The award-winning Bristol Zoo has a large range of animals that range from the world’s smallest and rarest tortoise to the largest ape.
Bristol Zoo was opened in 1836 and it is the world’s oldest provincial zoo (in other words, it is the oldest zoo that is not located in a major city).
What to see at Bristol Zoo
The zoo is home to around 300 mammals, representing 50 species, although many of the zoo’s larger animals have been relocated to the Wild Place Project, in South Gloucestershire, which provides a more spacious habitat. The zoo also includes an aquarium, a reptile house and enclosures with seals and birds, including penguins.
The Aquarium is home to around 70 different species and it is divided into three distinct sections representing the Amazon River, Africa and coral reefs.
Bug World houses the zoo’s invertebrates including the Lord Howe Island stick insect, giant millipedes, tarantulas, leaf-cutting ants and the endangered Desertas Wolf Spider.
The zoo’s Butterfly House is a climate-controlled walk-through zone that includes a number of butterflies, mostly from Costa Rica.
The Forest of Birds exhibit includes birds from south-east Asia.
Gorilla Island is home to a family of western lowland gorillas, which are now the zoo’s largest animals.
Monkey Jungle opened in 2006, replacing the zoo’s old monkey house. It includes a zone where visitors can walk among lemurs as well as enclosures with brown spider monkeys, lion-tailed macaques, two-toed sloths, squirrel monkeys, golden-headed lion tamarins and six-banded armadillos.
The Reptile House houses the zoo’s amphibians and reptiles. It is split into three areas that represent desert and rainforest habitats with the third zone showcasing the zoo’s conservation work. There is a rhinoceros iguana and giant tortoise enclosure outside the Reptile House.
Seal and Penguin Coasts is an enclosure that is mostly comprised of South American fur seals and African penguins.The Top Terrace is one of the zoo’s oldest areas, which is home to flamingos, Asiatic lions and red pandas. Twilight World is the world’s first zoo exhibit to allow visitors to witness the twilight behaviour of nocturnal animals during daylight hours. It is split into four different zones, each representing a different habitat including desert, rainforest, caves and domestic environments.
Zona Brazil is a walk-through enclosure with primates and other animals native to Brazil. This area is home to golden lion tamarins, Goeldi’s marmoset, the titi monkey, tapirs and capybaras.
Visiting Bristol Zoo
Bristol Zoo is in Clifton, which is around 3km (1¾ miles) west of the city centre. You can walk here from central Bristol in around 40 minutes but most people take the bus. Bus route 8 is the most convenient route for most visitors as it stops just a two-minute walk from the zoo entrance.
The zoo is close to the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Clifton Observatory, which are both within a 15-minute walk from the zoo.
The zoo operates a programme of talks, some of which are timed to coincide with feeding time. These include:
|11am daily||Lions (talk) in the Asiatic lion enclosure near the main entrance|
|11.30am daily||Big fish (talk and feed) in The Aquarium|
|12 noon daily||Animal Encounters (talk) in the Terrace Theatre|
|12.30pm daily||Gorilla (talk and feed) at Gorilla Island|
|1pm daily||Animal Encounters (talk) in the Terrace Theatre|
|1.30pm daily||Aquarium Feed (talk and feed) in the Aquarium|
|2pm daily||Animal Encounters (talk) in the Terrace Theatre|
|2pm daily||Meerkat (talk and feed) in the Meerkat Lookout|
|2.30pm Mon, Wed, Fri & Sat||Stingray feeding in the Aquarium|
|2.30pm Tue, Thu & Sun||Crocodile feeding in the Reptile House|
|3pm daily||Animal Encounters (talk) in the Terrace Theatre|
|3pm daily||Penguin (talk and feed) at Seal and Penguin Coasts|
|3.30pm daily||Seal (talk and feed) at Seal and Penguin Coasts|
In addition to these free talks, the zoo operates a number of behind the scenes animal experiences where you can get up close with the animals. Most of these experiences (except the Feeder for the Day experience) last around 30 minutes and the cost of the experience includes zoo admission plus a complimentary drink in The Hide Restaurant.
Despite being more than 180 years old, most areas of the zoo are wheelchair accessible.
There is a gift shop next to the main entrance and the Hide Restaurant between Bug World and Monkey Jungle as well as the Hungry Monkey Kiosk and the Pasty Shack elsewhere in the zoo for quick bites (ice cream and hot dogs at the Hungry Monkey and Cornish pasties at the Pasty Shack). The zoo also has function areas that are used for weddings and children’s birthday parties. There are also picnic areas in the zoo so you can bring your own picnic supplies for a cheaper meal.
There is quite a lot to see here and most visitors spend at least three hours at the zoo.