Since moving back to Wales in 2013 I have noticed adverts for Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in many places, and heard some great things about it from other Mums who have taken their children for the day at the Zoo Farm. And since my girls both LOVE animals and learning all about them I thought it would be a great day trip for us!
So last Monday myself, the girls and my lovely Dad went to Noah’s Ark, the drive isn’t too far from Newport, just over the bridge really and definitely not too long for the girls, who will happily chatter through a 2 hour journey and not really get too bored. So we packed some snacks and made our way to Noah’s Ark!
I was quite surprised that the car park wasn’t rammed, since it was the first day of the Easter holidays, but the weather man told fibs and said it was going to rain for most of the day (it didn’t!), therefore most people probably decided to wait until the rain had gone away. Oops! It was still pretty busy though.
We were greeted by the lovely ladies on the ticket desk and given our maps (plural, one each for the girls because of the fighting that usually ensues after the one map is handed over, well played Noah’s Ark) and we headed straight for the meerkat enclosure.
The first thing I noticed when we got to the meerkat enclosure was how well laid out it all was, it also had a lovely little viewing bridge over the top of the enclosure with glass walls so the children can peek straight in and see the little animals running about, this was true of the whole park actually, the small children really were thought of. The little meerkats were also quite active I thought, when I have seen them before they are usually quite quiet but here they were digging around a lot and not shy at all, I did wonder if the bridge and all the many children were a bit stressful for them and watched carefully, and I can safely say with the knowledge I have of animals that these little creatures were more than happy and not in the slightest bit distressed, also their enclosure was so clean!
We really enjoyed the talk and the meerkats being fed, although none of us were brave enough to stick our hands in the bucket and throw the bugs in (I think they were locusts or crickets, not my favourite things!) and the keeper chatting to us all filled up the enrichment devices for them, which was fun to watch.
We then wandered through the reptile house and saw a real live Nile crocodile, and my youngest girl was pretty fascinated by it.
The girls then let off some steam throwing themselves around the hay barn and swinging on the ropes, such a simple idea but they came out red cheeked and covered in hay! I think they had fun. The animal show in the arena was next and that was pretty educational and fun for the kids too, we learnt all about why we keep different farm animals and what we get from them, from chickens to Shire horses.
Are they going to kill that sheep now Mummy?
Ummmm maybe the smallest child is a little too accepting of the whole concept? She seemed relieved that they weren’t slaughtering the sheep though and that this was a sheep used for wool, phew! We even got to feed some little lambs with a bottle too, and they are a lot stronger than they look.
Now to avoid the “terrible rain” that we were expecting we decided to head towards the ‘big animals’ such as the tigers and elephants. The elephants were spectacular, and apart from the electric fence that stood in between us they felt so close, I don’t think I can remember being so close to an elephant before but there is something special about them, I can’t be 100% certain but it seemed as though there was a mummy and two baby elephants in the enclosure which gave me something in common with the lovely gentle giant, she seemed to get in between us and the babies at times with a protective turn or her rather large behind- something else I have in common maybe?! It was a wonderful experience just watching them moving around together and chewing some hay.
My girl was a little disappointed that the elephants didn’t squirt water at us but we can’t have it all now can we? She was a bit concerned that their skin looked so dry as well, but reassurance was given that they always look like that so not to worry.
The big cats were also a hit with the children, especially when one tiger yawned and revealed a huge mouth and long sharp teeth, I think “WOAH” might have been said. As before the enclosures and condition of the animals were brilliant and the ‘cat beds’ made from huge wooden frames looked very comfy for them.
We really enjoyed being able to look down on the tigers from the viewing platform. I always appreciate being able to see (and photograph) animals without the usual wires in the way. Perhaps I should aim to see these lovely creatures in their natural environment one day and go on a safari? But I am a bit of a wimp so…
The lions were happy where they were and clearly couldn’t care less if we could get a good look, obviously this lion was nice and relaxed! We did see the lioness telling him off a bit when he was following her around later on, possibly cubs on the horizon? We’d definitely come back to see those.
My favourites though were definitely the giraffe, there was George and Gerald, and the very pretty Genevieve, with (I think) her baby Geoffrey, and they were all truly commanding in size but so gentle looking, in some of the enclosures there were viewing platforms and so when the giraffe came inside for some food it was a real treat to see the giraffes up that close, it felt like I could almost touch them. Amazing. I may have taken one or two (or ten) photos of them…
There were plenty of other animals as well, including gibbons, reptiles, lemurs and even a porcupine. Really a whole range of various animals to see and learn about.
So we had seen as many of the animals as possible and made our way passed the rhinos and maze then went for some lunch. I completely forgot to take a photo of the food because quite honestly I was starving and it didn’t last long enough anyway, I can confirm that it was exactly as I would expect, tasty and filling, and everyone is catered for in the cafe- they even had decaf tea.
The girls then got to play in the indoor play area, on rainbow slides, trampolines and ball pit, they didn’t get bored for a long while and I sat and had a cuppa and Eccles cake with my Dad. It was pretty busy in there by this point but never seemed over crowded due to how spacious the indoor area was.
It’s also worth mentioning that toilets are within a short walking distance wherever you are at Noah’s Ark, this is not always the case with family friendly attractions and something I know families will be very grateful for. We are passed the age of potty training in our family but that little doubt about where the next toilet stop is has never left me, maybe it’s a Mum thing?
Overall all of us had a really enjoyable experience, and the staff, facilities and how well maintained the enclosures are was impressive, of course the welfare of the animals is the main priority and they all seemed more than happy to me. I do wish I had taken some more photos for you all to see, but we were so busy and trying to make sure we saw everything, sorry, and we could do with a second trip to fit in the things we missed or didn’t spend as much time on as well. There were also plenty of educational boards up for us to read and find out more about the animals. I do like the learning opportunities that were available, but wish we had been more organised to see more talks, maybe next time.
For the purpose of an honest review I have to mention the fact that it was very clear to me the Zoo Farm is creationist in it’s views, and is mentioned throughout the Zoo, some parts subtly, others not so. HOWEVER as a family that is athiest/ agnostic I didn’t feel like it was forced upon us, and if your child is in school currently they will likely have been told the Jesus story a few times in the last few weeks as well, because of Easter of course. Religion being included in general in school (outside of RE lessons) bothers me slightly in general, but I have spoken to my children about the whole religion thing and am comfortable that they can take it or leave it and make their own minds up since they have all the facts. So even though it made me slightly uncomfortable at points the girls didn’t even notice really and just enjoyed the day out for what it was. Everyone has their own opinion though of course and some people will appreciate this aspect and others less so.
Before we left I grabbed a few more snaps, and this one of a robin makes me smile because I didn’t even notice the second one in the photo until I got home and looked at the photos!
And of course I snapped some daffs!
In short, would I recommend Noah’s Ark Farm Zoo? Absolutely!
(Disclaimer- I was provided with two tickets for the purpose of this review)