We were warmly welcomed at Dartmoor Zoo this weekend by the very friendly staff. As you enter the park and walk up the hill the excitement quickly starts to build as you begin to see the large open spaces and interesting animals. We also really enjoyed the animal facts along the way, this was a great way to encourage our little ones imagination. To avoid the hill there is parking up by the cafe for people with mobility difficulties and wheelchair users. We did just about manage this attraction with a buggy but I’m not sure I would class it as particularly wheelchair friendly. At the top you have lovely views over the valley and lots more informative signs to point you in the direction of the different animals. As we arrived we were given a timetable of all the feeding times and many talks you can enjoy throughout the day.
We went into the café first and grabbed a quick coffee whilst we decided which of the events we would like to see during our visit. The café is a really large space with a shop on one side and a bright and colourful children’s play area on the other.
A little bit about the zoo to start with. Many people may have seen the film We Bought A Zoo, a lovely family film, well worth seeing if you haven’t already. Benjamin Mee is the Director of Dartmoor Zoo and the author of ‘We Bought A Zoo’, the bestselling book that then went on to inspire the blockbuster film starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson. In 2006, the Mee family fell in love with the wildlife Park, although it had a poor reputation and huge financial problems they realised the animals would have been destroyed if someone had not purchased it. They saved the animals, and re-opened in 2007, naming it Dartmoor Zoological Park.
I know that zoos are a bit like marmite, you either love them or you hate them and there is a rather controversial sign left behind in the grounds by the previous owner…
The bottom of the stone reads… “Here’s to those who wish me well and those who don’t can go to hell!”
The park is now a newly formed charity doing great conservation work and carrying out constant improvements, it is a really unique place that benefits from a rural setting within the grounds of a country house. It really does have the feel of being in someone’s garden, with the odd tiger hanging around of course!
After me and my partner had topped up on caffeine we went to see Honey and Fudge, the two bears that they have here. Whilst the bears enjoyed some fish we enjoyed being told all about what the animals got up to during their day and how they both loved a jam sandwich!
We then went on to the close encounters area where you can see and touch some of the smaller critters. This includes tortoise, snakes, big spiders and colourful frogs, again the jolly staff are on hand with lots of facts and information about how they care for the animals.
We took a picnic, and found a lovely spot to eat our lunch. A fantastic eating area situated in the middle of the park with a view of the cheetah’s and monkeys. Watching big cats whilst you sit and have your lunch was great, not something you get to do everyday! Although we didn’t eat In the café on this occasion the food looked nice and they can also cater for birthday parties. Whilst we were eating we saw a party group being guided around the zoo by staff members, the children in the group looked like they were having a great time and the staff were especially good at keeping them engaged from one enclosure to the next.
We enjoyed seeing the variety of animals they have here, the big cats included Tigers, Lions, Cheetah’s and a Jaguar. There was also the Bears, Monkeys, Wolves, Emus, Wallabies, Meerkats and much more. We then went on to enjoy the large open field with free roaming animals, something I don’t think many larger zoos have. This is a nice chance to pet some of the more friendly animals like the goats, wallabies and deer. We then ended our day in the outdoor play park, a fun area with a mixture of climbing obstacles, fun tubes and tires to play amongst. A peaceful place and a lovely end to a relaxing day.
We have loved every minute of our work with Dartmoor Accommodation and in the past few weeks myself and my family have met an otter that will only eat Sainsburys beef burgers and a Bear that loves a Jam sandwich! A sentence I wouldn’t of Imagined in my wildest dreams I would be writing. So another big thank you to the team at Dartmoor Accommodation and again to the smiley staff at Dartmoor Zoo.