The RSM Social Club had organised an evening at London Zoo so several of us from the office decided to go. London Zoo is open every Friday evening in June and July for Zoo Lates, for adults only, from 6 to 10pm.
We got there at 6 on the dot and decided to head to the ‘Into Africa’ section – this bit of the zoo is between Prince Albert Road and the Outer Circle so we had to go through a tunnel to get there. African hunting dogs were the first animals we saw – even though we were outdoors and they were several feet below us, the smell was unbearable. We moved on pretty quickly! The warthogs were next and then the okapis (which were officially discovered in 1901 – not that long ago!)
Just after I took this picture, the okapi started running around the enclosure and then straight at us – I thought it was going to take a leap over the fence but at the last minute it swerved!
The zebras were in the next enclosure and then came the giraffes:
There was an elevated viewing platform next to the giraffe enclosure so we could see them at their level (more or less):
After the Africa section, we went to the Rainforest Life exhibit. It was indoors and very humid – there were sloths, emperor tamarins (they look like monkeys with long white moustaches), lion tamarins and some birds. Beneath this exhibit was the Nightlife exhibit – cockroaches, rats (the largest rats I’ve ever seen), bats, piranhas with sharp little teeth – it was quite gross actually. I was quite happy to be back upstairs in daylight!
We passed the meerkats, lemurs and otters on our way back to the main part of the zoo.
The area just outside the Penguin Beach was turned into a food and drink area – there were stands offering all different kinds of street food – chorizo wraps, crepes, tacos, it was all there. We all went for different things. I had a pulled pork mini burger with kim chee – it was SO good.
Everyone was sitting around on the grass with their drinks by now so I wandered off to the Big Cats exhibit, hoping to see a tiger. I was disappointed when I got there because even though the area wasn’t crowded, there was no tiger in sight. I stood alone at the railing for a couple of minutes, sipping on my Pimms, and suddenly there it was, walking straight towards me. It came right up to the grill and we just stared at each other – it must have been for close to a minute – and then more people showed up with their cameras and the tiger started pacing.
It seemed to be the only tiger there – and I felt really sorry for it. It kept emitting a low growl and pacing around its cage.
I went back to the others because the penguins were supposed to be fed at 7.30 at Penguin Beach – but when we got there it was so crowded we couldn’t even get in! One of the staff told us to come back later as they were at capacity for the event. Disappointing.
We went back to the tiger, saw the lions lazing on a deck in the evening sun, watched the spider monkeys swinging around their cage, saw some llamas and donkeys and went back to the penguins. Their feeding time was over and the area had emptied out so we sat down and watched them swimming around for a while. We walked over to the Gorilla Kingdom – the queue to get in was really long – and when we were finally in we were met with two gorillas, sitting with their backs to us, sulking. Disappointing.
I remember going to the zoo every summer as a child – and there were so many more animals in those days than there are now. No, we didn’t see the aquarium or the reptiles or the insects – but there are no elephants any more. I remember reading that they had been moved to Whipsnade Zoo back in 2001 as one of the staff members was crushed and killed by one of the elephants. They were definitely there when I went in 1997. I remember queuing up for camel rides as well (OK, I don’t blame them for not having these any more). There are no pandas. There are no polar bears. There are no rhinos. It’s sad.
If you think that having an evening for adults only would mean the zoo is less crowded, think again! It was heaving. By the time it was 8pm, the queues to get anything to eat or drink were crazy. After we’d seen the gorillas it was almost 9pm, the animal exhibits were closing and we decided to leave. We could have stayed on until 10pm – there was a silent disco and you could still eat and drink but the place was so crowded and we were so tired from walking around that we decided to head home.
It was a fun evening and I’d recommend it for an evening out. A good thing to do would be to order the Gordon Ramsay picnic baskets in advance so you don’t have to queue up for food later on. And be prepared to stand on tiptoe to see anything or get their early to see the animals you want to. I suppose that’s one advantage of going when there are more children – you can see over their heads!!