Whilst visiting my family back in my hometown of Edinburgh, we wanted to take the children to visit Edinburgh Zoo. Late August was a good time to go as the Scottish school children are back in school and the zoo was quiet. The Zoo is situated three miles to the west of Edinburgh city centre. It is easy to get to by car or bus.
Edinburgh Zoo is owned by The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS). The Society was founded in March 1909, and the Zoo opened in July 1913.
The Zoo is set in 82 acres of sloping parkland, which can make it difficult for pushing buggies uphill, but there is a mini bus that will drop you at the top of the hill. The view at the top of the Zoo is worth the climb. A recommendation would be catch a ride to the top of the Zoo and you can walk downhill and view the animals in reverse order.
The meerkats and pelicans are the first animals you will see as you enter the Zoo. Use your map to guide you and possibly plan what animals you would like to see first. The map has the timings of daily talks and hands on encounters.
The main attraction for us to visit the Zoo was to view the Giant Pandas. Due to popularity and to maintain crowds you need to book well in advance your Panda time slots. This needs to be booked separate from the entrance ticket. However, when we arrived at the Zoo we were disappointed that the Panda enclosure was closed to visitors due to the uncertainty and protection of a possible pregnant panda.
The panda enclosure is beside the penguins and they have a large enclosure and a good underwater viewing area. There are Rockhopper Penguins, Gentoo Penguins and King Penguins. A good time to visit is feeding time so it’s worth checking the information boards at the entrance for feeding times. The Penguin Parade is daily around 2.15pm and crowds gather early round the grassy area between the penguin enclosure and the Education Centre.
It looked like a few penguins were going to come out for a walk but in the end some changed their minds and there was only one proud penguin on his own taking centre stage. It was lovely to see and my youngest daughter thought it was really funny seeing this little penguin wander past her feet.
Apart from getting close to over 1,000 rare and endangered animals, there are many different ways to enjoy your day out. There are opportunities to experience educational events and activities – ranging from keeper talks through to hands-on animal encounters.
The Budongo Trail is a great place to view the Chimpanzees and learn more about how they interact.
There are plenty of areas for visitors with viewing galleries, plasma screens, interactive displays, murals and live plants. It was amazing watching them climbing and eating so close up. We viewed them indoors through huge glass windows although they did have an outdoor enclosure too.
Another good monkey enclosure to go to is Living Links. It houses two species of monkeys: the Brown capuchin and the Common squirrel monkey. These monkeys are intelligent, social, and lots of fun to watch.
My favourite enclosure was the Koala Territory. I have never seen a koala in real life. We were lucky that they were awake and moving about as they tend to sleep for around 20 hours of the day.
Meet the UK’s only Koalas: Goonaroo, Yabbra, Alinga and Yooranah. Yooranah was the first koala to be born in the UK. I have just updated the post to advise sadly Yooranah has recently passed away.
We enjoyed taking a walk through Wallaby Outback, which is next door to Koala Territory. There is a small herd of swamp wallabies to walk past and at certain times of the year there may be a chance of a joey popping its head out of its mummy’s pouch. There are a few animal walk through enclosures: pelican walk through, monkey walk through and lemur walk through.
The African Plains exhibit at the top of the Zoo is where you can view Grevy’s Zebra, Lowland Nyala and Vicuna.
There is also a good outdoor dinosaur exhibition “The Dinosaurs Return” to explore and walk around with models and sound effects. Watch out for one of the dinosaurs who will squirt water out of his mouth at you!
There are some fantastic animals to see such as the Lions, Sumatran Tigers, Giant Anteater, Drills, Gelada Baboon, Large hairy Armadillo, Malayan sun bear, pygmy hippopotamus, white faced Saki, reptiles, birds, lemurs, otters, one horned Rhinos, fish and too many more to name. If you are looking for a specific animal please check the Zoo’s website.
Please note that the snack kiosks are open subject to weather conditions and visitor numbers. There were a few eating areas throughout the Zoo, Jungle Food Court, Grasslands Restaurant and Penguins Café. I would recommend taking a picnic as the Zoo is spread out and you can either eat on the go or sit in one of the picnic areas. The two main picnic areas are located at the hilltop and around the main lawn in front of the mansion house.
We purchased two ice cream cones from the hilltop kiosk and it was £5 for two ice creams.
There are several good play areas around the Zoo, which is good if the children need to have a break from the animals.
Should you need to use a locker during your visit, there are a small number of lockers available for hire each day on a first come first serve basis located at the Main Entrance. There is a £1.00 deposit for this service.
I liked that Edinburgh Zoo had special bins for recycling plastic bottles as most attractions do not offer this.
I found that Edinburgh Zoo was very expensive. There are not many vouchers that I could see to save money so the only cost saving tip would be to book online in advance and save 14%. A family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children is £58.00. Children under age 3 are free admission into the Zoo. There is a charge for parking, but you get a Zoo car sticker as your pass which makes a nice souvenir.
The Zoo is also one of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions, open every day of the year including Christmas Day. The gift shop is cleverly placed at the exit of the Zoo however the money spent goes towards the Zoo’s work in conservation, education and research.
We had a lovely 4 hours at the Zoo and each Zoo we have visited offers something different. We got to see the Penguin Parade, koalas, monkeys and giant anteater. We would love to come back again to visit the pandas.