Edinburgh Zoo is located at Corstorphine, which is around 3 miles outside of Edinburgh’s City Centre. Many buses service the Zoo and a visitors car park exists, although this costs ¬£2. Edinburgh Zoo is next door to The Holiday Inn hotel and it has a large banner outside proclaiming “UK’s Only Koalas”. But more on Chumbee and Janali later.
I visited the zoo on a Sunday it took about 15 minutes queuing time before I got to the ticket desk. Once inside the zoo there was no problem seeing any of the animals though, as people quickly dispersed themselves through the Zoo’s large grounds. As you would expect Edinburgh Zoo attracts a lot of children and over Summer especially: its bound to be busy. My adult entry cost ¬£10, while a child (3-14 years old) will cost ¬£7.00. Family passes are available or there are reductions if you enter as a group of 10 or more. The official visitors book costs ¬£5, although I didn’t purchase one. When queuing up you are asked (if a UK resident) to voluntarily fill out a short form that enables the Zoo to claim gift aid on your purchase; Edinburgh Zoo is owned by The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland charity. We were given a small printed leaflet detailing what events were taking place during the day such as the Penguin Parade. There are many talks by the side of the animal enclosures that take place through the day and there is also a “Close Encounters” feature, where you can book a place and get to touch/feel some animals - this seemed very popular with children.
There’s really too much at Edinburgh Zoo to document fully; so I’ll jot down some of the more (and less) memorable moments:
Mercedes The Polar Bear. I’d not seen a ‘live’ polar bear before and this is the only polar bear in UK captivity. Luckily we’d arrived during feeding time (you can ask the staff when feeding is so you don’t miss it) so we saw Mercedes gnawing on a healthy sized block of red meat. Counter balanced to this was the enclosure (this polar bears home) seemed very small and the bear didn’t seem too happy, even though he was eating - reading this article shows how the captivity and proposed plans to increase the size of his enclosure have caused some controversy though.
The two koala bears called Chumbee and Janali definitely stick in the memory. We had to wipe our feet on some disinfectant mats before entering their enclosure to kill any bird flu we might (just might) have picked up. Again we timed this visit just right (early afternoon) and both koala bears were awake and munching on their eucalyptus leaves. I still found the enclosures fairly small - but the koalas looked happy enough and they were certainly the centre of attention for the crowds that had amassed outside the clear plastic screen guarding the front of their enclosure.
The reptile enclosure had a fair number of empty enclosures and it was difficult to spot most of the snakes and frogs as they were no doubt tucked under their logs and leaves. A tiny frog whose name escapes me was the highlight.
Edinburgh Zoo has a lot of penguins. They have a ‘penguin parade’ that is worth attending so you can get better photos and just enjoy watching these cute animals. The penguins seemed happy enough and were waddling along and diving into the water - an observation unit lets you sit on a bench while watching the penguins underwater, which is a good feature. However, the penguins are behind wire mesh or often dirty clear plastic - which can make true viewing enjoyment difficult.
The monkeys and gorillas looked unhappy when I visited Edinburgh Zoo; although the most unhappy animal (in my opinion) was the tiger that looked totally lifeless. The jaguar was in hiding when I visited and despite I and several others scanning the enclosure we couldn’t spot it.
Edinburgh Zoo is on a slope and at it’s peak you get a great view over parts of Edinburgh - although the long and often uphill walking required here is a consideration if you’re taking young children or less mobile persons along. Luckily, Edinburgh Zoo do provide a ’safari’ jeep and trailer that takes groups over the higher ground and you should spot the zebras , camels, etc. with this method of viewing.
Most animal enclosures had a sign stating when a member of the zoo staff would be there to talk about the animals. This is a good feature and it’s evident the staff do care and have genuine knowledge about the animals. Many picnic tables and benches are apparent throughout Edinburgh Zoo (especially in the higher areas) - so feel free to bring along a picnic and enjoy your lunch at the zoo.
The range of additional activities (talks, close encounters, etc.) that Edinburgh Zoo provides are commendable. I would like to see the map handed to visitors improved. My version just had little circles with a silhouette of the animal on and no animal names or keys to what animal the silhouette represented was. This is fine if you’re an animal expert and can work off the image, but for me I found recalling what animal each silhouette was very difficult.
Overall I found my visit to Edinburgh Zoo a decent experience, but I do feel the future must be a more open/safari style experience. The layout at the moment seem too restrictive for the animals and observers alike. A display off the entrance foyer to Edinburgh Zoo exhibited Edinburgh Zoo’s ‘Masterplan’. This seemed to revolve around organising the zoo by habitat, referred to as ‘biomes’. So there would be a Tropical Forests biome, an Ocean and Wetlands biome, etc. I hope the opening up of Edinburgh Zoo to allow more freedom for the animals and the observer more access is part of this ‘Masterplan’; and judging by their website this appears to be the case. For example the reptile house would be removed and it’s inhabitants would roam freely with mammals and birds from their natural habitat. It sounds a good idea, but I’d like to see it in practice.
Edinburgh Zoo at a glance
- Address: Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh, EH12 6TS View at Google Maps
- Website: http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/
- Price (at time of review): Adults ¬£10. Concession ¬£7.50. Children (3-14) ¬£7 Under 3’s free. Family tickets available
- Time the visit takes: Absolute minimum 2 hours, but easily up to 4/5 hours