Think you need to head to the African plains to get up close and personal with exotic animals? Well, think again. At Bristol Zoo Gardens, an overnight stay at The Lodge comes complete with once-in-a-lifetime experiences that will leave you feeling as though you’re on your very own safari – such as a behind the scenes tour of the zoo and your own private breakfast with the resident gorillas.
Sounds good? Well, it is. HELLO! Online headed to the West Country to get a taste of the animal action – and a slice of the luxury on offer in the plush accommodation tucked away in 12 acres of botanical gardens right in the heart of the fifth oldest zoo in the world. And what a treat it was!
The Lodge, a refurbished former keeper’s house, has two beautifully- appointed safari-themed double bedrooms that gave us serious décor envy – plus there’s an additional room with a sofa bed available upon request. It sleeps six in total and is perfect for a family break or a romantic couple’s retreat.
In addition to the treats on offer – wine, snacks and a fully-stocked minibar - you’re given your own private chef who will whip you up a feast for dinner. We started with a meze starter selection – home-made hummus and aged balsamic, home-made tear and share garlic bread and a selection of charcuterie and roasted vegetables, followed by rump of lamb with minted peas, finished off with strawberries, meringues and vanilla panna cotta and a West country cheese board. Yum.
We'd certainly worked up an appetite after our evening’s activity – a private, behind-the-scenes tour once all the other zoo visitors have gone home for the day. With the help of our extremely knowledgeable and friendly tour guide we were taken to feed the fur seals their dinner, and even visited the usually out-of-bounds backstage areas in the monkey enclosures.
There’s an emphasis on conservation and research at Bristol zoo, which is currently working on projects across the world from the Philippines to South Africa to the rather closer-to-home River Avon. The zoo, a registered charity, has helped save over 175 species from extinction, and it’s fascinating to hear about all the different animals as you go on your tour. Don’t be shy – ask your tour guide plenty of questions. They’ll be only too happy to pass on their expert knowledge.
There was plenty more time to learn about the animals the next morning – when waking up to the sound of the shrieking gibbons nearby made us feel like we really were on safari! Soon it was time to earn our breakfast – by feeding the mischievous meerkats theirs.
After another private tour of some of the resident animals we had breakfast with the gorillas; the highlight of our trip. We arrived in the gorilla enclosure to find a table set out with our pre-ordered breakfast – bacon sandwiches, coffee and orange juice (there are children’s options available upon request, too) and our first glimpse of the magnificent resident silverback Jock.
The fun doesn’t end there. You’re free to explore the zoo, which has welcomed celebrities including Sir David Attenborough and I’m A Celebrity… star Carol Vorderman, in your own time. All bookings at The Lodge also include free entry to Wild Place Project, the zoo’s sister attraction in North Bristol. For more about The Lodge, including prices and booking info, visit thelodgebristolzoo.co.uk
Why not sprinkle a bit of stardust over your visit by heading to Bristol this festive season, when the whole family can take an exciting trip to visit Father Christmas in his grotto? Adding to the magic, there are reindeer on site and the zoo will be lit up with various dazzling Christmas animal-shaped lights.
This year there will be new and exciting theatrical journeys to discover and enjoy, too. For three wonderfully festive nights, on the 16th, 17th, and 18th December, the Zoo will become a playground to discover magical characters, playful puppets and for you to become a part of the seasonal stories. Visit bristolzoo.org.uk/whats-on/enchanted-christmas to book and bristolzoo.org.uk/whats-on/santas-grotto for tickets for Santa's Grotto.