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Bristol Zoo

The sky was Cinderella blue, the jackdaws tiny bluebirds were squawking singing, and then….it was time to sing the blues in the rain as Bristol’s skies opened and decided the earth needed a really good watering.

Our perfect day out, as we made our way towards our destination as guests of Visit Bristol to their picturesque zoo, dressed in shorts and t-shirts, seemed completely doomed.  Wet children are one thing, but wet and grumpy grown-ups with tank tops and denim cut off shorts are quite another.  I was also pretty sure that the animals would be running for cover too.

Luckily for the boys, they were snug in their waterproofs which we store in the car for puddle-jumping emergencies, and so it was ponchos for two as me and the mister located them in the expansive gift shop at the entrance to the zoo.

We hustled inside and layered up – me looking like Quasimodo with the poncho covering rucksack on my back and camera on my front – whilst the boys sent copper coins shooting gloriously down the chute of the animal charity display boxes.

All I could think about was how ruined our day was – and even at the end of the day I was so worried that we hadn’t seen enough to be able to show just how fantastic Bristol Zoo really is; but when I looked back over our photos it was easy to see that despite the incredibly wet weather, the boys made some amazing memories to treasure that soggy Sunday.  In case you’re wondering – I took the opening photo on the way out of the zoo. On the way in I’d have been washed away.

We’d done a little reading up beforehand and discovered a “Big Bugs” app for the zoo.  We had no idea what was in store though – until we came face to face with a giant animatronic ladybird.

Bristol Zoo Ladybird
Bristol Zoo ladybird bugs app

The app allows visitors to collect the bugs by scanning a QR code – and not only that, but if you place your hand behind the phone camera, you can virtually hold the mini beast.  The boys were in heaven. 
There are quite a few bugs to collect and we only got half of them, but we’ll be back for the rest!  They were exactly the kind of learning experience that little ones love – larger than life; and thankfully so as some of the bugs weren’t as loved by as many like the ladybird… *cough* tarantula *cough*
We had a quick pitstop for lunch in the gorgeous cafe, which had a huge selection but by this point in the day Lyoto had decided he wasn’t happy – he was hangry – and so he guzzled a bowl of chips, his boxed picnic lunch and two bananas whilst I managed to knock nearly everything off the table with my huge bag/poncho/camera combination.  
The boys were practically squealing in delight that the zoo restaurant sells little plastic cups filled with pick and mix sweeties, and so off we set back into the mouth of the storm with sugary supplies, to see the lions.
There’s just something about lions.  Lions, tigers, wolves – I love them all.  I don’t know if it’s because I know they could maul me to pieces in minutes in the wild, or whether it’s just the sheer majesty of them, but they are just so captivating.  
Unusually for the lions I’ve encountered in zoos, these ones were very visible and interested in the crowd.  One of them reminded me of my Casanova and I wanted to reach in and scrunch his belly fur, and give him a tickle.  

The lions weren’t phased by the downpour – and whilst I was busy admiring them, the boys had found their favourite attraction of the day – the lion pee machine.

Yes, you read that right. The lion pee machine.  Bristol Zoo has a button to press which makes it appear as though a lion is shooting urine at you.  Hilariously we actually saw a lion come close to the contraption and go to the toilet as if to demonstrate the reality of the concept – but for at least twenty minutes, the boys leapt in and out of pretend lion pee in fits of giggles over who got the most squirts on them.

They were absolutely soaked.

The next stop, as our day was going far faster than we hoped, was the gorillas.  It was a special treat for Jensen who holds a torch for monkeys.  We have no idea why – and he only has one small black furry monkey toy at home, bought for him by his beloved Granny and Grandad – but he would sit and watch them for hours if he could.

Seeing a gorilla so close – and at one point over his head on the glass ceiling, which again sent the boys into hysterics imagining a gorilla squashing them – was such a treat for him, and his little eyes were wide with wonder.

It was so crowded in the gorilla house, which is more like a huge jungle gym for them – and as we watched the big guys playing with the babies, we jostled for a space and eventually managed to get a capture of this magnificent guy above.

We watched him eat his lunch behind his stairs, watching everyone in case they were after a bite of his peppers.  
When we left the enclosure, we found various gorilla props for Jensen to pose with.

Below was his favourite by far.

Whilst it was still raining, we made our way to the butterfly house – and the boys tried to be as still as possible and enticing to butterflies…

Back outside it was still raining as we took part in learning about cockroaches [which we are all quite fond of now, although sad to hear that they actually can’t survive a nuclear attack] and land snails [whilst I imagined the damage they would cause to my poor pumpkins] as Lyoto hitched a lift in Hero’s Quinny.

Around the corner we found the most beautiful cricket – and we collected him on our app, whilst Jensen demonstrated how they eat.

We found more props to enjoy – a giant tortoise and kangaroo. Our little joeys were adorable if I say so myself.

At the end of the day, the sunshine started to come out and Jensen made his way up onto a ladybird that he was allowed to sit on for a picture [despite his believing I was going to get into trouble with a park employee], whilst we helped ourselves to scrumptious mini tubs of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

And as the sun came out to bid us farewell, Baby Hero did his shoeless happy dance along the pathway and into the gift shop to be the excited recipient of a red panda mask, whilst the boys bought dinosaur eggs, crocodile headed trucks and chocolate bugs to remember their day at the zoo.  

Despite the weather, Bristol Zoo proved to be a fantastic day. Perfectly manicured and carefully thought out enclosures with areas for little ones to play safely in the open.  It was an absolute delight and a complete pleasure to have spent the day at such a special place – and we are proud to be ambassadors of such a beautiful attraction.  We hope to return soon!  

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  1. Despite the rain, looks like the entire family had a great time. I love your photos and that bug app looks like a fun activity for the little ones. I can't help but giggle over the lion pee. So funny!

  2. When my daughter was young, we lived in Australia. They have a super zoo there with large enclosures for the animals. This post takes me back to those days.

  3. This zoo trip sounds so fun and just like ours (I always spill something with my huge bag and my kids eat way too much junk food). Your pictures are great, especially the ones of the beautiful lion.

  4. Wow! That's a nice zoo. So many things for the kids to do there. My kids love going to the zoo too. That picture of your kids in the kangaroo is priceless.

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