The Isle of Wight Zoo recently invited me to a promotional day for hotel and guesthouse owners all over the Isle of Wight. I’ve never been to the Zoo in the 12 years that I have lived on the Island and while it’s hard for me to get to visit any attraction, because our little hotel requires my presence full-time, the zoo hadn’t really gotten my attention before. Well, it’s certainly got it now and I think it deserves full attention from everybody. It’s a fabulous place, with beautiful, well-kept animals, keepers who have passion for what they do and this shines through. There’s a real family atmosphere that is tangible and wonderful attention to detail and to making every visit memorable. We met with the zoo’s owner, Charlotte Corney, who inherited the zoo from her father. Charlotte has always been very hands on – and has watched many of the animals grow from a very early age.
When I arrived there were only a couple of others who had already got there. We waited half an hour during which time several more turned up. But we looked a pitiful bunch really – only about 20 in total and most had come in pairs so it was a staggeringly poor show from the guesthouse industry. The staff at the zoo are all friendly, without exception, and we were met warmly and watered with unlimited tea and coffee while we waited. One tip for the car parking – it’s £3 for all-day parking – but collect your ticket from the admissions desk – much easier than messing about with the machines!
The zoo is small, but they don’t claim to be anything they are not. It is a good half-day activity and guests can enjoy discounted entry to the neighbouring attraction, Dinosaur Isle, on the same day. The zoo specialises in big cats and their staff are highly knowledgeable in this area. One of their keepers was recently recognised by BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) for her training of the big cats to respond to hand commands, allowing injections to be given at close quarters and their teeth to be inspected without sedation.
The zoo has a very informal feel to it and guests can ask any ‘animologist’ for a walking safari where they will be guided personally around the park. Activities are arranged throughout the day for guests to enjoy including up-close encounters with meerkats and ringtailed limas (extra charges apply – but you get to hold and cuddle the animals!). The zoo engages in a lot of research and this shows too. Because the zoo is small, the keepers are able to spend more time with the animals working on enrichment activities. The animals seem content, are obviously in good health and the entire zoo is well-kept and clean.
The zoo also has an historical aspect that may be of interest to many. It is built within an old fort and became an integral part of the D-Day landings. PLUTO – pipeline under the the ocean – was a system by which petrol was pumped from England to France to supply the many vehicles belonging to the Allied Invasion Forces and many of the pumps involved with this operation were housed within the fort at the zoo. Today, one of the original pumps is on display in its original location and can be viewed along with a small exhibition about the operation.
I think the Isle of Wight Zoo is a truly excellent place to visit while you’re here on the Island. It may be small, but it is perfectly formed! The care and passion are palpable and I urge guests to seek out the guided tours – they are included in the admission price, after all! I had a wonderful day and am so pleased I decided to go. I am only disappointed that not more of my fellow hotel and guesthouse owners took up the offer to attend such a wonderful event. The Isle of Wight Zoo far exceeded my expectations and I wish them every success. I will be encouraging all my guests to consider visiting it while they are staying at Sentry Mead. – and everyone reading this as well! Check out the Isle of Wight Zoo at http://www.isleofwightzoo.com
If you’re reading this and fancy a short break here on the Isle of Wight, check out our rooms here at the Sentry Mead http://www.sentrymead.co.uk/our-rooms or if you wish to get in contact with us visit www.sentrymead.co.uk/contact-us