FAMILY: Day Out at London Zoo…

JJ Miller, James Whatley, London Zoo

Despite being one of the capitals biggest advocates, I, like most Londoners (when we think about it), am guilty of taking this city for granted.

I often forget what wonders are on my doorstep. I can go for years without visiting any of our galleries, or wandering around with nothing to do other than taking in the sights. My standard piece of advice to first time tourist to London is always – LOOK UP – as there’s so much to see above eye level. But do I take my own advice on a daily basis? Of course not. I’m a Londoner. I get lazy.

Whenever I get reminded of how other people feel about London and the wealth of things we have to do here, however, I get filled with a rush of excitement – of pride – and can’t wait to show off our town. So when, last week, @Whatleydude‘s younger brother came visiting from out of town, we decided to take him to one of the most famous London attractions, London Zoo.

I am a HUGE animal lover, yet it’s probably been about 10 years since I set foot in the grounds of the zoo, which is a mere 5 minutes from my house. The truth is, I was probably just as excited as little bro; there was no way I was going to miss out. So, full of pain meds and wrapped up warm, we jumped in a cab to Regents Park and began our day trip to the zoo.

Standing at the entrance, confronted with the sounds, the smells, the sight of kids on half term dressed up as bats and spiders and whatever other costumes they’d conned their parents out of at the gift shop, I was in heaven. OK, so I’m 34, but I could easily have been 10 again, on a weekend outing with Dad. Signs pointing in all directions pulled me in one direction, and then the other. Where do we start? What are we going to see first? We left it up to little bro…who is much more sensible than me…and started at the beginning.

London Zoo

I’ve never been particularly fond of Penguins, but I have to admit, they were pretty cool – darting, preening, showing off. The timid ones lurked at the back, away from the crowds and the screeching children, while the more confident swam up next to the windows of the tank, eying us as we peered at them, performing tricks and delighting the youngsters who had probably never seen anything like them before. They were close enough to touch and I was tempted, but already have enough injuries, and wasn’t really sure I wanted to add a missing finger to the list. Do Penguins bite? I don’t know. Thankfully.

Next up? The butterfly tunnel – which as well as being pretty was a welcome break from the FREEZING cold temperatures that came out of nowhere. Butterflies fluttered past our faces and landed on those of us with brighter clothes. These really are fascinating creatures; beautiful, delicate, but cunning too. The most vibrant colours on their upper wings disguised by huge eye shaped dull camouflage patterns as they rest, designed to deter predators (and human cameras, probably).

Taken by Nokia Pureview, by @whatleydude

Onwards we went, to one of my favourite rooms – the reptiles. From Komodo Dragons to Black Mambas, I love these scaly beasts. Especially when there is absolutely no chance they can hurt me, of course. Wouldn’t necessarily be so happy to see them in the wild….

London Zoo reptiles taken with Nokia Pureview by James Whatley

Then, the big beasts. The lions, in all their magnificence, huddled together against the cold seemed almost like cuddly pussy-cats. That is, until they prowled forward, with paws the size of dinner plates, gazing at us through the glass, knowing that in any other situation, we’d be lunch. Beautiful yet terrifying – as nature so often is.


Moving on to the closest animal to us in the whole zoo. The Gorillas. I had forgotten they had these incredible apes housed here, and I felt strangely emotional as he stared me straight in the eye, holding eye contact until eventually I looked away. I know London Zoo treat their animals superbly and do so much to help wildlife conservation and protection in the wild, but I still felt strangely guilty looking at this creature that is so like us, behind bars. I stayed a while, watching him (or her, I don’t actually know) resting up there in a tree, until I realised it probably wouldn’t be looking quite so relaxed if it was unhappy. I’d give anything to get up close to these animals…touch their fingers, stroke their beautiful heads. But then they’d probably rip my limbs off, so for now, viewing at the zoo will have to do…

London Zoo, taken with Canon SX50 HS

There was so much more to see. Fish, Monkeys, Sloths, Bush Babies, Giraffes, Warthogs, Impalas, Crocodiles, Cobras, Tortoises and a (currently empty) new Tiger enclosure that we missed by a few weeks (it’s due to open at the end of March).

By the end of the day I was beyond exhausted and barely able to stand but loved every minute of it. Little bro had the time of his life, and we did too. There’s something truly magical about making eye-contact with a Lion, or watching a lizard slowly, carefully climb a tree to find it’s dinner. It’s an amazing day out for both adults and kids – a wealth of wonderful wildlife – right here in the middle of London.

The zoo often has lots of deals available on their website, so take a look here for current prices (discounts for families). Also – if you think you may become a regular visitor to London Zoo, Whipsnade Zoo or both, check out the membership package which is available for just £53 and offers unlimited visits, plus loads of benefits. Definitely considering it myself…I may find myself being a regular visitor over Summer.

Wonderful day.

Photos taken on the Canon SX50 HS (which is available with reduced memory card at John Lewis) and a Nokia Pureview. Good, aren’t they??

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