Review – Bristol Zoo Project

We recently visited one of the UK’s newest zoos, the Bristol Zoo Project.  This wildlife conservation park is set in 136 acres of beautiful countryside and is the new home of Bristol Zoo since moving from Clifton after its closure in 2022.

At the time of writing this review, it’s still undergoing its exciting transformation into a new conservation zoo, so whilst there are not as many animals here as the old zoo this new setting is far more impressive.

The mission of this new zoo is to work to protect endangered species and animal habitats both in the UK and around the world, and although visits to the previous Bristol Zoo (which was the 5th oldest zoo in the world) hold special memories for us, we couldn’t wait to check it out this new conservation zoo.

We arrived early on Saturday morning just after opening and parking here is a vast improvement over the Clifton site with lots of free parking available.  It’s also superbly located if you are arriving by car, it’s no more than a 5 minute drive from junction 17 of the M5 near the Cribbs Causeway shopping complex.

As beautiful as this new countryside location is, the main attraction here are the animals and there is a wide selection to check out, from its latest resident, a red panda to the zebras, giraffes, cheetahs and bears along with plenty of other smaller animals that now call the park home.

After walking through the main entrance, we started our day heading left towards the latest enclosure to open at the zoo which has been tailor-made to the needs of red pandas and is home to Nilo.  We had a top tip to visit as soon as the zoo opened as this was when he was typically more active, but he had different ideas, spending his time hiding in the large cedar tree.

Located close by is the barefoot trail which looked a hit with families with younger children but we skipped that and explored the walled garden area, home to 5 male meerkats.   The nearby tower meadow looked a great spot for picnics and lots of room for kids to run around, but what caught my attention was the stunning Hollywood Tower, built in 1839 by Edward Dent who designed the famous ‘Big Ben’ clock tower in London.

Our favourite spot to see the giraffes and zebra was from the  Giraffe House balcony area of the zoo’s Benoue National Park area, where we were able to get face to face views of the giraffes as they wandered past us.

The walkway provides stunning views of the enclosure where we spent time watching the giraffes and zebras exploring their surroundings. The animals all look well cared for and the zoo keepers hold regular talks around the park.  What really stood out was the enthusiasm from the employees at the zoo who were all so knowledgeable and passionate about what they are trying to create here in Bristol.

The grassy area of the cheetah enclosure was huge, it has been designed to represent the savannah where the species live in the wild and because of the size of the enclosure it can be difficult to spot them.  As we walked past the glass viewing area we got lucky as both of the cheetahs walked right past us.

For lunch we decided to check out Basecamp Pizzeria for their freshly baked 12” sourdough pizza’s which were delicious and well priced at £9.95 .  The food was good here but its vantage point was even better, close to the cheetah habitat so it was in a great location to spot them as you enjoy lunch.

Next up was our favourite area of the park, Bear Wood set in 7.5 acres of ancient woodland with an elevated boardwalk  that winds its way through the area at tree-top height.  This immersive experience really makes you feel like you are in the heart of the forest, providing panoramic views of the forest and its inhabitants – four European brown bears, grey wolves, lynxes and wolverines.

Our journey started at the “time chamber” room which explains your journey starting 8,000 years ago to the present day.  As we entered bear wood we were lucky to catch a glimpse of the lynx roaming around their part of the woods but it was the bears that stole the show.  We spent an age here just watching some of the bears in their huge wooded paddock and were able to get relatively close to them and watched two of them playfight.

Gelada rocks was another favourite, designed to replicate the Ethiopian highlands, home to a large group of six Gelada baboons, an endangered species from Ethiopia. As there was lots of low fencing with large glass screens it meant that we could get really close to them as they relaxed and played in the long grasses, rocks and climbing platforms.

Elsewhere on our zoo adventure we enjoyed watching the Eland having its lunch whilst spotting the red river hog, lemurs, birds and pygmy goats as we explored the zoo.  Each animal enclosure has facts on display providing us the opportunity to learn more about the animals and an insight into the conservation work that the zoo runs which was really insightful.

For families with younger children I was impressed with the amount of interactive play areas such as a barefoot trail, play areas (indoor and outdoor), mazes and woodland play areas.  The highlight will be their “We’re going on a bear hunt” trail which runs until the 1st September and as you explore the stunning Bear Woods area of the zoo you’ll find lots of interactive stations and obstacles to explore as you follow the trail.

If you are visiting with older children like we did, the “Leap of Faith” climbing wall and high wire looked really fun – we didn’t get a chance to try this out but our teen girls are already planning a return visit.

The  next phase of the transformation of the zoo will be the creation of a new Central African Forest habitat which I can’t wait to see.  This will become home to the zoo’s existing troop of Critically Endangered western lowland gorillas which are still at the old zoo in Clifton. They’ll be joined by Endangered cherry-crowned mangabeys, Critically Endangered slender-snouted crocodiles and Endangered African grey parrots.

Having spent a couple of hours here, we decided to visit the courtyard café for drinks and ice cream and checking out the shop before calling it a day.

Overall

If you are visiting Bristol, a visit to the Bristol Zoo Project should be on your list especially if your children love animals – it ticks all the boxes for a fun day out. Although there is still a lot of transformation work to take place and the amount of animals here is still being added to, this is reflected in the ticket price which is less than what you would pay at many other zoos in the country.

Pricing and Location

Tickets are available to purchase on the day or via their website here. If you purchase online there is a 10% discount. Bristol Zoo Project have a yearly membership starting at £54  per year for adults 15+ and £42 for children, meaning that you can visit as many times as you like. Membership also includes discounts in the shop and leap of faith and partners with other zoos to offer free visits. If you’re going to visit more than twice a year its worth looking into the annual membership.

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