We had planned to visit Chester Zoo yesterday to experience the Wild Rumpus “The Enchantment of Chester Zoo” – unfortunately our plans were foiled by a vomiting boy . . .
Regular readers will recognise Mich and the kids from our regular adventures together. This time we asked Team Butler to go in our place and write a guest review of The Enchantment of Chester Zoo . . .
When we woke up this morning we didn’t have many plans other than taking the kids to Sunday school and doing the food shop! So when Col messaged to say that Ben was poorly and she needed someone to step in and take up their place at Chester Zoo I was obviously gutted for them but instantly accepted the offer! Col told us that Amy was upset not to be going as she’d just recovered from her bout of sickness and woke excited for her adventure – so how could we not take her with us? Action stations started and we managed to get everyone up, ready and out the door in an hour! In keeping with the Burgess tradition we didn’t tell the kids where we were going other than we were stepping in to take their place on an adventure! Finn wanted to know if it was somewhere he would have fun – I promised it was!
When we arrived at the zoo the kids were suitably excited and couldn’t wait to get inside. Luckily there were no queues so we sailed through and were given a map showing us where to find ‘The Enchantment Garden’. On route we passed the Elephants so couldn’t help but have a quick stop off there and watch as the whole herd tucked into breakfast.
As we were booked in for 11am to meet ‘The Wise Old Owl’ we couldn’t hang around for long so Finley followed the map and soon found where we needed to be! Having a time slot booking system was fantastic as it meant there was no queuing and we simply waited a couple of minutes for the gates to open and our small group, maybe 6 or 7 families, to enter ‘The Enchantment Garden’! On entering the garden we were told that today it would be our mission to help save the nocturnal animals from Evil Sorcerer who had stolen the nocturnal animals ‘super hero’ senses. Moving through the garden we met lots of ‘animals’ who pleaded with us to help them by collecting potions from around the zoo, in an attempt to stop the Evil Sorcerers plan! All three kids were so engaged with the fun and couldn’t wait to get their test tube from one of the ‘owls’ so they could get started!
As we left the Enchantment Garden they instantly wanted to get the map out and find the first nocturnal animal on the list. To my horror our first stop had to be the tarantula but hey I would put on a brave face and embrace my role in saving the animals! When we found the tarantula we met 2 fantastic members of Chester Zoo staff who spent time with Finn, Erin and Amy explaining what ‘super sense’ their creatures had. They used tarantula skin and a piece of string to explain how these spiders are experts at using vibrations – Finn loved this hands on experience and was confident to report back to the owls what he had learnt so they could all collect their first drops of potion.
After this we moved on to find The Fruit Bat Forest so they could get more potion. As we entered the dark room Finley and Amy were not very keen at all – but clinging to Neil we managed to convince them to go in! To be honest I completely sympathised because the first time I went in there I was quite freaked out – however now knowing what to expect, I love it! As you enter the blackness bats swoop around you from all directions and there are literally hundreds of them (over 600 I believe) hanging from trees, ‘caves’ and the walls. Erin was in her element and absolutely loved it, asking questions of the staff and getting excited when the bats brushed past us. Again, we met a brilliant member of staff, Pippa wore an LED name badge so she could be found in the dark, who told us all about these amazing animals and their ‘super senses’. Once we had the information we needed for the ‘owl’ Finn and Amy couldn’t wait to get out – however Erin would quite happily have stayed all day. Once we found the owl we shared our newly found knowledge of bats and got a different coloured potion added to each test tube. Amy was very excited that this made her potion change colour!
Everyone was quite hungry by this point so we opted to have a relatively early lunch. Usually on a day out like this I would always take a picnic as I find food quite extortionately priced when you need to feed a family, however I was very pleasantly surprised! We went to the Junes Pavilion Restaurant and took up the ‘Family Feasts’ offer to feed us all for less than £20. I was a little dubious about the food we might get and the portion size, with this low price, but it was great! Large portions and all freshly cooked meant everyone ate happily and there was food left over as we were all so full!
From here we set off to find our next target – the Aardvarks. On route we went into the ‘Islands’ area which I was really pleased about as this in a new addition since I was at the zoo around 5 years ago. In here you could take a gentle boat ride around and see the tigers snoozing as well as warty pigs – which the kids thought were hilariously named!
On leaving the ‘Islands’ we headed straight to see the Aardvarks who were super cute all cuddled to and sleeping – as you might expect from a nocturnal animal at 2pm in the afternoon. Again, all three kids couldn’t wait to add to their potion collection and were eager to find out the information they needed. This is what I loved about ‘The Enchantment of Chester Zoo’ as it encouraged all five of us to be drawn to and genuinely be interested in finding out about some animals we may traditionally have just rushed past to get to the lions, tigers and elephants! Finley definitely learnt facts which will stay with him and he’ll be keen to share back in school after the holidays. Having said that we were also keen to see the usual must see zoo animals and as Chester Zoo is well laid out they were all easy to find and none of them were hiding from us.
The only down side to our day was that Sunday opening hours meant the zoo closed at 4.30pm. We made the most of our last hour and got around all the animals we wanted to see, but also making sure we had time to deliver our potions to the final ‘owl’ on our mission. The ‘owl’ asked us to pour our potion into the huge pot in the hope that we would have collected enough to help save the animals from the Evil Sorcerer! The kids were so excited by this and were even more pleased to each receive a thank you letter which explained that they had indeed “created enough counter spell and the evil sorcerer has been defeated”.
This excitement ended what had been a pretty perfect day! The Enchantment of Chester Zoo was a lovely addition to our day, although at first I was a little concerned it may detract from what we would traditionally see and do on a zoo visit, it really doesn’t and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for similar events in the future.
If you want to try out The Enchantment of Chester Zoo experience it is running throughout half term and ends on Halloween, 31st October.
*Disclaimer – We were invited to Chester Zoo free of charge for the purposes of reviewing The Enchantment of Chester Zoo experience – all thoughts and opinions remain those of Team Butler!