A Tried-and-True Visit to Paignton Zoo
Written By Emily Stewart, App for Devon Contributor
“Lenna, we HAVE to go,” I laugh, bidding my friend to give her wiggling goat friend a final pat on the head. Rather than standing in the middle of one of Devon’s farms, we are actually standing in the middle of Paignton Zoo, one of its best attractions. The zoo hosts a whole farmyard scene where kids and goats chase each other through little tunnels and a barn. While it’s totally charming, the zoo closes at 5PM and I’m not going to leave without stopping by the gift shop.
In fact, I am shocked the day passed so quickly. I am not exactly what one might call an “animal person.” I have visited zoos all over the world, staying for a half-day at most. So, when I was invited to visit the zoo’s “Trade Open Days” on behalf of Westward M.S. Ltd. and the App for Devon, I invite another Devon transplant and decide to dive in (my friend is Kiwi and I’m American). Now, my face aches from smiling, my belly groans from a delicious lunch, and I still have at least one habitat to visit.
We arrived to the zoo around 10am. A daily schedule is posted online and on a big sign in the entrance. The zoo hosts feeding sessions and meet-the-keeper events throughout the day. Since opening in 1923, Paignton Zoo now contains over 2,000 creatures, six habitats, a variety of botanical gardens, multiple places to eat and more. Because there is so much to do, the website provides a “Day Planner.” However, Lenna and I found many of our favourite parts of the zoo when we simply wandered the grounds like it’s flock of peacocks.
After visiting the lions and their neighbours, Lenna and I found ourselves at the zoo’s short Nature Walk. Suddenly, we were out of the “Sahara” and back into Devon. At the top of a hill we enjoyed one of the most powerful moments of the whole day. The unique and hilly layout of the zoo means that visitors can look past several types of animals and shrubbery to the turquoise waters of the English Riviera. The delightful juxtaposition and beauty is one of its best aspects.
Eventually Lenna and I decided we couldn’t possibly look at another baboon belly without feeding our own. Because we visited on a rainy off-season day, most of the food kiosks serving everything from ice cream to pasties were closed. We ventured to the Island Restaurant instead. I assumed that the food at Paignton Zoo would be the same overpriced, low-nutrition offering standard to other zoos I’d visited. So I was totally delighted when I found a zingy chili with plenty of vegetables at an extremely reasonable price. The lunchtime entertainment was second to-none. We sat next to huge windows, looking across the large outdoor seating area at a moat and Gibbon Island. Swans lazily swam past as monkeys played among pink spring blossoms. For the umpteenth time that day we struggled to pull ourselves away from the scene, instead ordering cookies and coffee from the jovial café staff so that we had an excuse to sit, relax, and watch longer.
Over the course of the rainy afternoon, Lenna and I stayed indoors at reptilian exhibits. Paignton Zoo’s Amphibian Ark conservation centre is home to the largest collection of threatened Madagascan frog species in Europe. Plus, the zoo has separate crocodile and reptile exhibits. By the time we reach the goats, our last stop of the day, I am desirous of a happy-hour adult beverage at the zoo’s Café-Bar. Alas, we make our way to the gift-shop instead, where I discover the perfect silly gorilla poster to send my little sister in the States.
As we wave goodbye to the Paignton Zoo staff, Lenna and I look at each other in awe. Did we really just spend over seven hours at a zoo? Without any kids? “I have to come back here,” Lenna comments. I think I will, too.
For website links and information, visit the Paignton Zoo page on the App for Devon HERE
Telephone: 0844 474 2222