40 before I'm 40 | Feeding the giraffes and zoo day

So, as the title suggests, I've ticked something off my bucket list – feeding the giraffes (at the zoo). Everyone knows that they’re my favourite animal and it was a dream come true!

The experience and zoo day was a gift from my mum for my 30th birthday – postponed from last year because of COVID. The week that everything was originally supposed to be lifted, work gave everyone a day to reconnect… and what better way to spend it, than with my mum and Alfie at the zoo.

Like most attractions, we had to pre-book our tickets and also pre-booked a slot for the feeding experience… more on that now!

Girl feeding a giraffe branches

Feeding experience

When booking a slot, there was a choice of three times and we went for 12:15pm. It’s advised that you arrive 10 minutes earlier, and you have to give your name, or show your ticket before entering the enclosure.

I think we were one of possibly 10 groups on the experience, and each household was a separate group. We stood by our buckets which were packed full of branches and awaited instructions. There were four giraffes, I believe all female – although there was also a fifth who didn’t really get involved.

We were in the second group which was amazing because we got the opportunity to see the group in front feed first, making the experience last longer. Once it was our turn, we just had to hold the branches as high as we could in the air, so the giraffe could grab them. For those a little shorter, it was recommended to hold them through the bars so the giraffes could bend down to pick them up.

They had really long black tongues which Alfie wasn't expecting, and it made him squirm – although I think he got tickled as I had to pick him up for feeding. He had a couple of goes and mum had one too, but then it was all about me! Mum took some really lovely candid shots, which sum up the experience perfectly. It was absolutely amazing, honestly a dream come true – and I loved every minute. When it was finished, I just wanted to do it all again. The elephant experience took place opposite and now I really want to do that one too!

The feeding experiences are a £20 donation for a group of up to five. I'm not sure if that's COVID regulations or the usual numbers that are permitted – but there's lots of information on the website, should you want to book an experience.

Sloth climbing across a rope

Animal exploration

At the entrance, there was a member of staff with a map, that we could take a photo of – as there are no paper maps being handed out. Instead, I downloaded the app to try and guide us to all the animals we wanted to see. I'm rubbish at reading maps or even following directions so it proved a wasted exercise – but we found the signposts so deceiving and I can't even remember what animal we were looking for now, but it took us ages to find it!

The only area which wasn't open was the lemur walkthrough, which I was pretty gutted about. We went past their enclosure on our land train ride (included in the admission price and you can ride it as many times as you like) – and they appeared on good form. Definitely a reason to return though.

Colchester Zoo is home to over 200 different animal species and thankfully some of them are undercover. The heavens opened just as we went to see the aardvarks. Unfortunately, so many people had the same idea as us to shelter and annoyingly, they are houses at a dead end, so it was pretty busy in the tunnel. It was a short look and leave, as Alfie wasn't too interested in them either.

We all loved the sloth who definitely seemed more active than sloth should be. He was just chilling on his branch when we entered the walkthrough but then climbed across the rope to get to the other side of trees – and after doing that twice, he went into hiding. We ended up going back in the walkthrough by mistake, and he had disappeared.

I realised I didn't take too many photos and can't remember now all the animals that we saw but Wallaby Walkabout was fun and then we went in the goat enclosure. A lovely couple gave us some feed – it was 20p a pot, but I had no cash on me – and Alfie fed the goats the same way he enjoys at our local farm. A greedy goat came over and completely knocked the pot out of my hands and that was the end of that! So, we carried on walking through to the exit.

We got to see the elephants and giraffes again which was great, and the zebras were out on the plain too. Alfie’s favourites were either the chimpanzees and baboons – who had big bums and a really severe case of piles, much to his amusement – or the sea lions. They swam around overhead in circles and he just loved watching them come back around over and over again.

Elephants in grassland, at Colchester Zoo

Chimping about

When Alfie was fed up with walking around in search of animals, there were plenty of play areas to explore and roam about in. Some are huge with high rope walks and large slides – probably too grown up for him. But the Remy Brown play area was probably the best for his age. There was even a pretend train. Of course, we had to bribe him with a Calippo to get him to leave, but it just cements another reason why we’ll have to return when he's older and can climb more

We also had a really lovely picnic in the woodland picnic area. It had been raining so the seating area was wet, but we tucked into hummus and sticks; cheese & Marmite pinwheels; quiche (for the adults) and pizza (for Alfie); fruit and party rings – a proper feast! There were also plenty of cafes and kiosks to get food and refreshments.

And of course, we visited the gift shop on the way out. Alfie got a Jellycat Penguin called Percy, and a wooden shark figurine. There were some really lovely gifts in the shop as well – I did well not to buy anything, although that said, I left my purse at mum’s house!

In all, it was a lovely day; the weather didn't dampen our spirits; and finally, my dream came true!

Love, Lucy xx

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