Animal Experiences


If you're looking for an unusual gift for an animal lover, how about treating them to an animal experience?  There are lots of animal experiences, with opportunities to simply visit, or to  meet animals (obviously you can get closer to some e.g. a horse than others e.g a tiger, unless you want to be lunch).  There's Keeper for a Day, the chance to walk with animals such as alpacas and donkeys, or even feeding the animals with a keeper.  

There are experiences for reptiles, big cats, horses, meerkats, red pandas, wolves, sea life, monkeys, birds of prey, dogs, pet photoshoots, bees, rhino, llamas, lemurs, penguins, giraffes, tapirs - there's even wildlife photography experiences!  

You can buy experiences from a wildlife park or zoo or attraction directly; or through a gift experience company such as Red Letter DaysBuy a GiftVirgin Experience Days, or Into the Blue.  Gift experience companies usually enable you to exchange your gift for something else, although check T&Cs before you buy.  (We went through BuyaGift when we bought Dad's meerkat experience for his 80th birthday gift, so that we could change it to something more sedate and/or closer to home if he wasn't up to it. He LOVED every moment!


You can buy animal experiences directly from these zoos and wildlife parks.  The animals listed after their names are simply to give you a flavour - there will be more on their websites.

ZSL London Zoo, London (junior keeper, giraffe, monkeys, komodo dragon, 
Whipsnade Zoo
,  Bedfordshire (tigers, giraffe, hippos, keeper for the day)

Chester Zoo (bird keeper for a day, chameleon, komodo dragon, butterfly & bug, opaki, fruit bat & more) 
Bristol Zoo, South West    (zookeeper for the day, cheetah, meerkat)
Marwell Widllife, Hampshire   (tropical house experience, small carnivores, aviary)
Banham Zoo, Norfolk (leopards, iguana and tortoise, armadillo)
Highland Widllife Park, Inverness-shire (include Snow leopards polar bears, Amur tigers)
Twycross Zoo Warwickshire/Leicestershire border (Aldabra tortoise, snow leopard, Amur leopard, great ape tour)
Colchester Zoo, Essex (includes photography workshops, zookeeper for the day, team buidling) 
Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire (rhinos, camels, lions, lemurs giraffe)
Dudley Zoological Gardens West Midlands (tapir chimps, sea lions, spider monkeys)
Drusillas Park, Sussex (capybaras and beavers, camels, sloths, tirantulas, reptiles)
Blackpool Zoo, Lancashire (carnivore keeper, keeper for the day, meet the animals (lemur, tapir, capybara)
Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire (Giant anteater, aardvark, red panda, giant otter, giraffe, gorilla feeding, koalas)
South Lakes Safari Zoo, Cumbria (big cats, red pandas, sloth)
Paignton Zoo, Devon  (giaint tortoise, kiwi, rhino, lion, giraffe)
Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire (wolf, big cats, tapir, meerkat, sloth, red panda)
Aspinall Foundation, Port Lympne, Kent (primate, white rhino, rhino, wolf, tiger, spectacled bear & more)
Africa Alive, Suffolk (red river hogs, fossas, giraffe, meerkat)
West Midland Safari Park, Worcestershire (rhino keeper for the day, lions, giraffe)
Howletts Wild Animal Park, Howletts, Kent  (junior ranger, keeper for the day)
The Big Cat Sanctuary, Kent (big cat encounter, ranger for the day, overnight big cat safari stay )
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Jersey (fruit bat, birds, orangutans, lemurs, keeper for the day)
Knowsley Safari, Merseyside (bush dog, birds of prey, accessible experiences, meerkats)
Flamingo Land, North Yorkshire (penguins, meet a creature, giraffe encounter)
Newquay Zoo, Cornwall (lemur, junior keeper, red panda)

There are animal experiences for children, and the minimum age limits vary - some experiences are intended for families and young children.  In some cases, an adult may need to accomapny the child and may need to buy an experience as well.

Animal experiences make for very different gifts. 
We gave my Dad a Meet the Meerkat experience at Paradise Wildlife Park and it was one of the best gifts we've ever given him.  I will never forget the happiness on my father's face as he fed the meerkats and had one poke his nose inside Dad's jacket!  It was also a wonderful memory for my mother and I.  They are also a great way to support the various zoos and their conservation work.

Many vouchers last for up to a year, but this does vary, so check with the company you are buying from and tell the recipient.  Early booking is always advised.  Some experiences will also have restrictions on age, weight and medical conditions - in some cases, they may not be right for pregnant women, for instance.  Some may be quite gory - such as feeding big cats - as you may well be preparing the animals' food as part of the experience.  Always check the fine print or need to know or key info sections actually relating to the experience. And make sure you are up to date with your tetanus injections before you go, just in case.

The animals available depend on the experience and a flexible approach is needed.  The animals' health and welfare must come first, and if there are times when certain areas of a park need to be closed to the public, so be it. Always check with the experience to see if you need to buy an entry ticket to the park as well the experience, or whether it is included in the price.