London has always surprised me with its abundance of green outdoor space right in the heart of the city: Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park, various canals and Epping Forest to name a few (read about our top London outdoor picks). After a recent visit to the ZSL London Zoo, I can now firmly place it on the city’s list of outdoor gems. Home to 36 acres of wilderness and many miles of expertly-crafted pathways, the London Zoo is the ultimate escape from the city in the heart of the city.
My sister-in-law and I headed to the zoo with our two sons, both under the age of 2, for a day of outdoor exploration. It was my first venture into central London since lockdown had started, so I was particularly happy to see that the zoo had taken all the needed precautions to make it COVID-secure. There were hand sanitizing stations placed around the grounds, signs to keep 2 metres apart, masks required in enclosed parts of the zoo and limitations on the number of visitors allowed in at any given time.
Walk on the Wild Side
We started our day’s adventure on the blue route, one of three one-way routes. It promised camels, gorillas, tigers, monkeys and a variety of reptiles. Though Hari the Tiger was fast asleep, the monkeys put on a lively show for the boys. I was particularly impressed to see how the zoo focuses on educating visitors on wildlife conservation. All the animals have dedicated information boards that outline their habitats, diets, stories and conservation statuses. For example, the sulawest crested macaque’s board explains that these monkeys are hunted for the pet trade and bush meat, while also being threatened by extensive habitat loss.
The boys enjoyed seeing the gigantic monkey jungle gyms, elevated walkways and various habitats ranging from desert to jungle. Along the way we spotted camels, komodo dragons, 150-year-old giant tortoises and lizards that glow in the dark!
We also did a round of the pink route for a glimpse of African wildlife, including giraffes, zebras and pygmy hippos. The cool, grazing giraffes were arguably the hit of the day for the boys.
All walking routes converge at a large shady lawn where we enjoyed a lovely lunch bought from one of the many cafes at the zoo, before walking over to a pool and beach to see dozens of humboldt penguins swim beneath turquoise water.
By the end of the day, we’d probably only covered half of the vast grounds. Some of the other animals and attractions to return for include a traditional farmyard, an outback section with kangaroos, lemurs and lions.
One of the most remarkable discoveries of our visit was to learn about the significant role in conservation ZSL (Zoological Society of London) plays around the world. Operating in over 50 countries, they work on the ground and in the field on a variety of projects such as promoting sustainable wildlife-human relations in local communities. Operating as a charity, ZSL now needs our support more than even to ensure the on-going protection and sustainability of wildlife on the planet. See how you can get involved, help and donate here.