We chose a sunny bank holiday weekend to visit Marwell Zoo and having not been there for a couple of years I was excited to go back again and see what had changed. Being a bit of an animal enthusiast, I always enjoy a visit to a zoo and having visited and tried out a number of zoos in the UK I would have to rate Marwell as one of my favourites.
The car park was very full when we arrived at the zoo mid-morning but there was no need for a game of 'spot the space' as we were very quickly and efficiently directed to the top of the car park and the first empty spot.
Upon entering the zoo we headed straight for the penguins! They had gathered quite a crowd and were splashing around in the water popping up to greet excited little children.
There's a great variety of animals at Marwell Zoo from well-known favourites such as Meerkats, Giraffes and Tigers to some lesser known gems including Okapi, Pygmy hippo and Bongo. Many of the animals were making the most of the warm weather with an outdoor Sunday snooze so we got to see most of them, even the elusive Otters who were snuggled up asleep together in their den.
Since the last time I visited they have opened a walk-through Aviary and created a new home for the Coati’s. There were also some new animals with the addition of Mongoose, some very sweet baby Dorcas Gazelle’s and a baby Anteater who was enjoying a ride on his mother’s back. There are some great walk-through experiences where you come face to face with the animals such as the Wallaby Walk through. The African Valley is not to be missed! This is located right next to the Graze Café so you can enjoy a coffee or your lunch while you watch Waterbuck, Zebra and Ostrich roam together in 20 acres of natural valley field.
There are a couple of food outlets in the zoo, we chose to eat at Bushtucker where there was a selection of hot dogs to choose from. The food outlets do get pretty busy and it can be difficult to find a seat, we found it best to eat a bit later when the lunch time rush had passed. However, the zoo does welcome people bringing picnics in and there are a number of designated picnic areas located around the zoo, both outdoor and indoor. There are also a number of ice cream kiosks, so make sure you bring cash for these and also if you fancy a ride on the miniature railway.
As well as being a great attraction you are reminded that Marwell Zoo is serving a bigger purpose of conservation, research and education. There's information around the park about their latest research and conservation work and how the animals are looked after in captivity. There are also a number of talks and feeding sessions taking place during the day.
Marwell is great place to visit for a few hours or a full day. It’s really easy to get there from Southampton Airport with a seasonal bus running from just across the road at Southampton Airport Parkway station. Marwell has excellent children's and family facilities and is suitable for any age group and any level of interest in wildlife. There are also a number of events taking place throughout the year.