When I booked the children and I a week away in Essex earlier this month, I had no idea about the area or what was local but after a quick Google I discovered Colchester Zoo was a 30 minute drive away from Clacton and I could only find great reviews from friends that had visited. Because of Covid reopening, I was online at 8am the weekend before trying to get tickets and managed to get 5 for the Wednesday right in the middle of the trip.
Colchester Zoo was easy to find and parking was free. We had a 30 minute slot for entry and there were very few people around the entrance. My tickets were scanned through my phone and we were sent inside. I don’t know how busy the zoo usually gets to comment on, but we never felt crowded or too close to others, but when it came to wanting to eat, it was very challenging to find somewhere to sit!
We found the zoo difficult to navigate at first and my phone didn’t get enough signal to get the online map up. I did see other people with paper copies though so they must have been available at the entrance. That being said, we had no real agenda other than seeing as much as we could and we enjoyed wandering and seeing what came up next.
We liked how interactive the zoo was, with things that can be climbed on, information designed for children and interesting displays around the zoo. We visited the feeding area where the children could feed some of the animals including goats. This was a real highlight for the younger two who like to get involved where they can.
My favourite part of the zoo was the African area where giraffes, zebras, rhino and other animals that naturally coexist were in a larger area together. You could walk most of the way around the area and there are opportunities to pay to hand feed the giraffe and elephants (£20 for a family/group of up to 5 people).
There were a few enclosures and areas that were not open to visitors, anything that was fully inside was shut due to Covid guidelines, but we spent many hours at the park and didn’t feel like we missed out. Some areas were undercover but with open sides so masks were required (alongside social distancing of course) but they were open and clearly signed. There were also no keeper talks or timed feedings to avoid crowding
The boys favourite part of the zoo experience was the ‘Lost Madagascar’ train which took us around an area of the park and gave us a unique view of some animals. The train was cleaned between passengers, there were perspex screens between each group and there was a great narrative from the driver. It was ideal after a long afternoon walking around! We ended the day at the big playground near the exit. Designed for school aged children it was secure, big enough to keep my elder children (8 and 9) happy and had plenty of seating.