Saturday 26 August 2017

Hamerton Park Zoo Review

We  recently had a family trip to Hamerton Park Zoo near Sawtry in Cambridgeshire. Nestled deep in the countryside on first appearance looks more like a farm than a zoo but it's actually a lot bigger than it seems. We arrived in the afternoon just before half one, on entry we were handed a couple of leaflets and entered the park. There was a noticeboard with different animal feeding times throughout the day, the last one being (on the day we were there) at 1:30pm. It was the cheetahs being fed which I was keen to see so we started to rush round the zoo (in the wrong direction). This is where I felt it would have been helpful to be handed a map on entry or be informed they were available to buy within the guide.
Whilst trying to get to the cheetah enclosure I was briefly distracted by the frisky tortoises, Eliot loudly declared 'Look mummy that tortoise is climbing on that ones back', which made me chuckle. You can always trust an animal to give you some sort of nature in action!
We were just in time to catch the end of the feeding session and I was surprised how close you were to these beautiful animals. Being a cat owner I also have a love and fascination for big cats too and really enjoyed observing them. It was great to see their enclosure was large, with plenty of space for them to roam.
Even though their keeper had finished feeding them, the cheetah's were obviously hoping for more food as they stuck close to the fence whilst the keeper chatted to people and answered questions. It was then one of the cheetahs began to make a 'meow' type noise over and over again which was amazing to hear as I'd never heard it before and was surprised how much it sounded like a pet moggy!

Eliot had spotted the play area and the train by this point and was eager to get on to both. We told him we'd do both later as we needed to have lunch first.
We did have a look at a few more of the animals including the American mammoth donkey's which were happy to be petted. There was also a step up to reach them making it easy for children to stroke them.

The hand washing area was just behind, so made it very easy to ensure hands were cleaned after stroking the mammoth donkeys.

We then headed to the café to get a bit of a late lunch. Below is picture of the food that was on offer and prices on the day we visited.
I quite fancied a jacket potato and the other half (OH) wanted a bacon roll but unfortunately all the jacket potato's had gone and there was no bacon left, which was a bit disappointing but I suppose can happen later on in the afternoon. There were still different sandwiches available to choose from but I ended up going for the pepperoni pizza, as did Eliot and the OH went for a burger and sandwich. The hot food was microwavable so not anything to have high expectations of but was fine to fill a gap.
There were a few tables inside the café and then picnic tables dotted around outside as well as nearer to the play equipment. One thing that did make my experience in the picnic area less enjoyable were the amount of wasps that were around. Obviously being one of the warmer days, they were out in force around the food and drink. I personally can't bear them and admit to having a bit of a fear after being stung as an adult, I'm one of those people that runs, flaps their arms, squeals and shrieks if they get too close and certainly did all of those things a few times! I know they don't bother some people but I think it could put a dampener on a day out if your child got stung, therefore I think those wasp catcher bottles would be useful around the café and picnic area for those warmer months.

We were kindly gifted £25 to spend in the café or shop as part of our review, the above food along with some drinks, left us with just over £8 change which we saved for Eliot to buy a souvenir in the shop.
Once we'd finished lunch we decided to go back to where we'd started and have a proper look at all the different animals before having a train ride and letting Eliot loose on the play area. There are over a hundred different species of animals to see, so really lots to look at and take in.
We spent a fair bit of time around the bird enclosures, particularly observing the vultures who were intimidating as well as fascinating to watch. Their wingspan was incredible and their body language and movements was really interesting. I think the were hoping to be fed but also seemed to have a dislike of cameras.

One thing that I liked around Hamerton Zoo were the information plaques for each species somewhere around their enclosures. They weren't overwhelming with information but gave you enough, including the animals' level of vulnerability in the wild e.g. 'critically endangered'.
I loved the display cabinet of different bird eggs, (above) Eliot was also interested in the different sizes which included replicas of eggs of extinct birds such as the dodo.

We continued enjoying looking at and reading about the different creatures in their enclosures even though Eliot continued to pester us about the train and play area. From meerkats to bearded dragons back to the mammoth donkeys and the other animals in-between, there is plenty to see.

It was when we were back near to the mammoth donkeys that we realised the train was being put away for the day. Shock, horror, we thought this may end in an epic meltdown from Eliot being the train fanatic that he is, luckily he didn't but he was disappointed he was unable to have a ride. I was surprised as it was around 4pm and the zoo was open until 5:30pm. It was pretty quiet and perhaps that was why the train was put away but I felt there should have been timings visible somewhere or it should have been mentioned when arriving and entering the zoo. I wasn't even aware that tickets to ride the train had to be purchased until after our visit. This is something you could definitely be made aware of when entering.

So with a train ride fail under our belts, we headed to look at some more big cats, two Bengals and a Malaysian tiger. Again I could watch these big cats for hours, and was in awe at being so close to these incredible animals.
The tiger enclosures are quite new and there are indoor parts where there is lots of information about tigers and the conservation work Hamerton does.

After exploring the tiger enclosure we headed to the 'Stroll A Safari' where you'll find sheep, ducks, chickens, camels, alpacas and pygmy goats. Some of the animals can roam out of their enclosures and you can feed them with food from the feeding station which you will need 20p coins for. Unfortunately the animals had ventured back into their enclosures so we missed out on feeding any.

Luckily Eliot didn't mind as he was still keen to spend time on the play areas. Before doing so though we headed to the shop so he could buy a souvenir as we didn't want to miss the shop too! I must admit I'm not a fan of gift shops as they're usually overpriced but there were a fair few items at pocket money prices. Eliot did spend a very long time deciding what he would like but in the end chose a zoo themed story book and a dinosaur egg which you're meant to put it water and it hatches but he ended up cracking it open whilst pulling it out of the box.
We were one of the last few families there so Eliot pretty much had the play equipment to himself and enjoyed the end of his day out climbing and going down the slide.

Overall we had a really enjoyable afternoon at Hamerton Park Zoo, if you're not too far away and looking for days out in the last week of the summer holidays it's definitely worth a visit!

Things we loved...
  • Opportunities to see some of the animals being fed
  • Able to observe the animals in large enclosures
  • Information available not too overwhelming
  • Covered picnic areas so still able to eat outdoors in wet weather
  • Some walkways around enclosures covered so able to stay undercover in some areas if weather is wet
  • Play area for babies and toddlers as well as older children
  • Opportunities to stroke/feed some of the animals
Things that could have made our visit even better...
  • Being given a map on arrival (the park is not huge but as we arrived at a feeding time this would have enabled us to get to the enclosure quicker)
  • Being told that train tickets need to be purchased on arrival/having a sign near the train pick up point
  • Having train start and finish times visible to avoid any disappointment
  • Wasp control measures around café and picnic areas
Hamerton Park Zoo is open everyday apart from Christmas and Boxing day. Adult entry is £13.99 per person, children between 3-8 years pay £8.99 and under 3's go free. Tickets can be purchased online or on the gate. Head to the website to get your 10% off voucher!
* We received free entry and a £25 voucher to spend in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own


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