Where? I hear you say. It’s in Norfolk, south of Norwich. We were over that way visiting S’s parents at the weekend and made a trip to the zoo on Monday.
I think the era of the zoo is coming round again isn’t it? It was fashionable to diss them a few years ago, when the animals were kept in tiny enclosures and we could get all holier than thou over treatment. And then we realised just how impossible it was that they could thrive in the wild any more because we’ve messed stuff up so much, the enclosures got more modern and conservation techniques mean that there are more of some species in captivity than in the wild. So how was it at Banham?
S likes the car park. So much that he parked all the way away from the entrance – under the trees instead. It’s roomy and leafy there. Fine. E still got in for free (under 3s go free) and as it was a Monday in term time the zoo was lovely and quiet – a few families with small children, a few older folk and lots of staff feeding creatures. It was just right.
The zoo itself is not large but about the right size for a small family when the smallest member doesn’t walk long distances. E is quite funny here – she is scared to start with and then remembers that there’s nothing to be worried about and gets enchanted by the animals. So I started with her clinging to my leg and wanting a cuddle and ended with her sitting on my shoulders laughing with excitement at the seal which was swimming and waving a flipper at her.
Banham have some interesting enclosures that get you quite close to the animals – E especially loved the lemur encounter where she could see them running around her feet as they got fed some carrots. And she loved seeing the meercats, the seals and the snow leopard. And now, a week later, she’s suddenly remembered the flamingos and has been telling me about their pink tummies and pink knees.
We fed her a banana at one point but were near some monkey enclosures – we were suddenly joined by quite a few monkeys baring their teeth through the glass as they tried to get to the fruit. When I told her they were after it, she held it out to them, luckily not causing a monkey riot, but they flashed more teeth and then went away.
For children, the zoo offer a stamp your passport scheme – at eight of the animal stations you stamped a sheet and handed the completed sheet into receive your choice of six medals. E’s has a meercat on it and she is very proud of it.
She also liked the train which runs round the site once an hour with a running commentary on some of the exhibits from the driver. The only weak point was really the catering. E had fish fingers, chips and beans from the children’s menu while I had a sausage roll and S had a rather nondescript sandwich. It was all fresh and served swiftly but was just an uninspired choice.
All in all, we had a good day – there was enough there to keep us occupied for many hours and even then, we missed the tiger feeding. There’s a lovely range of animals and the enclosures looked ok to me. There is also a high wire climbing thing and zorb balls if you’re so inclined, as well as in depth talks about animals, a birds of prey flying display and feeding sessions. I can see that this wasn’t our last visit to Banham Zoo.