Seeing animals up close is a fun and inspiring holiday experience for everyone, from little ones to grownups. Here’s proof that you don’t have to go on safari to see some amazing animals…
Hidden in the quiet Leicestershire countryside is the western world’s largest collection of primates. Twycross Zoo is home to 150 different species and the only place in the UK where you can see all four of the great apes (the gorilla, orangutan, chimpanzee and bonobo) together.
The park is divided into zones including Wet and Wild (where you watch cheeky penguins diving into pools and delving into buckets of fish) and Elephant Creek (where you get to know the herd of five elephants). It’s an inspiring and fun day out for all the family.
Set in 110 acres of beautiful gardens, Chester Zoo is home to a staggering 12,000 individual animals from some 400 different species. Over half of these species are threatened, meaning they’re vulnerable to becoming endangered, and the zoo is a leading centre for conservation in the UK.
Explore the enormous greenhouse full of spiky cacti before searching out the Asian elephants, red apes and black rhinos. Don’t want to leave? Watch your favourites via webcams on the website when you get back home.
Nestled on the edge of the South Downs, Marwell Zoo is an exciting place to spend the day. Set in 140 acres of parkland, a charming train ride around the grounds will take you past the main attractions; stop off to see the flamingos or cute pygmy hippos and hop back on for the white rhinos and endangered snow leopards.
It’s an interactive experience for the little ones and the zoo’s website is brilliant for learning about the animals both before and after your visit.
Visitors to Edinburgh Zoo will have the chance to meet two of the world’s most charismatic and cute creatures: giant pandas and koalas. But don’t forget to visit the characters at Penguins Rock for their famous parade, or the wallabies in the Outback area.
Like the sound of visiting the zoo (and all of its residents) after hours? Take in the sights and sounds of Edinburgh Zoo at one of the planned ‘Science Nights’ in April. You’ll be able to learn about the work done by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and sample some cool interactive features.
The Isle of Wight Zoo is set in the buildings and grounds of an imposing fort near Sandown. A big cat paradise, it’s home to seven tigers, four African lions and two jaguars. Specially constructed glass viewing panels get you close to the action, observing these amazing creatures in their carefully maintained enclosures.
If you’re a fan of lemurs, then this is the closest you’ll get to Madagascar without actually setting foot on the island; ring-tailed, red ruffed and mongoose lemurs all feel at home here.
Animal lovers of all ages can get hands on with the Zoo Farm’s interactive keeper experiences. The young ones will love meeting Charlotte, the adorable baby highland cow, feeding sheep, holding rabbits and stroking ponies in the Animal Village. Under 10s can even meet a giraffe.
Fancy an altogether bigger task? If you’re over 18, join the keepers to look after Bengal tigers and even elephants. But don’t worry kids! If you’re over 10, you can get hands on with white rhinos, gibbons, lemurs and meerkats.
From alpacas to Asiatic black bears, Dudley Zoological Gardens have enough attractions to keep even the keenest animal lovers busy for the day. Its 40 acre grounds include an 11th-century castle which is a wonderful backdrop for the birds of prey displays.
Afraid of spiders? Try the zoo’s Arachnophobia workshops to face your fears. If you’re already an animal fanatic, find out what it’s like to be a keeper with an experience day or book a Close Encounter (like Feed the Giraffes) for unforgettable personal contact with your favourite animals.
200 acres of stunning Scottish landscape in the Cairngorms National Park make up the Highland Wildlife Park. A visit here gets you close to some incredible creatures from the powerful polar bear to the mischievous Japanese macaque as well as Amur tigers, Arctic foxes and wolverines.
Budding (or experienced) wildlife photographers will love the Photographic Days where you have the chance to capture the Park’s magnificent residents up close.
Newquay Zoo takes you on a round-the-world tour of the animal kingdom. Start close to home at the charming Village Farm where you’ll meet the African pygmy goats, then head to the Madagascar Walkthrough for parrots, lemurs and mongooses.
What’s next? Observe the magnificent mammals of the African Savannah and after that, step into the hot, humid atmosphere of the Tropical House whilst watching the rainforest for poison dart frogs or colourful birds.
Start off your visit to Belfast Zoo by exploring the Rainforest House, a haven of all species tropical (including the two-toed sloth in summer). Next, visit the giraffe and elephant enclosure to see Ballymena, the latest of the 33 giraffe calves born at the zoo since 1996.
At lunchtime, head for the picnic tables near the stunning lake side area where there are flamingoes and pelicans to admire while you eat. And have you ever wondered what the animals get up to after closing time? Book your place on the unique Twilight Tour to find out.