed which is really nice. There was a tiny little area by the giant tortosies which has a wooden digger to climb on and musical instruments and even though it’s tiny compared to the others, my boys and BG loved it! Especially when Dad decided to get in the digger with them!
There are lots of picnic areas around and these are generally shaded which is very handy. If you would prefer to eat indoors, there is an indoor picnic area, this is located by the customer services house near the entrance of the zoo. There are restaurants and food places throughout the zoo, one is table service only the others are all what I call grab and go, grab your food and eat where you can find a seat. This ranges from sandwiches to chicken wraps. Again the prices vary but generally are on par with activity day out centres.
Pretty much every 100metres there is some sort of bench and most are shady which is lovely on a hot day, when the kids need to rehydrate every few steps but refuse to drink while walking.
Time to rehydrate
What I really like about Colchester Zoo is the fact there are activities for the kids to do while walking around, can you hang on a rope for as long as an orangutan?, are you as strong as an elephant or as fast as a cheetah? These are fun things to do around the zoo and actually it gets the kids doing things while walking around and they start to remember facts. My kids love the are you as strong as an elephant activity, every visit we all have to pull the rope and laugh at the fact we are not!
Taken last year but a photo of the family seeing how strong they are.
Along with the different activities there are also photo opportunities with the children and adults being able to sit and pose next to large animal statues. Beware though as some of the statues are made of metal and on a hot day will be extremely hot!
Then last but by no means least the animals! These can be seen either by walking around or you can get the Madagasca Train, this we didn’t go on today but beware you have to leave your pushchair and there is only space for 1 wheelchair. The train is brilliant though and the driver will give you a tour giving facts and details about everything you pass. If your walking and see the train coming don’t forget to wave at the driver!
As for the enclosures it seems like every time we go there are new ones being built or old ones being updated and changed. Last time we went the chimpanzees weren’t in their new enclosure, today they were but they weren’t outside, hopefully next time we go they will be 🙂 another favourite for our children is the African plains enclosure, today we saw the baby rhino chasing the ostriches which was lovely to see as the animals weren’t just pacing backwards and forwards. The enclosures also are generally very wheelchair and children friendly. Some weren’t due to steep slopes but these were clearly sign posted. Also a few of the indoor enclosures don’t allow pushchairs, like the butterfly room, but I can understand they don’t want the pushchairs hurting the butterflies. Do make sure you take a trip under the sea and see the sea lions, their enclosure is also the entrance to the orangutan enclosure and the outside enclosure is spectacular to see.
As you can see from the photos below even BBG in her pushchair could get up close to see the animals. She loved the koi carp tanks and seeing the elephants for the first time ever.
Mo even managed to hold a giant Africa land snail much to his delight in the discovery centre.
To get round the zoo is very easy, just follow the yellow line, it will take you around to see all the animals. Alternatively find your way round using the map provided with your tickets, or the sign posts dotted everywhere.
There are also animal talks, we tend to avoid these, not because they are bad but because MO can’t handle the crowds. One thing we wish we could do is the feeding of the elephants and giraffes but MO wouldn’t handle the amount of people who do this. When seeing how it is operated, everyone always gets to feed the animals, but it is very fast paced and for my autistic boy he would probably not cope with this. We will wait for him to be old enough to do an experience day, he has already spotted the Komodo dragon experience day and can’t wait to be old enough.
We also found a nature reserve which was lovely and relaxing. The kids loved looking around and seeing birds and insects and trying to find what they were in the hanging books planted around the place. It was just the right calming end to the day.
So if you want to learn some conservation and see some animals, in a beautiful zoo I would highly recommend Colchester Zoo. I can see why it was ranked 8th best zoo in Europe and 2nd best in the uk by trip advisor a couple of years ago, I can’t find the latest list but I can’t think it would have gone down the list much if at all. Just beware of the slopes if going in a wheelchair.
All views are my own, no money or tickets were exchanged for this review.