On the way, I spotted this sign along with another that said there was a sharp cliff. I wondered if it was a joke, until I saw signs saying there was some kind of quarry nearby.
We saved time and money by buying our tickets beforehand. I booked them on the drive there and punched my reference into a ticket machine at the entrance. We got the tickets printed off and didn't have to queue, we also saved about £10.
As with Diggerland and other places we've been to, I noticed the gift shop was right by the entrance - which me and the kids duly noted for later on.
On entering the zoo, there were a number of directions we could go in, so we picked one and decided to come back to the rest. Sometimes you find attractions like this are laid out in a way that you follow the path and manage to work your way through all of the elements of the place. Colchester Zoo didn't feel like this as much, this meant that we doubled up on ourselves sometimes and found that we missed some of the animals.
The leopard below was one of my favourites, mainly because I spotted it long before the kids, but also because it hides so beautifully in the foliage - can you spot it?
This red panda was my other favourite, beautiful and still:
We had lots of fun with this monkey (a gibbon I think), who showed off to the crowd on his swing, the kids were in hysterics when he started peeing as he swung and wanted me to send pictures of him to their grandparents there and then.
The fish were Darlings favourite because she could see them straight away through the glass and didn't have to be lifted up to get a look.
This is the best view we got of the tigers, the leopard was hiding in the tree and the cheetah was lazing behind a log so we didn't see him at all. We also managed to miss the Lion completely and were too tired to go back.
Part of the zoo is dedicated to bugs and birds with a walk through trees and a marshy area, this area riminded me of similar dedicated areas at Groombridge in Kent and a larger area at the Gweek Seal Sanctuary in Cornall - peaceful, green and isolated compared to other busier areas of the site.
I have to say, I found some of the larger African animals quite thrilling: the elephants, rhino's, giraffes, zebra's and something called the greater kudu (which looked a bit like an antelope).
There were plenty of places to eat with different types of food, including one (Tiger Taiga Chip 'n Dip) that seemed to serve only vegetarian food (which means that it would likely not be cooked with meat, which is a consideration when eating halal, so worth asking). We took our own picnic and found two areas with picnic benches, one was near the elephants and a bit smelly, but the other was fine and it was fun having ducks sneaking under the table whilst we were eating and making the kids freak out :)
The zoo was easy to navigate with Baby's pram for most places except areas which were a bit steeper, where hubby and I took turns and had to put our back into it a bit more. We managed to miss some seeing some animals (lions, penguins, kangaroos) because we just got too tired and didn't want to double back. The trip back took ages too, usually you wander through a site and find yourself back at the starting, but we ended up walking all the way back through the zoo.
In all our trip to the zoo was a nice day out, about the same price as other similar places. I loved how child-friendly it was with staff that were friendly and answered our children's questions kindly, making it a nice day out for everyone in out family.
We had planned to visit nearby Colchester Castle and the Castle Park afterwards, but the kids were all fast asleep in the car within five minutes, so we headed home instead.