Chester Zoo was very much part of my childhood. Regular family and school trips bring back fond memories. I remember a school trip when class jokers Tony and Dusty were dared to jump into the hippo enclosure. How we laughed as the “class scamps” jumped in and approached the “lazy hippos.” What they planned to achieve remains a mystery, but the laughs soon changed to fear as the hippos stood up and approached our “loveable clowns.”
Tony and Dusty survived their trip into the enclosure of some of the world’s most dangerous animals, and I believe they are still with us today. Surprisingly the hippos fared worse, and they are no longer in the zoo. Rumour has it one of them drowned not long after Tony and Dusty’s adventure. Just in case any impressionable young readers see this post, don’t jump into any zoo enclosure! It isn’t smart, but it was hilarious. However, even if you survive, there are cameras everywhere, and at the very least, you will be banned from the zoo.
Chester Zoo Review
Chester Zoo has been under massive expansion in recent years. For various reasons, we hadn’t visited for several years until today. The zoo is a very modern zoo with modern enclosures and incredible theming. Despite the recent expansion, the zoo has had several problems in recent years. The zoo suffered a devastating fire in its Monsoon Forest tropical house in 2018. The house has now been rebuilt and is welcoming guests. The zoo also had a very vocal “Save Our Zoo Campaign” due to the financial pressures caused by COVID.
This week, if it weren’t for “Bungle Johnson,” we would be at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Animal Kingdom has a powerful conservation message, but the message is with a “small c.” You are never convinced that Disney is committed to saving the earth; beyond the ability to commercialize it. However, Chester Zoo does conservation with a “Big C.” The number of conservation projects Chester Zoo is involved with around the world is incredible. If you have time, I recommend you review their 10 Year Conservation Masterplan.
The founder of Chester Zoo, George Mottershead, visualized “a zoo without bars.” George tried hard to achieve this vision, but wars and finances ensured it was never easy. Chester Zoo always had big enclosures, but my recollections from childhood were that they were often dull. Over the last 20 years, Chester Zoo has modernized most facilities to improve the overall environment. George’s story of how he founded the zoo was the subject of the brilliant BBC drama Our Zoo. It would be interesting to hear what George would think of the modern zoo.
One downside of improved animal enclosures is that it makes it much harder to see the animals in the zoo. Today many of the enclosures had hidden animals. Even the elephants disappeared for the day! While I would never propose that we return to old-style enclosures, the truth is the old pens did allow better viewing. There is a free boat ride through the Islands expansion, which has some stunning theming. Unfortunately, throughout the long trip, all we saw was an Orangutang behind.
Chester Zoo is a great family day out, and it is probably the best zoo in the U.K. There are good reasons why it is the most popular paid visitor attraction in the U.K. However, the zoo is vast, and you will be lucky to complete everything in one day. Like many of the best zoos, there will be occasions when animals cannot be seen, which can be frustrating.
We visited during social distancing, and the zoo manages this incredibly well. One-way sections, ground marking, helpful stewards, and plenty of hand wash are just some of the measures to keep you safe. It is hard to compromise why Bungle Johnson wouldn’t allow the zoo to open during the lockdown.
I loved Chester Zoo as a child, and I still do. I’m pleased that our kids have developed similar affection. The zoo is a great day out and is highly recommended.
We are currently on our Tour of the United Kingdom 2021 Staycation. To read more of our adventures, click here.