Dartmoor Zoo

This month we were lucky enough to be invited to Dartmoor Zoo, a 33-acre zoo near Plymouth on the south-west edge of Dartmoor. Dartmoor Zoo is home to the 2011 Hollywood blockbuster film We Bought A Zoo, staring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson. The author and inspiration behind the film; Benjamin Mee, kindly donated the zoo to charity in 2014. 

Upon our arrival we walked up the drive past the cute capybaras, tapirs and goats before we were greeted by Emma Thomas, Marketing Manager, who gave us a tour of the park and introduced us to the beautiful animals they look after. The first animals we met were Twix and Twirl, two of the cutest meerkats we’ve ever seen! They were looking particularly observant, standing on top of the rocks to get a better view of the park and the visitors. Opposite their enclosure the two ostriches, Pete and Dorothy seemed to be enjoying the sunshine, and in their paddock were 3 gorgeous zebras named Forest, Hugh, and Parsley.  

Did you know that you can say ‘I do’ at Dartmoor Zoo? Well, when we walked past Goodamoor House, Emma asked us exactly that! Dartmoor Zoo boasts a beautiful 17th century venue with a ceremony room that accommodates up to 50 seated guests. If you’re planning a bigger wedding though, not to worry as they also offer receptions for up to 120 guests at their Jaguar Restaurant in the winter, or by transforming the large outdoor space with a marquee in the summer. Can you imagine a more unique and magical backdrop for your wedding? Make the most out of your wedding day here by taking the opportunity to book an animal experience for yourself and your partner, or your whole wedding party! Food is one of the most important things at a wedding (you’ve got to have something to line your stomach!) so Dartmoor Zoo’s food packages can cater for your every need, whether it’s a buffet, a BBQ, or a sit-down, three course meal.  

Dartmoor Zoo We continued our tour to the petting area of the zoo, which is home to Mr Pickles, a timid but exquisite fallow deer who was enjoying his breakfast, and Toffee, Cinnamon and Maple, some friendly African Pygmy goats who loved a chin scratch and some head rubs! Emma then took us to see Derek and Marge, the resident East African Grey Crowned Cranes in the African Avery. These large birds are absolutely stunning, with bright red wattles and a golden tuft of feathers on top of their heads which looked so beautiful in the morning sunlight.  

As we continued our tour we spotted two adorable Short Clawed Otters cuddling in their hut. They must have been hiding out in the shade as it was a particularly hot day when we visited. Emma mentioned that they have 5 otters who live at Dartmoor Zoo; Matty and Jasmine, who are the parents to Tarka, Peanut and Darcy. Next to these furry friends we saw Kato and Simon, two male Raccoon Dogs… yes that’s right, Racoon Dogs! We’d never seen or even heard of a Racoon Dog before, but we can confirm that they are absolutely as cute as they sound! They’re typically indigenous to East Asia and whilst they’re not related to racoons, they are classified as part of the same canid family (meaning dog-like carnivorans) and are compared to foxes and badgers – nocturnal mammals who like woodland and forest areas. According to Emma, these animals are best seen in the colder seasons as their winter coats make them adorably fluffy! 

After passing the racoon dogs, we were in big cat territory now! I don’t know about you, but when I visit any zoo, the big cats are always the animals I’m most excited to see! Dartmoor Zoo is home to 6 different species of cats, each as beautiful and fascinating as the lasdartmoor zoo tigert. The first big cats we saw were Willow and Flaviu, two gorgeous Carpathian Lynx. Willow was putting on a show for us by grooming herself on the wooden decking in front of the fence for all to see, whilst Flaviu was a bit harder to spot as he was lounging around atop a tree, camouflaged between the leaves. We then briefly saw Chincha the Jaguar who looked rather elusive and unbothered that people were trying to spot him and remained dozing on top of his decking, occasionally popping his head up whenever he saw a green t-shirt in the hope that it was the Dartmoor Zookeepers getting ready for feeding time. 

We walked past the Cheetah enclosure where we saw Tibo laying on top of their mound, but slightly hidden between the grass. His brother Baro was not seen so he must have been seeking shelter in the shade. Up from the Cheetahs, we were happy to see Dragan the Amur Tiger, the largest of the big cat species. He was roaming around at the top of his enclosure before taking a lie down in a shady spot behind a tree to groom himself. Opposite Dragan’s enclosure, we spotted African Lions Jasiri and Kimya at the far end of their enclosure. Again, these beautiful cats were a bit harder to see as they were sheltering in the shade behind some trees.  

Next up we visited the reptile and bug house where we able to say hello to some cold-bloodedartmoor zoo monkeyd creatures and invertebrates. Here we met Biggie the Salmon Pink Bird Eating Tarantula, Rocket the Nosy Be Panther Chameleon, Tonga the Lau Banded Iguana, Winston the Geyr’s Spiny-Tailed Uromastyx, Maui the Axanthic Blue Iguana and Yana the Black and White Tegu. After trying to spot the Golden Mantella frog (who was only about an inch big), we were quickly called away from here as it was feeding time for the Gelada Moneys. We rushed over as to not miss it and saw Bruno, Kwame and Soloman munching on some greens that the keepers had thrown in for them. We were also able to briefly chat to some other visitors to the zoo who had booked a keeper experience for the day. These aren’t the only primates that can be seen here, the zoo also boats two White-faced Saki Monkeys called Splodge and Filis as well as Pumpkin and Ember, two Red Handed Tamarin monkeys.  

To complete our trip to the zoo, we headed over to the Jaguar Restaurant to re-energise before driving home. The café offers a great selection of food and drink throughout the day. Pop in mid-morning for light brunch menu consisting of oven-baked croissants, bacon rolls or a slice of cake. If you’re fancying a pasty or a sandwich, they stock local ‘Denzel's Pasties’ of Plymouth or ‘Lunch’ sandwiches made in Ivybridge. Perhaps you’re in the mood for something a bit more filling? Well, their café also serves a great selection of burgers, pizzas, nachos, and paninis – we were very impressed by their vegan selection also, offering a lentil dahl, a vegan burger and vegan cheese on the pizzas. For those with a sweet tooth, the zoo also stocks locally produced Yarde Farm ice-cream, made down the road in Plympton. The restaurant also contains a small indoor play area so there were lots of smiling kiddies running around whilst waiting for their food! Here you’ll find a gift shop too, selling cuddly toys, eco-friendly stationary, jigsaw puzzles and all your other traditional gift-shop treats.  

We would thoroughly recommend a day out to Dartmoor Zoo, whether you’re a family looking to keep your little ones entertained, or a couple wanting to spend some quality time together. As Dartmoor Zoo is a registered charity, its emphasis is on conservation, breeding, and research. The keepers are incredibly friendly and thoroughly enjoy spending time with their animals. They regularly focus on enrichment activities to make sure the animals are happy, healthy and well-fed. Dartmoor Zoo is completely reliant on ticket income, donations and purchases to keep their vital work going, so a trip to the zoo is not only a good day out for you, but it also supports the amazing work they do. Keep an eye out for Dartmoor Zoo's great events, the next ones are Zoo Nights on Wednesday 24th August and Boo at the Zoo on 28th and 29th October 2022.

If you take a visit to this amazing zoo, let us know by sharing your photos with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We might even share them on our pages! 




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