I'd say that was our biggest benefit to having been there relatively recently. We knew where everything was and hold long it was likely to take us to get from one place to the other, so we could plan accordingly. For those who haven't been there, Edinburgh Zoo is built on the side of a hill, and it's a pretty steep one. The big cats are in this area and it's probably the bit that takes longest to get around (because so much of it is uphill). With our slot for the pandas booked somewhere around around 2pm we didn't want to find ourselves on the wrong side of the hill or having to rush anything.
Our day started at 5:30am and we arrived at the Zoo at about 10:30am, having had a little snack on the way to tide us over. Straight away we noticed differences from when we had been there before. Last year the meercat enclosure at the entrance was being done up, this time it was open and there were meercats to be seen. One of our problems when we went last year was the fact that it was winter, so lots of the animals preferred to be tucked up safe and warm, rather than out on display for their adoring fans. Can't say I blame them really.
One of the highlights was the chimps. Last year they'd all been indoors; this year they were roaming around outside (with a baby, no less). As they're Mr Click's favourite, he was thrilled. There are also a number of enclosures that you can walk through and get even closer to the animals. The first we went to was the monkey one. It had been open last year when we went but we didn't see anything. I'm not sure how much of that was because nothing was out and how much was because we didn't know what we were supposed to be looking for. There's also a lemur walkthrough and we were able to get incredibly close to them as well.
Another highlight was at the Living Links section, where the Squirrel Monkeys and Capuchins live. At the first bit we went to there were a bunch of sleepy Squirrel Monkeys and we spotted a couple of mothers with babies on their backs straightaway. The volunteer stationed at that enclosure told us that one of the babies, the smallest of the two, was only three days old. So new, in fact, that they hadn't officially announced its birth yet (in case it didn't make it). We were among the very first people to ever see it, and I was one of the first to get its photo and video.
|That's the newborn one on the left.|
We saw one of the pandas. As the female may be pregnant the indoor enclosure is off limits at the moment to give her some privacy, but the outdoor enclosure is still open for them to come out should they feel like it. Tian Tian was resting while we were there, but Yian Guang made an appearance for us. We stood around for a while to listen to the talk and if you squinted through the doorway you could see some bamboo moving around as he ate. Then all of a sudden he just strolled out. It was only for a moment, but it was great to see him so close.
I also got to see my absolute favourite, Snowflake the penguin. I was surprised to see two baby Gentoos who were a lot lighter than the others, so I do wonder if they're maybe baby Snowflakes, or little siblings. One of my only disappointments from last year was that we ended up on the wrong side of the Zoo during the Penguin Parade. This time around I got myself in position as soon as we came out from seeing the pandas and was lucky enough to have a King Penguin walk by me less than a foot away. That made my day and Mr Click snapped a great photo of me with a stupid grin on my face immediately afterwards.
There were a couple of animals that we missed out this time. The only ones I was really disappointed not to see were the rhinos. I completely forgot about them until we were a bit far away to go back. I did want to go and say hi to them because they both turned seven recently. At the time we'd been near them we didn't feel like walking up any more hills, so we did the Monkey House and African Painted Hunting Dogs instead.
My brand new 50mm lens was a great help because last year I wasn't really able to get any pictures in the Monkey House as it's too dark in there. My prime lens is so fast that I got some cracking shots. I took over a thousand photos though, so it might be a while before I've finished sifting through them all. I think I'm sorted for Wordless Wednesday posts until the end of the year!
We also got to see the hunting dogs. Last year they didn't want to venture outside (can't blame them, it was Edinburgh in October) and the indoor enclosure area was being renovated. Last week they were merrily running around outside. They're beautiful and it rounded off the trip nicely.
I also thought the gift shop at the end of the trip was much better this year than last year. I suppose last year they were quieter because it was winter and a lot of the stuff was Christmas decorations and the like. This time there were loads of things I could quite happily have bought (I especially liked the dinosaur cuddly toys, African Painted Hunting Dogs and koalas) though I was mature and let Mr Click treat me to a new lunchbox and water bottle for work. I've used them both this last week and they're great.
Mr Click and I have decided that going to Edinburgh Zoo is definitely something we want to do more often. Especially in the summer when we'll be able to get the first boat and make it back in plenty of time for the last one. Hopefully next time we go there might even be a baby panda to see.