Reviewed by Siobhan Bridgwater
Our visit to the Zoo today with two children (aged 9 & 5) was highly anticipated and started off very well. The welcome was excellent. The staff at the front gates directing us to a car parking space were friendly and professional. Once the car was parked the walk down to the main entrance was lovely. An impressive start as all the senses were tickled on the walkway down – the beautiful smell of the magnolia tree, the sound effects piped through the foliage of animal cries and tribal music hinting at the delights within heightened our excitement. And then the surprising flock of Chilean flamingos at the base of the path definitely had the wow impact.
The children’s skate board and scooter were removed on arrival by a gentle volunteer with the promise of keeping them safe until our visit was concluded. We had very high hopes for a fantastic day and the children skipped through the shop ready to explore without a backward glance to their previously chosen modes of transport.
Once inside, the initial impression was good. The atmosphere was relaxed and the zoo was much bigger than expected and more like a pedestrian safari park than a city zoo. The zoo train was sweet and the lovely driver, Mo with her welcoming smile, was a good start but a drop off/pick up facility for such a large site may have been better than a non-stop circular route.
We spent a pleasant couple of hours on a long wander through the Croc Swamp, the Monkey Heights and down to the Elephant and Giraffe House. And we finished off with a visit to the Reptile Tropics and Desert House. We saw a wide variety of species and we particularly enjoyed seeing the peacocks and goats lounging on the pathways, free to roam. The signs language illustrations at many of the animals were a big hit with our group.
The Restaurant and sitting areas, in and outside, were clean and well maintained. The staff were again found to be helpful and warm. However, the food ordering areas were very crowded and the queues slow moving for hot food. As a result, food selection had more to do with waiting times rather than personal choice. Overall, as is often found in zoos the food was quite expensive and simple rather than delicious.
Overall, to be honest, the lasting impression of the day overall was slight disappointment. It sadly didn’t live up to expectation for us. Whilst the animal enclosures were, on the whole, spacious they often appeared plain and lacked imagination in their content and design. Whilst there was an interesting array of animals and reptiles to be seen, the excitement factor was often absent. And lastly, the sorry sight of the elderly, solitary elephant made for uncomfortable viewing.
Tickets cost £15.95 (Adult), £11.50 (Child), £13.45 (Senior Citizen), £50.15 (Family: 2 adults, 2 children).
For more information or to book tickets visit www.paigntonzoo.org.uk.
Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, Totnes Road, Paignton, Devon TQ4 7EU