Whipsnade Zoo

I went to Whipsnade Zoo this summer with my sister and her family. It’s partnered with London Zoo I visited a few years ago. Whipsnade Zoo is huge so we started from one side and made our way round.

The animals are sectioned according to the continent they came from, so we started with Africa. The first animals we saw were chimpanzees. They were a bit far away but I liked that they had a lot of space to move around. We then moved onto the penguins which again I was pleased to see had a huge space and also a great view of the English landscape.

As we made our way along the path we suddenly spotted an animal that was outside like us! After a closer look we saw it was a wallaby hiding in the long grass. Did it escape?! Turns out no; there’s wallabies and Maras (like giant Guinea pigs) that are allowed to roams free. My 2 year old niece had fun chasing after the Maras, much to our amusement.

Getting over our surprise we next visited other animals typically found in Africa; rhinos, giraffes (my favourite), lions, ostriches, meerkats and zebras. Lions apparently sleep up to 20 hours a day so I didn’t hold much hope in seeing them running around. There was a cheetah too but they were hard to spot sleeping in the tall grass.

Walking along leaving the Africa section we turned a corner to see sudden bright pops of pink! Flamingoes!

Their pink feathers looked so lovely against the greeny water. There were flamingo chicks, their feathers stull grey, pelicans and herons all surrounding the same pond.

After stopping for lunch and a rest we made our way to the next section, the Asian continent. Here we saw elephants and tigers. The tigers were also pretty sleepy, making little movement. Nearby was an area dedicated to dinosaurs. There were various shaped and sizes, some growling and moving. My niece of 7 enjoyed making scared faces at them and digging for fossils.

Next we ventured into the aquarium and butterfly house. The kids enjoyed seeing the various fish and it was nice to go at a slower pace. By the time we reached the butterfly house my youngest niece was fast asleep and the older one didn’t like butterflies so didn’t stick around. I’m not fond of flying insects in closed spaces myself but I did manage to take some nice close up photos of some of the calmer butterflies.

Last stop was the farm, here they had a striking long haired Poitiven donkey, cows, ponies, alpacas, hens, rabbits and my little niece’s favourite baby goats! Feeling refreshed after her nap she spent her time petting, chasing after and hugging them.

I always feel conflicted when visiting zoos as I feel sad that animals are kept in smaller spaces than they would be in the wild. But the truth is that zoos can play an important part in conservation and survival of some animals. Seeing them in large, open spaces in nice and I’m glad that they seem to be well looked after at Whipsnade.

Rainbow lollipop class

My sister and I recently went to a candy making class, something that we both have wanted to do. We arrived for the class and excitedly looked around the shop at the wonderful sweets as we waited for the candy to be heated to the correct temperature. Once this was done we made our way to the workshop with our instructor. It was only a small class with another woman, my sister and me and the instructor who was going to lead the class. Today we were making rainbow lollipops.

The mixture of glucose, water and sugar was really hot, and so it was only safe for the instructor to use. The instructor poured the mixture onto a specially made table that was heated to enable him to keep working with it. The flavour of the mixture was tutti frutti and it smelled great. Once the mixture was on the table our instructor started to add colour, made with natural flavourings and were vegan, vegetarian and halal which was great to know.

First the primary colours were made, and then our instructor used these to make the secondary colours. The white was stretched to add air which would then bring out the colour. All the colours were then laid out in rainbow order and wrapped around the white candy to create a long, colourful tube. We were now able to start making our rainbow lollipops.

Our instructor stretched the candy tube to make it thinner and then gave us a piece each to create our shapes. Working on heated tables and with gloves on we made a simple shape first, the swirl, and adding a wooden stick our lollipop was complete. We then made a few more shapes; starts, hearts, flowers and butterflies. I think my favourite was the duck which came out quite well. We had to work quickly with each piece of candy as it would become difficult to mold as it cooled, hardened and turned glass-like.

The class was about 1 hour long, but the time went quickly, as it always does when you’re having fun. Our instructor was friendly, and very knowledgeable, and the candy making process was almost scientific when it came to understanding the way the ingredients interacted with each other. And the best bit; we all got to take our tasty creations home with us, which was a lot more than I expected. I would definitely recommend doing a class like this, as it’s not every day that you get to have a hands on experience that involves such tasty treats.

