A day at the zoo

Louise and I at Blair Drummond Safari ParkWell, technically a safari park but I’m the pedantic one here so don’t go giving me any gyp. As past blog posts will show, I love zoos. Well, I love a good one – Hanoi was a little decrepit but on the whole I’ve been impressed with the animal welfare in them. Anything which encourages children to see and appreciate animals in a safe environment is fine by me. Yes, I do believe that an animal’s place is in the wild. On the other hand, it’s incredibly important that today’s younger generations get to see what they’ll be missing if we keep screwing the planet up. This handful of animals is doing a job in – hopefully – saving their species for lifetimes to come.

My view, anyway. Feel free to debate this in the comments. It’s always good to hear other viewpoints, even if they’re wrong 😉

Lions at Blair Drummond Safari ParkThe day started moderately early. Given that we’d kept my little cousin up well past her bedtime the night before, she had a little lie in. On Saturday evening she’d sat next to me as I went through pictures of the Tiger Temple (“Why is that man wearing those clothes? Is it to show he’s special?” That was the abbot in his safron robes) and Auckland Zoo before she started snoozing on the sofa.

The lovely Leah came with us as well. I’ve never taken a little kid out before on my own and Leah’s a certified teacher with experience of nippers, sprogs, kids, children and so forth. Lots of them at once. I was sure she’d be able to cope with one little cousin.

We bundled her (the cousin, Louise – not Leah) into her safety seat in the back of the car and set off. Of course, we wouldn’t tell her where we were going. That’s half the fun! She kept guessing, actually asking if we were going to the shops at Braehead as we drove past because she’d like that. She loves wandering round looking at everything and spending money. Takes after her mum…

Not once did we get an “are we there yet?”. Instead, we got “are we lost?” which we played along with. Until I looked over my shoulder and my heart broke to see her sitting there with tears coming down her face. In a quiet little voice she said “I want to go home”.

Enter Miss Leah, teacher extraordinary, and a bundle of enthusiasm about where we were going and all the great things we’d see and that she could do. By the time we stopped at some services for a little toilet break there was a bounce in Louise’s step and a smile on her face. I knew I’d brought Leah along for a reason.

MeerkatWe got to Blair Drummond Safari Park around 11-ish, and coughed up the entry fee of £10.50 per adult and £7.50 for the little one. There are a few ways you can tackle the park, and we opted to do the “drive around” part first, then park up and enjoy the lovely hot weather. I’d already removed the aerial from the car roof. It’s a staple of home video TV shows to watch monkeys unscrew them and run off into the trees.

Fortunately / unfortunately, simians were not to be seen in the drive-through segments. We did see plenty of other animals though. A handful of very impressive-looking rhino were first up. Some ostriches, gazelle, bison, camels, giraffe and the obligatory lions.

We were particularly lucky with the lions as we got stuck in a small queue of traffic just as a couple got up and walked towards the car. This gave us a great opportunity to snap some close-up pictures. As the last adult walked past the back of the car (my mum’s, incidentally), its tail rose up, thumped the back window and with an almighty *SQUIRT* that we could hear inside, sprayed gooey scent all over the side-panels. Whoops. At least it’ll keep the neighbourhood dogs from peeing on the wheels.

We parked up and had a wander round one of the central areas. The weather was gorgeous so a lot of the animals were out and basking or pacing. Meerkats, as always, drew quite a crowd. Cute little things. Louise liked the penguins and the llamas managed to abstain from spitting on us. Which was good.

There’s a regular sealion show which we attended. Just the two of them, but doing some pretty neat tricks and impressing the crowd. At least the adults, anyway. I overheard one obnoxious little brat later on saying “Well, I almost fell asleep. That’s how boring they were.” Well, sod off home and play on your X-Box then. Grr.

Sealion jumpingOne of the few extras we paid for was to have Louise’s face painted. She opted for the “bunny” design which was cool and all glittery. We didn’t see many bunnies around, so it made her even more special (you can tell I dote on my little cousin, can’t you?). Her balloon vanished during the afternoon – the string tied round the balloon end gave way – but the staff kindly gave her another one to replace it.

Lunch wasn’t too expensive given the potential captive market. Burgers were £3 and you could whack on as much salad as you wanted. My aunt had packed us drinks, crisps and yogurt so we didn’t need to buy anything else.

We had a good wander around to see the elephants and up to the river, but Louise didn’t want to go in the boat because she was scared she’d fall off! Instead, we walked across the bridge onto the new Lemur Island, home to some Brown and Ring-Tailed Lemurs. The Browns were skulking around the back of their shelter so we could barely see them but a family of Ring Tails were out enjoying the sun. I think we spent around ten or fifteen minutes watching them dash around and play-fight. The baby was particularly cute as it practiced the jumps that the older animals managed with ease.

Louise decided that she still wanted to wander around the shops – those X-chromosomes have a lot of power – even though there are only two in the park. And they both sell the same stuff. She’s quite subtle, not asking for anything. Just picking it up and carrying it around the shop on the off-chance you notice and buy it for her.

Baby Ring-Tailed LemurShe’d spotted a cuddly penguin which she liked, but I set down the law – penguin or ice cream. The scales were tipped when I mentioned that her new teddy bear I’d given her the day before might get jealous of a penguin. She nodded, agreed and decided on a Ribena ice lolly instead. Quids in!

The last event of the day was a play on the big wavy slide thing. I remember these from when I was her age. The raggy old rope mats, the bump on your tailbone as you go over the last hump at speed. The friction burns if you run your arm down the side. Ow.

After an agreed-on half-dozen run down the slide, we headed back to the car. Louise “rested here eyes” on the way back home, and we dropped her off in good time for tea. Via Asda where I bought her sweets. I am a bad influence.

I had a great time and I think she did as well. Leah seemed to enjoy herself, too, but I confess I was just reveling in spending a whole day with my little cousin. I’ve missed her a lot while I’ve been traveling. As you can probably tell!

Oh, and I’ve still not told my mum about the car.