Whenever we go away, I always plan to write up several of our days out. But bizarrely out day trip to Marwell Zoo on the way home from Southsea in September passed me by. Gutted because it was a great day out. So I’m bringing you a delayed look at what we got up to when we visited.
I’d always heard great things about Marwell Zoo and we were looking forward to checking it out. The weather was lovely and it was right at the end of the summer holidays, so it wasn’t too busy. We did get there to join the opening queue. If you want to get a better price on tickets, buy ahead of your visit online. We didn’t bother, but we didn’t have to queue for ages once the gates were opened.
During the summer, Marwell had their Great Brick Safari running – a Lego sculptures trail and display. So children could answer questions about the Lego animals they spotted as well as finding out how many man hours and bricks each had taken to make. N loved the Lego trail. It’s the little extras like that on a day out, that help keep children from getting bored (maybe it’s just mine that starts moaning).
Unfortunately the miniature train wasn’t running on the day we were there, but Marwell is ok sizewise for children to walk round. Like most zoos, there are hillier parts and steps in several places, so if you’ve buggies or wheelchairs, you might want to look for the alternate routes to get to some areas.
We started at the penguins and spent some time watching them. They weren’t really showing off their swimming skills much, so we moved on fairly quickly.
Disappointingly we couldn’t get close enough to the flamingos to see them – they were hiding behind the trees, but there was plenty more to see. The giraffes weren’t playing ball with posing and but we saw the rhinos fairly close up both heading outside from their indoors area, and out in the field. What’s great is that most enclosures at Marwell can be viewed from different angles, meaning you have more chance of seeing the animals if they’re hiding out.
The big cats are always a draw, and the cheetah was out prowling. The lemurs were a bit of a disappointment. They weren’t really doing much, and we didn’t have a great view unfortunately. You loop through inside to see them which is a bit different to other zoos we’ve been to, but there’s some great learning opportunities in that section if you’ve children who’re interested in stopping to read and learn.
Around Marwell there’s plenty of places to stop and rest. There’s a Wild Explorers hut for picnics and a good play area. I struggled to get N off it as he loved the older children’s obstacle course. It was just the right size for him as a 6 year old.
The tigers were next on our list. The mother had cubs so was staying out of view, but the dad was out walking around the enclosure. We were also lucky enough to be there as he decided to try and pounce on a bird and fell in the pond area. A little unexpected for all and unfortunately I missed it on my camera! The tigers really are spectacular creatures and we did keep coming back to have a look at them.
The meerkats were another must see animal and it appears everyone else loves them too. There were plenty of them to watch playing in the sun.
We stopped for a drink (and later, lunch) at Café Graze which is the main café onsite. There’s a kids lunchbox option, plenty of sandwich choices and hot food. We managed to get in early to miss the busy queues, but there were plenty of tables available. The toilets aren’t in the best place because even if you’re not using the restaurant, you still need to trek all the way through the serving and seating area.
After lunch we detoured back down towards Marwell Hall where the Lego marquee was. It hadn’t been open when we’d tried earlier, so post lunch it had got busy. There were several options to take part in. It was £3 to make your own mini figure (N had a bit of a melt down because he wanted to do one and then didn’t. I think he was a bit overwhelmed by all the other people just digging straight in and not thinking about others around them). Or you could help build part of a world record attempt to make the longest snake.
Unfortunately the make a penguin option wasn’t available because I’d liked to have had a go at that. N was just happy piling into the Lego pit to make his own constructions. You wouldn’t think there’d be so much interest in just grey Lego, but the pit was busy with children sitting all over the place enjoying building Lego. (How didn’t it hurt sitting on Lego though?!)
After I’d managed to drag N out, we headed off to explore the rest of the zoo and continue round our trail. There’s a tropical house which we whizzed through, through the scales and feathers area (we seemed to have missed the 1 lego build here and couldn’t find it). There was another food kiosk area here which was packed out, alongside a small play area too. I was glad N wanted to continue on the trail because it would have been hard finding your child in the melee.
We wandered through the formal gardens and N enjoyed rolling down some (extremely steep) hills behind the hall. If the weather’s nice, there’s lovely areas you can sit and eat a picnic, it gives families a lot of options rather than having to buy food on a day out.
We didn’t get to see much of the macaques, just a glimpse, because they were inside and the windows were packed out with visitors watching several people deep. So we headed on past and detoured off into the Life in the Trees area. We were hanging around waiting for animals to come and eat because the keeper had just gone in and put food in, but nothing was making an appearance. That’s the problem with zoos, you’re at the liberty of the animals because they want to do their own thing and not perform, and also the number of visitors who also like the same animals as you.
We ended up through a maze of enclosures, seeing some really interesting monkey breeds like Tamarin with their big fluffy heads. It’s great to be able to randomly walk where you want and not follow a specific route.
N was getting tired and keen to fit in one of the tractor train rides, so we headed round past the snow leopard and owls before catching the tractor train at the start of the route. We’d tried to catch it half way round, but along with other people, where we were waiting, obviously had a detour or change of time because it didn’t turn up. Catching it from the start was better because we got to re-see all the animals we’d either not seen enough of or missed totally. The ride starts and ends from the gift shop and you can jump on and off at different stops.
We’d finished the Lego Brick Safari (minus 1) seeing the huge leaping tiger, and then were ready to head for home.
Marwell Zoo was a lovely place to visit and one we’ll definitely return to in future when we’re in that area.
Have you ever been? What other zoos would you recommend?
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