London Zoo

London Zoo is the oldest scientific zoo in the world, and it’s one that I never got round to visiting, until now. On the day that I went it was cold but bright, meaning that I would get some good photos and that it wouldn’t be too busy; I think I was right on both counts.

On arriving I first headed towards the small mammals area. They looked curious and peeped out from their hiding places to see who had come to visit. After a quick look I headed towards the lions that are newly housed there and were one of the reasons that I wanted to visit. As they were one of the main attractions the area was decorated and staged as if it could be an authentic Indian village, with colourful paintings and props. The lions themselves were huge and very impressive and with only a pane of glass between them and us, I was able to have a look up close and see the might of such creatures.

Next I went on to see the petting animals where they had some tiny, super cute kids that you could feed and play with and that the young children seemed to enjoy. The llamas and camels were nearby too that I could see. A short distance away, the tigers were housed. The adult tiger was very active and difficult to photograph but my patience paid off when I managed to get a clear photo. I was also rewarded with seeing the beautiful baby cubs, playing and running around.

As it was coming up to Christmas there were reindeer out on walks with zookeepers, meaning that I was able to get close. Onwards I went to see one of my favourite animals, the giraffes, making me happy upon reaching their enclosure. I always find giraffes surreal looking with their long necks and gangly legs. I loved that they were so close it seemed that if they really stretched, they could easily lick my camera.

The path then led me onto the Reptile house which had some quite scary looking but beautiful reptiles from around the world.

There were some magnificent birds at the zoo too, some that could fly and some that couldn’t, each with their own colourful and unique features. Some were in cages but the larger ones were left in an open space, making me wonder why they hadn’t flown away.

I had a quick walk around the Bug house but as I’m not a fan I didn’t hang around too long. What I did find surprising was that there were live ants on display that didn’t have any glass around them. They were Leaf-cutter ants and looking carefully closer I could see each of the ants marching back and forth across a rope carrying tiny pieces of a leaf to take back to its home. I didn’t take too many photos of this area as bugs aren’t too appealing to me but it was amazing to see some of the numbers enclosed such as the hundreds of locusts and various stick insects. I sharply made a turn into the aquarium next, to warm up and see the pretty fish. Amongst all the diverse fish in tanks I was pleased to come across some miniature blue starfish too.

Lastly I came across the Butterfly house, where I was debating whether to go in or not, seeing as I don’t particularly like flying things (apart from birds). I did decide to enter thinking I could make a sharp exit if it wasn’t for me, and I was really glad I did. Once my camera stopped fogging up in the warmer temperature of the area, I could see some beautiful, exotic butterflies flitting around, including the Glasswing Butterfly which I’ve already posted about. There was an array of brightly coloured butterflies, most of which were too fast to capture, but after ducking and flinching about a hundred times I think I managed to get some nice photos. There were also moths in the house but they were largely inactive being night time creatures. The Atlas moths were amazing, I wasn’t sure they were real at first due to their stillness and size; each wing being the size of my hand, but as always, nature astounds.

There were so many other animals around too, such as the gorillas and monkeys, penguins, Komodo Dragons and tortoises, to mention a few. Some weren’t easy to photograph or even see but the vast variety of the animals in London Zoo is amazing. I know zoos can be seen as bad places that imprison animals; I did feel particularly sad for the big cats and caged birds, but as the world we live in is increasingly destroying habitats, I feel a place like London Zoo can help preserve and protect some endangered animals. I spent most of the day looking around and there was still areas I missed as the place is huge. I really enjoyed seeing all the different animals and their colourful and varying feathers, scales, fur and skin, and I feel like I learnt lots too.

Glasswing Butterfly

I recently went to London Zoo (more photos coming soon), and one of the creatures I saw that absolutely fascinated me was the Glasswing butterfly. I’d seen this butterfly online a couple of years ago and was awed by how pretty and delicate it looked. I also remember believing that I would never see one for myself as they are native to South and Central America. I was so pleased to have been wrong about that.

Glasswing butterfly

Walking through the butterfly house and seeing these lovely butterflies fluttering around made me feel incredibly lucky. Of all the various butterflies in the house these were one of the most calm meaning that I was able take some close up photos.

Glasswing butterfly

Glasswing butterfly

These Glasswing butterflies look almost mythical, with their opaque, stain glass like wings. Having shown my photos to family members I was repeatedly asked whether they were real, and I was happy to say that they were, having seen them with my own eyes