Edinburgh Zoo Nights are back for a second year, so Mr Bug and I were asked along to the first night of the 2015 season to join in the fun and take part in this “roar-some” evening!
Update: Edinburgh Zoo nights have now FINISHED for 2015. Fingers crossed they’ll be back next summer!
I love the zoo during the day, so even before I was approached I had my eye on this upcoming event – the thought of seeing the zoo in a more intimate setting with other fun perks on top, such as a bar, street food, face painting and much more, seemed really appealing. So when we were asked to go along, we jumped at the chance!
When we first arrived we made a bee-line for the “Main Lawn” – the central hub for the evening. Here you’ll find a lot of food stalls, a bar and a stage where there was a varied programme of entertainment, including live bands and breakdancers.
To be honest, you could have stayed here all night and had a good time, however we were in the zoo after all, and wanted to do some further exploring. But before we did that we wanted some feeding, and we found ourself caught in quite a long queue for the BBQ.
While the BBQ on the main lawn looks enticing, I would suggest you learn from our mistake and stay away from the main lawn if you want to get some dinner. The queues took a fair while to go down, and when we finally got a chance to explore the rest of the zoo we found that there were plenty of other food vendors open all around the zoo selling a wide range of food with a much shorter wait.
The Big Griller nearer the top of the hill had a gorgeous smelling grill on the go with fresh vegetable and chicken skewers. They looked so tempting so I had to pick some picked up, however, I had to send the first lot back because the chicken was still a bit pink inside. Once the guys realised though, they were very apologetic and replaced them quickly and without question.
As well as a varied food offering, there was lots of bars dotted around the zoo selling beer, cider and wine, but I was particularly delighted to see that one of my favourite tipples, Edinburgh Gin, had a big part in the event!
Inside the Budongo Trail there was a bar selling imaginative gin based cocktails, but even their regular G&T was a little bit out of the ordinary – renamed for the night a “G&T-Rex” (geddit?!) using rhubarb and ginger Edinburgh Gin (fast becoming one of my favourites) and tonic. Delicious!
But despite all the other activities on offer – the face painting, the entertainment, even the silent disco – we found ourselves gravitating towards the activities that gave us a deeper understanding and a closer view of the animals than we would probably get if we just went for a wander during the day (okay, yes, we are nerds – you got us).
The keepers gave a fantastic talk about all the species that can be found in the bird enclosure, while feeding them at the same time. Seeing the birds swoop for the crickets and nuts thrown into the air was a stunning sight to see. The Victoria Crowned Pigeon (see above) were particularly friendly and were quite happy wandering in and around the crowds. I never thought I would get so close to them!
We also went to see a lecture by Dr Tom Challands on dinosaur brains – or more specifically lungfish brains. He even brought his own inflatable props, which as we all know is a great facilitator for learning! In all seriousness though, it was a fascinating talk and it was great to enjoy with a gin cocktail in hand.
Other opportunities to get up and close with the animals included a reptile handling session. Mr Bug and I made friends with an African Rock Python and got to have a wee stroke of him. It was probably one of my favourite parts of the evening although the area was a bit quiet compared to the others – be sure to check it out if you decide to go, when we saw them they were located in the Budongo Trail.
We were also able to take a look around the zoo’s latest exhibition “Dinosaurs Return!” which brings species from the prehistoric era back to life. There were lots of moving animatronic models, and there had been a real attention to detail in putting these together, including moving eyes and a realistic call coming from each species.
Of course there were a lot of the familiar faces made famous by the likes of Jurassic Park (such as T Rex), but to be honest I really enjoyed finding out about some of the lesser known creatures – some I admit I thought were quite odd looking and found hard to believe they actually once roamed this planet!
Then, of course, there was the rest of the zoo to explore. Some of the enclosures close early to make sure the animals got enough shut-eye, so check your map when you arrive to make sure you don’t miss seeing your favourite animals. The penguins as per usual were on fine form, some of them coming right up to the edge of their enclosure to see us.
The flamingos were also still fairly awake on our way out – a fab sight to see and great to get to see them in a more relaxed setting.
The Edinburgh Zoo Nights were great fun, however Mr Bug and I especially enjoyed the parts were we felt we were getting “under the skin” of the zoo with the up close encounters and informative talks. So by all means go and check out the silent disco and face painting, but avoid getting caught out in queues and check out what the zoo does best and discover another level to their fascinating animals!
Edinburgh Zoo Nights are running again on the 5th, 19th and 26th June, -which are all Fridays. The fun starts at 6pm and runs for four hours, closing at 10pm. Tickets cost £20 (with a discount for members) and at the time of writing there was space left on all three nights – however of course this is subject to change! You can check availability and book tickets on the Edinburgh Zoo website.