Trip to the Zoo


We went to the zoo.

The weather promised to be not too bad (best you can hope for in an English summer) and the day was empty, so I made some cheese sandwiches (because zoo restaurant food is usually dire) and we set off for Port Lympne. I’m not entirely sure how you pronounce that, but it sounds like ‘Port Lymf.’ Just say it fast, and no-one will notice.

The day was a good one. Here are the highlights:

We were greeted by prowling lions. Luckily they were behind bars, but something had clearly caught their attention, and they stared intently at a gateway, their eyes brooding, their muscles tense. I have always thought that lions and tigers are simply big versions of my domestic cats, but these were scary. They wanted something, and I was very pleased there was a strong fence between us. There were lots of squirrels in the zoo. I guess they learn pretty quickly which enclosures to avoid.

Next stop were the gorillas, but we were distracted by the view (the zoo overlooks the Romney marshes down to the sea) and some rather fine steps that went down past the mansion. A feature of the zoo is that it’s built on a stonking great hill, so don’t visit unless you have good legs.

Grumpy gorilla searching for bugs.

The gorillas have a brilliant enclosure full of swings and ropes and barrels. Unfortunately they mostly preferred sitting inside their warm house, so we only saw two fat males, who were busy picking insects out of the straw. Tasty snack. Port Lympne is famous for its gorillas, and on better days we have watched whole families play. The zoo breeds them, recreates an environment similar to the wild (but with fences) and then releases them. (Not locally. Obviously.)They have reintroduced about 70 gorillas back into the wild, and are busy breeding more. When they’re out, you can spend hours watching them, they’re fascinating. Empty cages are less fun.

There was a muddy field with rhinos stomping. Their footprints were as big as dinner plates.

We caught the ‘safari bus’ for a tour of the bigger enclosures. This was worth doing mainly for the giraffes, which took up the slack from the gorillas—they weren’t just outside, they all decided to huddle next to the gate so the bus was unable to open it. We sat there, for ages, watching them. Long necks stretched to eat leaves from trees, improbable legs that moved—both right legs then both left legs—in a finely balanced glide. Their eyes were knowing as they dipped their heads towards the bus and licked the salt from the windscreen. Eventually, a keeper came, and called them all into the giraffe house. They all stalked towards her call, except for one, which lifted its head but decided, very obviously, that it wouldn’t obey. The herd floated away, and the rebellious young male drifted after them. It was worth the entrance fee. They don’t look real. Who would design such ridiculous creatures?

The rest of the safari involved mainly deer (all different kinds, and some were called ‘gazelle’ or ‘lechwe’ or ‘eland’ but they were basically all deer with different flavours of antlers/horns). There was a pack of wild dogs, which reminded me of Kia, and a couple of zebra (another unreal animal) but mainly we saw deer. And some people glamping in a field with a muddy pond that was meant to resemble a waterhole. The people, with their glasses of wine and woolly jumpers sitting on their verandas and pretending the bus hadn’t stopped right in front of their ‘glamp-tent’ were probably as interesting as the deer to be honest.

There were signs for dinosaur land and babydolls, but we had walked up and down enough hills, so we decided to skip those. I was suspicious that the dinosaurs might not be real, but perhaps I’m just a sceptic. I later read that babydolls is a pizza restaurant.

We ate our cheese sandwiches sitting in the car, then drove home. A pretty perfect day. I recommend you visit, wear comfy shoes.

Hope you have a good week. Thanks for reading.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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