Over the Christmas break Jacob and I headed up to Bristol for a “relaxed” festive period; we were dog sitting for family but planned to fully take advantage of being in the city, enjoying its arts and culture, as well as the Bristol festivities.
On Boxing day, we headed to Bristol Zoo; being animal mad this was mainly an indulgent day for me. Due to dog walks and picnic prep we didn’t get there until around 2pm, it was a gloomy day in Bristol, cold and grey with the threat of rain, but this didn’t cap my excitement. Heading through and paying a slightly pricy entry, (if looking for a cheaper day out, check dates online, prices vary according to peak times) we went on with our adventure.
Immediately, flamingos catch my eye, their bright plumage striking out against the grey day and I’m already grabbing for the camera. It turns out boyfriend has forgotten to recharge the batteries (what a numpty) so lack of time added pressure to get the right shots with only 7% battery left! A few snaps of the flamingos and we we’re off again. Activities galore are dotted around the enclosures. You can compete to stand on one leg like a flamingo, compare the length of your tongue to different animals or race a cheetah; the last of these comes with specific warning for adults to restrain themselves when attempting the challenge!
I notice how close you can get to some animals but not be intruding on them; there are areas where you can walk right through enclosures (only open in the warmer months), as well as cleverly designed bridges and tunnels and a few biomes, including the Butterfly walk through which was one of my favourites. Talks and feeds are frequent; we caught the end of the crocodile talk and feed, where staff pushed home the importance of not supporting the illegal pet and skin trade, and the keeper explained that one of the crocs was rescued from customs at Bristol airport! It was made clear the Zoo's ethos centres around conservation and raising awareness of animal rights issues.
We continued to the Penguins to watch them feed, entering an enclosure which was full of life with three different bird species populating the netted “Seal and Penguin Coast”. Eider Ducks were bobbing gracefully in the water, Inca Terns were scattered around swooping over our heads clearly excited that food was coming, and finally African Penguins looking smart in their dinner jacket plumage dotted the shore. Listening to the feed talk and watching the staff, it is clear to see how passionate they are about the animals they work with, sharing knowledge on individual characters and how maintaining the zoos breeding programme aids conservation of African Penguins. This was a fantastic opportunity for pictures, but the stars of my shots weren’t always the penguins; some of my favourite shots from the trip are of the Inca Terns, incredibly charismatic with their white moustaches.
Realistically, I could have spent all day at the Zoo, I love watching animals and how they interact with each other. One area where we saw some family antics was with the gorillas, having just been fed a load of veggies the Western Lowland Gorillas were munching. Jock the silverback took pride of place on the floor peeling some leeks. The design of the enclosure allows a walk-through underneath enrichment ropes and toys with blacked-out areas giving the family privacy when they want it, which made glimpses of baby Ayana a real treat as she occasionally showed her face, peeking out from behind her mum.
Our final stop was the butterfly house, a warm poly-tunnel full of foliage and a sweet nectar smell. Wandering around, peering in between leaves, we tried to spot a variety of butterflies. Due to the gloomy day, and the fact that it was nearly 4:30, many of the butterflies had gone to bed but we were lucky enough to see a few of the bigger varieties; either with wings closed and huge owl eye like markings showing or gently flitting showing off their iridescent blue wings. A very informative volunteer told us where to look for some of the smaller butterflies, pointing out at least 20 nestled looking like leaves on a plant, it was brilliant!
With the butterflies sleeping and everything else heading to bed we made our way to the exit! Our crazy fast 3 hours over, we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon. The day was made even better by whopper Christmas dinner leftover butties wolfed down on a picnic bench undercover near the gorillas. Camera batteries flat, but pictures taken, a few mementos from the day, we legged it back to the car in the rain to head off for tea and mince pies.