Reviewed by Melody Floyde
My family and I have recently enjoyed a great day out at Dartmoor Zoo which was the perfect start to the summer holidays. We visited on Saturday 27 July 2019 which was also the day of the Zoo’s Annual Summer Fair which is a day when lots of local businesses and friends of the Zoo are invited to show their products and services at the zoo alongside lots of extra fun activities in aid of the Zoo like face painting, bouncy castle, tombola, lucky dips, raffle etc.
We found the Zoo easily as it was just a short distance off the A38 and well signposted. We travelled from Exeter and it took us about 45 minutes to get there.
There was a large free car park next to the ticket office. It was a bit of a trek uphill from the ticket office to the Zoo itself but the walk was broken up by looking at different animals on the way up and there were some great signs with facts about different animals in relation to the distance we had gone from the ticket office which kept the boys motivated to get to the top of the hill. For example, at one point the distance from the ticket office to where we were standing was the same as nose to tail of a whale. We did notice that there were some disabled parking spaces at the top of the hill as well for anyone who needed them.
We were really impressed with the Zoo, everything was very clean and set in really lovely well-maintained gardens. We later found out that the grounds are looked after by Grow 4 Good volunteers who also had a stall at the Summer Fair with delicious homemade cakes, made using vegetables grown on their allotment at the Zoo. We indulged in some of these!
There were lots of different animals at the Zoo ranging from meerkats and monkeys to big cats like lions and tigers. All the animals looked really well cared for and because of the way the enclosures were set up we were able to get fairly close to a number of the animals as, rather than looking at them through cages, like some other zoos we have visited, they were set lower than us and surrounded by walls so we were looking down into their enclosures. The favourites for my boys were the tigers; my 4-year-old was particularly excited about seeing a real life tiger that looked just like the one in the “the tiger that came to tea” book!
There was also a full programme of talks about the different animals throughout the day. We listened to the Zebra talk in the morning and then watched the big cats (tigers on the day we visited) being fed in the afternoon. We also joined the Reptiles and Bugs Close Encounters session where we got to look at bugs and reptiles up close, my sons were so excited that they were able to stroke a snake and a tortoise and haven’t stopped talking about it yet!
As well as the animals and grounds there was also a play bus and a children’s play area for the children to burn off energy in. The play bus was a particular point of excitement as it was a double decker bus which had been converted into a soft play. Both boys couldn’t believe that it used to be a real life bus! The play area was also nice as it was very understated and constructed mainly using junk materials but our sons played very happily in it for a long time. There was also plenty of seating for parents to sit and relax while watching the children playing.
We also enjoyed our visit to the Summer Fair seeing all the lovely local products and charities. The boys enjoyed making turtles from waste plastic and planting cress seeds to take home at the Veggieloop stand. They also tried their luck on the tombola and lucky dip and enjoyed the bouncy castle. We also got to see cockroaches and meal worms and to have a go at guessing “whose poo” was in the pots at the Zoo stand! The fair was a really nice addition to an already great day out.
We had our lunch in the Jaguar restaurant which we found to be reasonably priced with a good selection of locally sourced foods on the menu. My partner also told me that the coffee was good. We did also notice that there were lots of picnic benches and areas around for anyone who had brought their own food with them. There was also an ice cream kiosk serving local ice creams and lollies.
There were two different toilet blocks, which was ample, although they were in need of a bit of refurbishment and did smell a bit whiffy on a hot day. Also, toilet paper had not been replenished in the ladies toilets but this was a minor inconvenience.
Before leaving we had a brief visit to the gift shop which, from a quick glimpse, appeared to be reasonably priced with a good selection of animal themed items for sale.
Overall, we had a really great day at Dartmoor Zoo, we found all of the staff to be friendly and enjoying their jobs. I would highly recommend Dartmoor Zoo for a visit and we will definitely be returning.
I would give the Zoo a 5/5!
Tickets cost from £8.95 to £13.95
For more information or to book online visit www.dartmoorzoo.org.uk.
Dartmoor Zoological Park, Sparkwell, Plymouth, Devon, PL7 5DG