Although very excited, I was a little uncertain about taking J to Marwell Zoo last week as I thought he may be too young to really enjoy it. When J was 7 months old hubby and I took him to Bristol Zoo, which was perfect for little ones as it houses mainly smaller animals and they were nice and close and easy to see. J loved the penguins, meerkats and reptiles and he enjoyed walking through the butterfly house. Marwell Zoo is much bigger and spread out with big enclosures for the larger animals (which is how it should be). I just wasn’t sure if he would get it…
Our arrival didn’t get off to the best of starts. We sat in a queue of cars while 4 coaches full of school children blocked the entrance to the car park and had zero consideration for the growing number of frustrated drivers. Eventually, a member of staff moved them out of the way so we could park. Of course this meant a larger queue at the ticket booth since we all parked at the same time. I had put J into the pushchair so that he didn’t run off and he was not best pleased about it having spent an hour in the car to get there.
Once in I realised we had no map (available in the guidebook only at extra cost) which was frustrating as I wanted to pick out the animals that I felt J would enjoy most. We blindly followed the path to see what we would discover.
First up were penguins, which J adores! There were a couple sunbathing right next to the barrier and J was so excited that I decided to get him out so he could have a closer look. Luckily he couldn’t quite reach them, otherwise I may have discovered one in the pushchair when we got home!
Since there was a little park next to the penguins, I thought it would be a good opportunity for J to use up some of his energy. I reached down to the basket under the pushchair to pull out his shoes. I emptied the basket before I realised that they weren’t there and then I panicked! I checked my bag (even though I knew I had put them in the basket) and then accepted that I was going to have to search for them. I persuaded a very disgruntled J to go back into the pushchair while I hurriedly retraced our footsteps. I was dreading having to call my husband to tell him that I had lost his shoes and we were coming home having paid for the day. Thankfully we hadn’t been far and I kept reassuring myself they must have fallen out by the car, which is where they sat when I got there. I honestly don’t know what I would have done otherwise with a toddler who loves to run around!
This time our entrance to the zoo was much smoother and the day continued this way. The fog cleared to reveal a clear blue sky and a spring sun with enough warmth to take off my jumper. J ran around the zoo on cloud 9 and it was quiet enough that I didn’t have to worry about losing him, so could let him roam free. He took us on his own journey winding this way and that around the park ignoring all of the paths to his hearts content.
He loved the giraffes, tigers and zebras best, so he was able to appreciate the larger animals after all. J also loved the ramps that led around some of the enclosures and thought they were his very own adventure playground – very glad it was quiet!
After nap time and lunch I decided to take a ride on the tractor train to skip out a long walk (at the little man’s pace) to take us to see the wallabies. We had seen the tractor train passing us several times in the morning and J had been so excited! It is free which is always a bonus. There’s even a trailer at the back for folded down pushchairs. Perfect! J loved standing up and looking out as we rode around the park seeing the animals that we passed. When we got off the driver let us look at the tractor up front which made J’s day!
The wallabies were so cute and they are free to move around the enclosure as you walk so you can get really close to them. One was carrying a little joey in her pouch which was very exciting for me. J was rather oblivious! Luckily, my best friend was with me to take some photos as I was too busy wrestling with my toddler who had chosen this enclosure (the one where the animals roam freely) to eat some muddy (I hope!!) stones – yuck!
We took 1 more trip to see the giraffes on our way back to the car. This was great as they were all inside eating so we got really up close to see their very long black hairy tongues.
The actual playparks were too grown up for J which I felt was a real shame. If there was just a baby swing in one of them he would have been happy. For older children there were 3 great play parks dotted around the park and for younger ones a small park with sand around a climbing frame and slide. To keep himself amused J enjoyed stamping in the dry leaves at the edge of the park.
There were several toilets and nappy changing facilities around the park which was great as we didn’t have to trek back to the start to change him. They were clean and a good enough size to have a pushchair in there too.
The restaurant was slightly pricy (standard at all these attractions), but I was very impressed with the selection of food. Please bare in mind that I am extremely fussy – partly due to allergies, so this is quite a compliment. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to eat much, but actually there was a good selection of hot and cold food and it was really yummy. I loved my hummus and roasted veg wrap and the white chocolate chunk flapjack for pudding was simply divine! I could have eaten another one straight after. There was a microwave for heating baby food and a good selection of highchairs. There was also a large outside seating area at the main cafe and several picnic sites dotted around the zoo if you prefer to bring your own food. As we are still out of season the smaller cafe and kiosks were all closed but in the summer there’s lots of places to buy drinks, snacks and more importantly ice-creams.
The gift shop had a good range of toddler friendly gifts, one of the best gift shops I’ve been to for J’s age actually. I really wanted to buy him a zoo jigsaw, but I’ll save some pennies for our next visit. I did buy my pregnant best friend a gorgeous giraffe rattle though for when her baby arrives.
You can buy tickets online to avoid long queues in the high season and parking is free. Please note though that although it says it is signposted from major routes on the zoos website I did’t see any signs
until we were round the corner, thankfully the Sat Nav got us there without any problems.
We had a fabulous day out and I highly recommend it for active toddlers, preschoolers and older children too. If they could add in a swing and ensure that shoes are checked for on entrance it would have been perfect! I look forward to going back again.