We went to Whipsnade Zoo at the weekend, because it's fairly close by (surprisingly so – only took 25 mins from St Albans) and we've been meaning to for a while. A two-for-one voucher from a cereal box was the clincher, saving us £17 on the entry price. We did exactly the same for London Zoo a couple of months back. With Whipsnade being run by ZSL it's a sort of outpost of London Zoo and so we couldn't help but compare and contrast the two.

The first thing we noticed is that it's a lot colder, windier and greyer. But that could just have been autumn arriving with full force. It's certainly a lot more open, with some really huge paddocks of green grass, trees, hummocks etc. with animals dotted about within them, almost Safari park like. That does mean there's less variety overall and it's a bit of a walk to get around, but it's pleasant and you feel the animals are probably happier with the extra space. At least some of them. One medium sized oak was home to this delightful red panda. It was easily the cutest thing we saw all day, beating the otters into second place.

RedPanda

It struck me that all it had to do to escape was walk to the end of a branch and jump past the fence. Presumably it isn't so inclined. I always seem to end up figuring out escape plans for the animals, and it often looks like it wouldn't be so hard. If the chimpanzees simply got together and dragged a branch into the right place they could be up and over the fence, tall as it is, in a jiffy.

We caught a sealion show, which was quite impressive. Three out of the four of them provided accomplished routines, whilst the fourth (Dominic, the youngest) played the fool, which added to the charm.

SealionsGroup

I took my big Nikon 80-400mm VR lens and was glad I did as it really helped to get in close, especially given the large enclosures often meant the animals were far away. It's not that great for action, being a bit slow, but I got a half-reasonable jumping sealion.

SealionJump

I rate the zoo quite highly and would recommend allocating a whole day to visit, though it's a shame it doesn't have a bit more dense indoor stuff (insects, reptiles, fish etc.) to counter-balance the wide-open spaces. It has just the one very cramped Discovery Centre which is decent, if a bit MDF heavy, but the zoo could do with more of the same, spread about the place and implemented in a slicker fashion. There's a bit of a crumbling feel in a few places and the signage to tell you what you're looking at is woeful for most of the outdoor stuff.

I took a great many pictures, as usual, but I'll finish with an obligatory tiger – grrrrr!

TigerSleepy (1)

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