During the school holidays we were lucky enough to be invited to see the brand new Asiatic lion exhibit at ZSL London Zoo which was officially opened by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
Lionesses Indi, Rubi and Heidi are the stars of the Land of the Lions which is a £5.2m development that has been created to transport visitors from the heart of London to the vibrant setting of Sasan Gir in Gujarat, India – the last remaining stronghold of Asiatic lions – and bring visitors closer than ever to the big cats.
Covering an expanse of 2,500sqm (27,000sqft), you enter Land of the Lions through a grand stone archway, pick up a ‘park pass’ at the Gir Tourist Information centre and explore Sasan Gir Train Station where, if you are lucky, the odd lion might be spotted snoozing on the tracks. The grand finale is the exhibit’s incredible centrepiece, a 360° Temple Clearing where the big cats will roam just metres away, separated only by fine wires.
The setting is quite simply stunning with colourful murals, bunting flapping in the wind and authentic signage. The kids loved being given their diaries and seeing what they could spot and enjoyed sitting in the rickshaws. There were even some static bikes to ride to see if you could outrun a Lion – sadly I think we would have been dinner in the wild.
What I love about London Zoo is that it is bigger than it looks, with so much to see and do that will delight all ages. The first time we went to London Zoo the kids were terrified of the Butterfly Paradise but this time they were desperate to see the beautiful creatures.
I have to admit that I avoided the new Spider walk through that brings people face-to-face with amazing arachnids from around the world, although the kids were brave and said it was amazing. Another new addition is the In with the Lemurs walk-through exhibit where you can get closer than ever before to their ring-tail lemurs.
It is not just the Lemurs you can get up close and personal to, but also in Rainforest Life you get to explore a living rainforest and come face to face with a variety of amazing rainforest species including monkeys, sloth, armadillo and tamandua.
My favourite thing to see is Penguin Beach were there is a large viewing area. I highly recommend seeing one of the shows although get their early as it fills up fast.
In Gorilla Kingdom you not only get up close to a colony of western lowland gorillas, one of which has a tiny baby, but also some of the creatures that live in the forests where they come from.
Into Africa offers the opportunity to come eye to eye with some of Africa’s most unusual animals including Giraffes, zebras, okapis, warthogs and African hunting dogs all feature in this exciting exhibit.
We saw Giraffe being hand fed by people who had booked onto the Zookeeper for a day experience which is something we would love to do ourselves.
There is also the opportunity to visit the Reptile House and see where Harry Potter released the snake in the Chamber of Secrets, or visit the tigers in Tiger Territory. Sebastian’s favourite though is the aquarium which is home to hundreds of species of underwater creatures.
You really can have a whole day of fun at London Zoo with interactive experiences, play and picnic areas, rides and of course all the animals and birds to see.
Disclaimer: We were guests of London Zoo, all thoughts are our own.