Earlier this summer the Cub, Bee and I joined some friends for a day out at The Wild Place, near Bristol in South-West England. I hadn’t heard of this zoological park but was pleasantly surprised with what we discovered here.
About The Wild Place
The Wild Place is a great day out with plenty of outside activities and some fascinating and unusual animals to find. Many, but not all, of the animals here are native to Africa. Opened in 2013, the centre is keen to promote conservation and education and is hoping to expand with plans to build a giraffe house and a veterinary centre in the next few years.
There is an emphasis on being outside whatever the weather and for those children who are very young and prefer to tear about (like the Cub) there is plenty to explore. There are trails through the surrounding woodland and a maze as well as gardens so bring your wellies!
When we arrived the weather was cold and raining so we sheltered in an undercover picnic area just through the entrance where the kids had a great time on the climbing frames of the Fun Fort. There was one for bigger or more adventurous kids and one that was perfect for the Cub and Bee. There are a couple more outdoor play areas that we discovered later in the day.
As the weather cleared we ventured into the park. The first animals we saw were some zebras and eland in a field, but the Cub was much more interested in playing in the zebra jeep parked just outside the enclosure. It took some time to coax her out and off to see the cheetahs. We saw three cheetahs who walked right past us as I was fumbling to get my camera out. They were gorgeous animals and they gave us a good parade.
From the cheetah enclosure we walked through some pretty woodland to meet the newest arrivals at the Wild Place: gelada baboons. I’d never seen these before and they looked very settled in their enclosure. In the wild geladas sleep on rock faces so the Wild Place has made sure that there are plenty of boulders in their paddock for them to sleep on, and the rest of their enclosure mimics their natural habitat as far as possible. Around many of the enclosures are plenty of educational stations for older kids to find out more.
As we walked around the park we also encountered meerkats, reindeer, wolves and the very beautiful okapis who were grazing peacefully in their paddock. The kids were fascinated with these animals, especially the patterns on their hide.
As the day wore on the sun came out and so the kids had a brilliant time playing in the outside adventure playground and sandpit area. The Wild Place has got some fantastic outdoor areas and the Cub also enjoyed the Barefoot Trail next to the wolf enclosure. She can be a bit particular about getting mucky or certain textures but with some coaxing she did step into most of the pits which have different sized pebbles, bark and mud to squelch through. This was a great way to get her out of her comfort zone and to try some new experiences.
The absolute highlight of the day had to be the lemur enclosure. I popped Bee into his sling for this encounter. We first walked through a mock-up of a traditional Madagascan village which had some resident goats and plenty of information on life in Madagascar.
Through some more gates we discovered the ring tailed lemurs who were basking in the sunshine on the path. The kids (and the adults) were absolutely enthralled with these little guys and we managed to tiptoe quite close to them. I think that the lemurs were just as interested in the children and they spent quite a lot of time just watching each other. There are other species of lemur here kept in a separate enclosure, but the ring-tails were the friendliest. Keepers were on hand to answer any questions that we had, and to supervise the interaction from both sides. The lemurs put a huge grin on everyone’s faces; they are very cute little characters.
After an ice cream and another play outside we headed home; everyone covered in mud and sand, half soaked but very happy – surely the mark of a great family day out?
What I really enjoyed about the Wild Place is that the animals are somewhat unusual and provide a different experience to many animal parks and zoos. When we go again, we will plan our visit around the animal talks as we somehow managed to miss all of these. All the animals had suitable enclosures and plenty of room to roam about, and there was plenty of information for older kids and adults. We will be back!
Know before you go
The Wild Place is easily reached from the M5 motorway; exit at junction 17.
Tickets are usually discounted if you buy them in advance on the Wild Place website.
Most of the park is suitable for buggies but you can’t take them into the lemur enclosure.
If you’d like to get closer to the animals there are keeper packages available on the website too. Who wouldn’t want to be a keeper for the day?
We took a picnic and didn’t try the cafe but you can buy food on site if you prefer. There are plenty of outdoor picnic areas.