London Zoo has reopened, but with just a quarter of the 8,000 customers, they would normally allow into the zoo on a pre-pandemic day, what’s a visit to the socially distanced zoo like?
Firstly you need to book tickets in advance, which has the notable side effect of getting inside rather quick when everyone in front of you is just waving an email at the ticket barrier. The other factor is that the zoo is only partially open, with all the indoor spaces closed, and a new one-way route that has to be followed, and lots of signs about social distancing.
In a way, it’s a gentle wander around a city park, but one with fences, and animals.
Sometimes the animals chirp and chatter, although most seem rather indifferent to the humans on the other side of the fences.
And, sometimes they don’t put on an appearance at all.
The tigers, or as one child called them – the raw raws — were nowhere to be seen, one dad was indifferent to the child’s excitement at finding a porcupine, but in general, kids lifted up to see the animals and stared at live-action versions of David Attenborough documentaries.
The meerkats did what you expect, while the otters hid away leaving a heron to take over their lake. The gorillas munched and lounged around, the camel rolled around the dust and the lamas ignored everyone.
The giraffes were one of the animal stops were more people stopped, while the smaller animals were often wandered past with a quick glance.
The penguins are the star of the show as you might expect, swimming and diving around, and the deep glass walls give us landlubbers a chance to see them under the water without getting wet ourselves.
With about half the site closed, they’ve reduced the prices, and it’s a fair deal for what can just about stretch to a half-day out, although 3 hours is more realistic.
I’ve often found that with so much to do in London every week, that some of the permanent venues are always “can do that next week”, and five years later, you still haven’t been there. Since I moved to London, the zoo has long been on the “can do it next week” list, and it was nice to finally take a wander around.
Visiting at the moment is sad due to the closed venues, but also that’s an advantage in a way as a visit is both cheaper and shorter, so less overwhelming, and the much thinner crowds due to social distancing make for a more enjoyable quieter wander around the zoo. Not so good for the zoo which needs more visitors, but much nicer for the visitors who do turn up.
One recommendation, if you want to take photos, bring a decent camera – I can assure you that there were animals in most of my smartphone photos, but they were invisible in the background when I got home.
If anything it reminded me just how much effort goes into nature photography.
The exit is unsurprisingly through the shop, and an annoyingly strong sales pitch to sponsor an animal. The shop is very child-oriented, and while I am sure they know their market, a few adult goodies might have unlocked this adult’s wallet.
Was it a nice morning break from the lockdown life? Yes.
You can also upgrade a one-off ticket to an annual pass within 2 weeks of a visit.