Bristol Zoo, which opened in the 1830s, will always have a special place in my memories thanks to the popular ’60s children’s TV programme, Animal Magic. It was here that the late Johnny Morris, dressed as a zoo keeper, filmed many of the scenes for the long-running series.
Situated within minutes of Brunel’s famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity, offering an exciting animal world set within 12 acres of beautiful grounds and award-winning gardens.
You can spend hours here, like I did with my wife and two children, aged eleven and five; and it’s not difficult to see why: with over 400 species of exotic animals from every corner of the world to see, a maze to negotiate, ZooRopia providing an bird’s eye view of the grounds, Twilight World, Reptile House, Aquarium and much, much more to explore – be prepared to while away a few hours here.
Around the zoo, fascinating facts and information about the animals are displayed on boards. Among the many things I learnt is that Archer fish can spit water up to two metres, a giant tortoise can drink through its nose while grown-up tortoises can weigh as much as ten children and sleep up to 16 hours a day.
Bristol Zoo plays a key role in helping endangered species around the world: for example, it’s helped Ape Action Africa look after more than 300 orphaned primates in Cameroon – so it’s clear why the zoo needs everyone’s help to maintain its valuable work.
It’s difficult picking favourite exhibits when so many fabulous animals are on display, but my children were particularly thrilled to see gorillas, hippos, seals, penguins and the countless reptiles.
Butterfly Forest was among my favourites. In this exciting exhibit, beautiful butterflies and moths from around the globe are on display, some flying all around you as you walk. Adopting the theme of a tropical rainforest, the undercover walk-through is surrounded by a landscaped nectar garden and is not to be missed.
The zoo has everything you need for an enjoyable day out, including a variety of food at the Coral Café, children’s play area and a well-stocked souvenir shop.
So, if you’re in Bristol any time soon, make sure a visit to the zoo is on your agenda.
Bristol BS8 3HA
Tel: 0117 428 5300