I went to ZSL London Zoo to trial their overnight experience for wheelchair users and young people with complex health needs. I stayed in their accessible accommodation called Leopard Lodge in Land of the Lions. Here is day 1 and my blog explaining everything properly. I have uploaded the day 2 vlog and blog on my next post.
I have taken the sound out of the video, this is because I want everyone to have their own amazing experience if they go to the lodges.
On Tuesday 6th August I went to ZSL London Zoo to trial their overnight experience in Gir Lodge, Land of the Lions. I was trying it to see how accessible it is for wheelchair users and young people with complex health needs on behalf of Strongbones Children’s Charitable Trust.
When we arrived we dropped our bags off at service entrance 2 before parking in the car park and walking back to get into the zoo in a separate entrance. I met a lovely lady called Joy would I had been emailing about this trial experience. She took us to meet an important man in the first aid room who knew all about the new accessible toilet and they both took us to see the new facilities. The new bathroom has a track ceiling hoist, height adjustable plinth and sink, lots of grab handles, shower over the plinth and a hand drier. The changing facilities were brilliant, the zoo had painted a beautiful mural on the wall which made it feel less like a hospital room and more friendly. I loved this special touch!
After looking at the new bathroom facilities, Joy took us to explore Leopard Lodge in the Land of the Lions before it opened so I could really have a good look to see if the lodge would meet the needs of people with more complex health needs. I was able to get into Leopard Lodge myself and then drive into the bathroom within the lodge. There was a height adjustable shower and shower chair, a sink, light up mirrors and plenty of space. They also stored to mobile hoist in there while not in use.
After we had a look around the lodges, we walked around the zoo. We went from the penguins, to the butterfly house, to the monkey enclosure where I made a little friend who wanted a ride on my chair. Then we went up a ramp to the gibbons and lions enclosures where we got our first look at our neighbours for the night. They have one male lion and three females lions that are sisters.
We walked around the farm park where the new accessible bathroom is and I had chance to film inside the bathroom which you can see on my day 1 vlog.
After the bathroom, I went to look at the meerkats and I thought they were very funny. The meerkat enclosure had a glass panel wall so I was able to drive up to the glass and see through very easily without having a wall or barrier in the way. I went on to see inside reptiles house, in the rainforest area and the flamingos.
When it was time, we went back to the Land of the Lions to wait outside the lodges for them to open and our after hours experience begin. We had a welcome speech, then the families that were staying for the night got entry to their lodges to chill out for a bit. I used this opportunity to have a stretch out on my bed and chill out for a while.
At 6pm, we met outside the guides lodge and our tour began. First we went to the lion enclosure where we saw the male lion having a scratch on the posts, the guides told us lots of amazing information all about the four lions, the other families went up the stairs and I went up in a lift with Dad to look over the whole enclosure. The platform over the Lions was great, it has lots of glass walls and openings in the wall of all heights so you can spy on the lions easily. The guides told us more information about the lions and showed us some things that we were able to hold and take photos with. I really liked being able to touch things because it made the experience ,ore sensory. After seeing the lions and learning about them we went to feed the hippos.
They have two Pygmy hippos at ZSL London Zoo, Nicky and Thug. We threw leaves over the glass enclosure carefully, not to hit the hippos but making sure they had to pick the food up off the floor. We learnt all about how they taught the hippos to open their mouth and have their teeth brushed. Once the hippos had their dinner, it was time for us to have ours. We went to the restaurant that was up a few steps, the other families went inside and we went to a door with a ramp inside. Unfortunately, due to miscommunication the door was locked, as were the next three. When we finally got to the door that was unlocked I felt sad because the other families were waiting for us and they were looking at me when I finally got inside the restaurant, a family had also taken the table that was left for us so they had to be moved when I arrived. The room for our dinner was spacious enough and the buffet dinner was already laid out ready for us. My dinner was bought out to me same as the other children and the adults went up and helped themselves to the food. The food was delicious, especially the chocolate brownies!
After dinner we had the option to go back to our lodges if we were too tired to carry on the experience, I didn’t want to go to bed, I was too excited to go exploring the zoo in the dark! We went to the underground kitchens where the keepers make and monitor the animals food and ‘enrichment’. I learnt all about the different enrichment for different animals, I bet you can’t guess what animal they give jelly, ice lollies and popcorn to?! While in the keepers kitchens we got the chance to look at the different enrichment ‘toys’ they make for the animals, they use lots and lots of fire hose and hessian sacks to make amazing things to hang from in the enclosures. Then we went around a big table where we had a small box in front of us, the keepers wouldn’t tell us what animal we were making enrichment for, but we did it anyway, it was all exciting. We put a few things into the boxes and put the boxes somewhere safe to keep hold of until later in the night. The next bit I really didn’t like so I chose not to participate, which was fine. My PA told me what they did because she did it for me so I didn’t miss out on anything. First they had to put face masks on (the bit I really didn’t like) and then gloves (didn’t like that either). Then they had a piece of hessian and they put some chickpeas inside then had to tie it up in a strong creative way; we didn’t know what animal this was for either, it was very interesting to listen to though. Once we had made the enrichment for the animals, we were given torches with STRICT instructions to only point them at the floor because the white lights would wake some animals and hurt others eyes so we had to be very careful. We went back up a ramp to ground level and headed to a specific part of the zoo to throw our stuffed boxes into an enclosure. When we arrived there didn’t look like there was anything inside the glass walls until the keeper shone her special red light through the glass and three porcupines came out. We threw our boxes over the glass wall, avoiding the animals as best as possible and the keeper told us all about their quills and teeth. We even got to feel some quills (obviously not connected to the porcupines!) Then it was time for bed! We followed the keepers back to the lodges and went straight to bed. At night you could hear the animals – or so mum, dad and Rachel told me, I was fast asleep all night long!
Please click on the next post to see my vlog and blog of day 2 at ZSL London zoo and my final opinions.
Thank you friends!