If you’re on holiday in South Devon, a great family day out is waiting for you at Paignton Zoo. We have visited the zoo several times in the past, so we were excited to see how the Zoo has developed since then and it didn’t disappoint. The trip we took this year was the best yet with more animals to see and lots more to experience.
*Author Helen Bolton. Helen and her family received complimentary tickets for this review.
Important Information for your visit to Paignton Zoo
We arrived half an hour after the zoo opened and there was already a large queue, which proves the popularity of the place during the summer. To beat the queue you can Fast Track your entry and book online through their website if you know when you want to visit.
If you’re visiting as a group, there’s a handy Day Planner you can use to keep track of events happening at the zoo that you want to do. There is also a display board at the park entrance showing a timetable of the day’s activities. It’s easy to find your way around to locate them with large map displays around the park.
You can purchase day tickets, animal experiences, annual passes and more online in advance. A standard adult ticket online in advance without gift aid is £18.10 and £13.55 for a child aged 3-15 years old. Children under 3 are free.
Top Trumps Trail at Paignton Zoo
New for this year is the Top Trumps Trail running for the holiday season until 31st October 2019. This is a great fun trail for families to follow. Not only is my son mad on Top Trumps cards, but it gets you to explore the whole park looking for the cards and discovering new animals along the way.
When we arrived we picked up our Super Top Trumps card and a trail sheet at the Gift Shop for £1.50. Around the zoo are 12 giant cards for you to compare against your special card. Find out how we got on with our card which was the awesome Black Rhino!
Review of Paignton Zoo – Things to see and do
Our first stop was the Reptile Tropics & Desert House which were large greenhouses with free-flying birds and different reptiles. You could get quite close to watch the birds feeding. We loved the bright budgies in the desert zone and my son found the huge fossil in the rock.
After a quick stop at the Island Restaurant, we found our first Top Trump card (I won’t reveal the locations of the other cards as it’s up to you to find them on your visit) and we were off to a good start after comparing it to our Rhino. The Restaurant is roomy with a good selection of food, drinks and snacks. Paignton Zoo is also good for picnics with lots of benches around the park, and lots of seats where you can stop and admire the view or watch the animals in beautiful surroundings.
Next, we took a walk through the park to Lemur Wood for the lemur talk where the family of ring-tail lemurs sat eating in the trees above our heads while we listened to their keepers talk about them. We braved the Wobbly Bridge and headed towards the Big Cat area for the Tiger talk.
There’s a great view of the lake here from the lookout tower.
The Hangout is a good place to refuel for lunch. You can get pizza, pasta pots, drinks and ice creams here or simply picnic while the kids play on the adventure castle.
Paignton Zoo takes conservation very seriously and it was great to visit the dedicated areas such as the Avian Breeding Centre and Ape House. There are a number of displays in each of the areas to educate us about the animals housed there and how the Zoo takes part in their health, breeding programme and conservation.
Monkey Heights even had a display of playthings so you can have a monkey around with them! Lots of areas in the zoo are developed or left natural to encourage native wildlife with some bee, bug and birdhouses dotted around.
Paignton Zoo has the favourite large animals – lions, zebras, giraffes, rhinos and Gay the African elephant, as well as creatures which aren’t usually seen such as beautiful blue lizards in the Reptile Nursery and the rare Bornean Orang Utan.
A must-see is the Animal Encounter arena which has a schedule of daily events. The Winged Wonders Birds of Prey Encounter is running throughout the summer season until September. We sat in awe as the graceful owls and hawks flew from the hands of their experienced handlers, skimming our heads in the process!
There are play areas around the park for children to let off steam, Nature Trails to follow or why not roam around The Ranch which has goats, sheep and rabbits for a tame animal encounter. Or you can walk through Brookside Aviary which has more free-flying birds.
We finished off our day with one of the last rides on the Jungle Express which takes a leisurely route around the lake and past the Big Cats. Train rides run every 15 minutes throughout the day (check the boards for details) and passenger tickets are purchased from a machine so make sure you have plenty of change.
So how did we get on with our Top Trump card? Well, we successfully found all the giant cards and the Black Rhino proved a strong contender which fared well against most of them. We have entered our score online into the monthly draw to win a fab prize. My son did of course purchase a special Top Trumps Paignton Zoo edition pack to add to his growing collection!
Final thoughts on Paignton Zoo
Paignton Zoo is not just a visit and leave attraction. We left there wanting to know much more about all the animals. The zoo encourages active learning and has a varied programme of educational activities and encounters where you can get closer to and learn more about the animals. Children and young adults can take part in special events and activity clubs taking place throughout the year for an extra cost.
Disclaimer: Helen and her family received complimentary tickets for the purpose of this review.
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