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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Visit to Whipsnade Zoo

Up until a couple of years ago we used to have membership of Z.S.L. (Zoological Society of London) which meant, having paid around £100 a year we could then visit either of their zoos, London and Whipsnade, as many times as we liked during the year. Incredibly good value when you consider that a single entry ticket costs around £25 and you can get in free(I'm not so sure of the individual ticket price around 5 years ago when we first became members.) The cost rose astronomically, to near-enough £200. We didn't continue with the membership as our finances at the time would not allow it. We were also member of the National Trust (and re-joined that recently.) as you can also get into their properties free. Carol found out that she could become a Fellow of Z.S.L. because she is a science teacher. So she applied and we now can visit again, both getting  free entry. It also means she has access to a lot of Z.S.L. material which is in their library at Regent's Park as well as being able to attend lectures, as well as their A.G.M. and get discount in their shops and restaurants at both Whipsnade and London Zoos. 

We went today for the first time in quite a few years. We left Milton Keynes at around 9 a.m. and had to get petrol on the way at our usual Shell petrol station and then on to Boots outside Bletchley as we thought it might be a good idea to get sun screen as it has been really warm and hot, with particularly sunny weather. We drove out of Milton Keynes along the A5 towards Dunstable and then on to Whipsnade along the Dunstable Downs, where we saw a few gliders as well as kites near the visiter centre. We got to the carpark at the zoo to find it filling up rapidly. We haven't seen so many people at Whipsnade, but considering the warm weather it's not surprising. We then found that there is now a completely new building at the main entrance which houses a state-of-the-art shop, booking hall as well as toilets (which, incidentally, were never the best feature of Whipsnade.) We had to get Carol's Fellowship car sorted out. Which meant she needed a photograph to put on the card. When we both had membership we had to have photographs taken and these were printed on the cards. This time it was just Carol who needed a photograph (I have to be 'signed in' as I'm not officially a Fellow). Fortunately they were able to find the old photo on their computer system, which was not too out-of-date to be used on the new card.) It means we can not only enter free each time, but can take the car in without further payment. As Whipsnade is quite a large zoo, it can take quite a while to walk from one enclosure to the next, although there is a bus which ferries you around if needed.

We have seen the Birds of The World presentation several times before, but we saw it again today and as usual it's really great to see some of the birds that you never get a chance to see in flight, such as some really colourful parrots and a little owl as well as some kestrels. Amazed at the speed these fly at.

A walk-through exhibit called 'In With The Lemurs' always delights as lemurs are such lively little creatures and we were surprised to find that there were baby lemurs on view, clinging on to their mothers (as you can see from the photo I took, above. We took more photographs that was absolutely necessary, but they are so photogenic it was worth taking every one of them.

 A new butterfly house  has recently been opened, much like the butterfly house we saw at Twycross Zoo a few weeks ago. In the middle of it is another display which housed a miniature crocodile in a glassed space which allowed you to see beneath the surface of the water. You walk into this heated  structure, rather like a vast plastic greenhouse. The butterflies fly around inside and some settle on you. It's an amazing experience. It is heated by some sort of steam system which keeps on billowing out over the centre of the building.

We walked around the zoo and within 4 hours we managed to see tigers, elephants, penguins, bears (several varieties) as well as camels, bison, hippopotami, rhinoseros and giraffe. There is now a new feature, a sort of walk-way which allows you to see the giraffes at near enough eye-level as well as going inside their house and I took the photograph you see below.  Made a change to be able to see these animals like this.

Not like you would if you stood at ground-level. You can virtually see them at eye-level.

Quite a few improvements generally at Whipsnade since we were last there. It was generally looking rather shabby and some of the animal enclosures were looking somewhat tired. They have built a wooden fence around the penguin pools, which seemed rather odd and you have to go in through a gate. There are a couple more shops and some lodges where you can book and stay in overnight as well as some toilets which are far more clean than they have been in the past.

We walked back towards the entrance and had a look in the new shop and then had tea in the cafe. By which time we had completed our visit and then went home via Dunstable. We didn't manage to see everything, particularly the elephants, but it does mean, with the membership, we can return anything we want to which may be over the summer holiday period. It is merely a 45 minute drive from Milton Keynes.

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