Whilst my personal wild animal favourites are tigers and elephants, my nine-year-old son has developed a deep love of giraffes over the years and they are always top of his ‘must see’ list on any zoo or wildlife park visit. We had meant to have a zoo visit on my birthday in April but it didn’t quite happen, and I soon realised that that had been for a very good reason. On 26th April a new giraffe calf was born and I knew my son would be over the moon to see him for himself. I checked the diary and decided that we’d make use of our days out voucher during the half term holidays. Not only could we spend the day seeing a baby giraffe at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo but we could also see the Great Brick Safari that was being held there until the beginning of June. A plan was afoot.
Regular readers will know that we visit this particular zoo quite a lot. I save up our Tesco Clubcard points and we use days out vouchers to visit a few times a year. It’s somewhere we’ve visited ever since my son was six months old and it’s one of our favourite places to explore. My son insists on having a map every time we go, but really he knows the layout of the zoo perfectly.
We arrived before the zoo had actually opened, with it being half term I didn’t want to get stuck in a long queue, so we sorted out our tickets, grabbed a pastry and a drink and decided on our plan of action for a day spent seeing a baby giraffe at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. We knew Khari the male giraffe calf was going to be popular and my son was adamant that he wanted to make a beeline straight to the giraffe house as soon as the zoo entrance opened.
You have never seen such a determined child, everyone else turned left through the entrance door and he turned right, this way Mummy, ad he was off. I can hardly keep up with him these days. He knew the quickest route to the giraffes and we weren’t making any stops on the way! He was so happy to discover that we were the first visitors to see the giraffes that morning and that they were all out in their paddock.
It also gave him a really good opportunity to see just how small Khari was in comparison to his Mum and the other giraffes. He was amazed that the calf was born taller than him, or me.
It was lovely to just stand back and watch my son enjoy being close to the animals he loves so much, without anyone else being around. He was soon instructing me to get my camera out and use the long lens to get some ‘better’ shots for him of his new favourite giraffe.
We spent ages just watching Khari and the other giraffes as they wandered around their paddock, just us and them, it was a real privilege. As soon as other visitors arrived my son decided it was time to leave the giraffes, but we did pop back to say hello again a couple more times during the day. I know my son is going to love seeing Khari grow just as much as I’ve loved watching the tiger cubs grow over the last year. They were not so camera friendly on this visit and have really grown since we were at the zoo earlier in the year.
The great thing about visiting the same zoo a number of times in one year is that it doesn’t really matter if you don’t get to see all of the animals every time we visit. We don’t feel that we’ve missed something, we’ve just concentrated on certain animals on certain days.
This time around the Cheetahs were being less elusive than normal, and we stood and watched them enjoying the sunshine when it decided to appear.
We both love the openness of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. Set high up with sweeping views across the Dunstable Downs there are days when it’s been bracing, to say the least as we’ve walked around the zoo, but on this visit, the weather was being kinder and the views were as lovely as ever. We’d recently lost a dear friend and seeing this bench felt rather more poignant than normal for some reason.
My son has had his camera for quite some time now, generally, he takes more video than photos, but he took great pride in trying to capture the animals on our visit and then showing me the results. It’s lovely to see his enthusiasm for something I’ve always enjoyed.
Some times I just step back and watch him, enjoying our time together and being thankful that I have an outdoors child. Some times he catches me looking and gives me that look!
Then he’s off again, this way Mummy, I want to see the flamingoes! I’ve pushed this boy down this path in a pram, and a pushchair, I’ve held his hand as he’s toddled along beside me and now I just try to keep up with the boy who feels so at home in these surroundings. These are the moments of motherhood that I treasure.
We have a friend who lives in Dubai and gets to see flamingoes in the wild, we know that she loves them, and we always think of her where we see them in a zoo or wildlife park.
Another run up to see the tigers before we had our lunch and they still weren’t feeling camera happy, so my son decided to run up and down the hill to entertain me instead.
After we’d had our lunch we realised that we hadn’t seen any of the Great Brick Safari animals dotted around ZSL Whipsnade Zoo as they had been at Twycross and Marwell Zoo on our visits. We headed to the marquee area and all became clear. Rather than having the Lego animals placed on a trail around the zoo enclosures, they had their own trail with all of them together in one place. I guess this made sense for younger children, I’m not so sure my son enjoyed it quite as much as discovering them all across other zoos.
Our favourite this time around was the Leopard, even the tree branch was made of Lego.
We’d not seen him before and he was just stunning. I think they make a great addition to any zoo trip, as they really fire children’s imaginations.
We had a lovely day seeing a baby giraffe at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and watching some of our other favourites. It really is somewhere we both enjoy spending time and exploring. We’ve been countless times over the last nine years and we never tire of the place and the animals we see.
Which your favourite zoo or wildlife park that you think we might enjoy visiting?