Here we are, with some inspiration for your weekend, this time care of Tropical Wings Zoo in South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, and a lovely family, the Noonans.
You’ll remember the launch of this occasional series back in January, with a personal photo review of Barleylands. I then put a shout out for a family to invite me along on their next Day Out, and when Vicki got in touch I jumped at the chance to accompany her, her husband Terry and her little boys Dillon and Oscar. It had been a couple of years since I had visited, and I was interested to find out how it had changed, and whether it was still the fab day out I remembered.
The first thing we noticed after we’d bought our bands was the spanking new soft play area indoors. Taking the decision to leave the butterfly house (the ‘Wings’) till last we were briefly distracted by the super-Lego before heading to one of the keeper-supervised opportunities to view the small animals, rabbits, rats and mice – which Oscar was delighted by, although we were all a little unsure of the bald rats! Tropical Wings prides itself on being an all-weather destination, and while on the day we visited the weather was dry, it was quite cold and windy, so the undercover activities were appreciated!
After the hands-on session, which was easily timetabled on the sheet we received with our bands, we headed on out to the main zoo, to see the animals. They were a little shy, it being so breezy, but we still managed to spend lots of time oohing and ahhing at the birds, the meerkats and the giant tortoise, to name a few! All the while, Dillon snoozed in his pram and I did wonder if he was going to join us on our Day Out…
The wallabies were huddling with their new babies, rather than lolloping out and about as they have been on previous visits, but still a really lovely ooh-factor. We all remarked on how open the enclosures were, and how accessible the animals, which was really nice to see and kept Oscar’s attention nicely!
After the animals we moved onto the second new play area this year from the zoo, this time outside. I can safely say that this was a massive hit with Oscar and, when he decided to wake, Dillon too – lovely big apparatus, nice and safe and lots of climbing and swinging opportunities. When the children finally gave in, they warmed up beautifully with a walk round the butterfly house, spotting the carp, butterflies and gorgeous flowers inside.
Overall I really enjoyed the visit – it reminded of me of how packed full of activities it was, and how easily little ones’ attention could be kept. Every so often we would happen upon a hidden activity, such as drawing by the butterfly house, or a little nook to rest, or a chicken squawking its way to cross the path (yes, I asked and no, it didn’t tell me…). Although not cheap it was a reasonable price, for so much to do, especially when you factor on that much of it was weatherproofed.
After I left the Noonans I headed to the restaurant, which served excellent portions of good food. This is one of the few areas I would like to see improved though – the restaurant itself is quite small with large furniture, and certainly if taking a buggy there’s not a lot of room. Also the queue easily snakes out of the doors which means a bit of a draught at times. I do recall from previous visits in the summer that there is lots of space and opportunity to have a picnic outside, and certainly there are additional picnic tables outside, but I feel the fundamental capacity of the restaurant is a little disappointing. Also to access the restaurant you have to almost leave the park, which again doesn’t feel quite right to me. My only other gripe if I had to have one is that the shop is right where you buy the bands, introducing the battle with younger souvenir-hungry children right at the start of the day, which can get you off to the wrong foot when you just want to get out and see the animals. I may be a Scrooge though…
The facilities, however, are excellent and the animals, the main attraction, are wonderful to see. Personally I will be making a return visit with my children later this year – I may even attend their Easter Eggstravaganza, details of which you can find on the website or Facebook page. As for Vicki? She thoroughly recommended Tropical Wings, saying it was “great value for money, with both indoor & outdoor play areas and a wide variety of animals and insects. Plenty of opportunities for the kids to get hands on and run off a bit of steam!” Who could ask for anything more!
Thanks go to Vicki and Terry for inviting me along with them on their day out, and I am delighted they love their images! If you’d like to my next Days Out family and received some images of your own for your time, get in touch!
Look out for this regular series over the course of the year. Perhaps you’d like me to accompany your family to a favourite venue, and receive some images of your family from your visit in return? Contact me today if you’d like to take part as a reviewer family in 2012, spaces are limited! Perhaps there’s even a venue reading this who’d like to invite me along? If so, you are welcome to contact me too! I look forward to hearing from you all!
Please note that this review was not sponsored by Tropical Wings in any way, and the opinions within are my own. You are advised to check both opening times and admission prices before setting out on a trip of your own.
Review by Marie Donn of Marie Donn photography. Check out her website for more information about who she is and what she does, and a glimpse of her beautiful photographs.