Join me this week as I sport my best khaki safari jacket, walking shoes, and an adventurous spirit because we are heading to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) Edinburgh Zoo.
Edinburgh Zoo is situated on a hillside in the west side of the city and affords visitors breathtaking vistas throughout. In fact, I am quite excited because we were able to see the work and current construction of the new Giant Panda habitat which will be located at the top northeast corner of the zoo. They are scheduled to finish this month with the resident pandas- Tian Tian (which means ‘Sweetie’) and Yang Guang (which means ‘Sunshine’)- being transferred at some point. Therefore, these two lucky pandas will have some of the best views of Edinburgh once they move into their brand-new habitat. More on them a little later.
Related to the Zoo’s location, it is important to provide a friendly heads up that, as I mentioned above, the Zoo is on a rather large hill. Therefore, comfortable shoes are a must as well as being prepared to walk up hills throughout the zoo. However, it is certainly manageable if you take breaks when needed. You can always approach it with my attitude- I look at it as an opportunity to get outside, get some fresh air, and a little bit of exercise.
Meerkats, Giant Pandas, Penguins, and More!
I am a firm believer that there are interesting life lessons we can learn from animals (our Golden Retriever tour guide, Sawyer, certainly provides daily wisdom). On this recent visit to Edinburgh Zoo, I took the time to stop, appreciate, and ‘listen’ to some of our fellow friends of the animal kingdom. There are so many fantastic animals to learn about (and from) at Edinburgh Zoo. However, for the sake of brevity and your patience, I will feature just a few in this article.
As soon as you walk through the entrance, you are greeted with an animal that has some very useful lessons to teach us- the meerkat. The meerkats at Edinburgh Zoo are always a delight to observe. They remind us that we should continuously be curious, have fun exploring, and take the time to play with our friends and family. It’s easy to get caught up in work- especially when you run a small-family business and wear a variety of hats. Nevertheless, I try to live by our motto of ‘explore and discover’ and the meerkat certainly lives out that mantra each and every day.
Moving along, you eventually come across what many describe as the stars of Edinburgh Zoo. They definitely are some of the most popular animals around the world- the Giant Pandas. I am not going to lie…I have a bit of a panda obsession and I could literally sit and watch these mysterious and wondrous creatures for hours. In fact, that is part of why I recently got the Zoo membership (which I discuss at the end of this post). We are so fortunate to have Giant Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo because it is the only place in the United Kingdom that has them.
So, you might be asking yourselves, what can we learn from pandas? Well, it depends on your perspective and/or mood for the day. In general, I believe that pandas know how to relax, go with the flow, and live life more even keeled. Of course, there are also times when you just want to sit and have some snacks. And boy do pandas excel at this activity. According to the Zoo, they eat around 30kg (66lbs) of bamboo every day!
If there are any animals at Edinburgh Zoo that might be ‘tied’ as the stars of the zoo, it would be the penguins. A variety of penguins- including Gentoo, King, and Northern Rockhopper- hang out at Penguin Rocks. This is a fantastic playground which includes, “Europe’s Largest Outdoor Penguin Pool”.
Make sure to check out the world-famous Penguin Parade while you are at the zoo. It is a strictly voluntary event that zookeepers do not force or bribe the penguins with food in order to get them to participate. That means that the Parade may or may not happen depending on which penguins decide to wander out for a stroll at the designated start time. On this visit, only two penguins decided to partake in the parade. Still, it was quite fun to watch them waddle around the designated parade route while their adoring fans happily snapped pictures (me included).
I encourage visitors to take their time at Penguin Rocks as it is such a large area and there are so many penguins to enjoy. Going back to our ‘learn from the animals’ theme, I would say that, at least for me, penguins epitomise a ‘can-do’ spirit. For example, as we all know, penguins can’t fly and must waddle around on land; it was adorable to see them persist (even though they had to slow down quite a bit) and go up the small hill on the parade route.
The last animals I want to feature are the Queensland Koalas (the only ones in the UK). We missed them on a previous visit to the Zoo- be aware that their habitat often closes around 3:30 pm- but were thrilled to finally get to see them this time around. One interesting feature of ‘Koala Territory’ are the various native-Australian plants and trees that they’ve planted just outside the koala habitat building. It adds a nice touch of authenticity.
Please note that you must respect the koalas and be very quiet when visiting them as they are sensitive to loud sounds and need their rest during the day. Also, there is another special reason to be quiet as Alinga (which means ‘sun’), has a joey (who was first spotted by zookeepers in her pouch on 18 January 2019) named Kalari. According to the Zoo, the name is “an Aboriginal-inspired name meaning daughter”.
It will probably not come as a surprise for many of you when I describe the lessons, we can learn from koalas. It was quite special to watch Alinga cradle Kalari as they slept peacefully in the tree. Therefore, the life lessons are- hold tight to family and loved ones and don’t forget to show them you love them for these are strong bonds that must be maintained and kept strong on a daily basis.
It’s All in the Details
Edinburgh Zoo is a feast for the eyes- and not just regarding the resident animals. There are lovely details that you should look out for when you visit. For example, the native plants and trees planted throughout the Zoo (the Australian habitat is just one example of many). There are also exquisite wood carvings that can be found throughout the zoo. The majestic lion, plump panda, and curious meerkats (see picture above) are just a few of my favourites.
If you want to take home a fun keepsake of your visit at Edinburgh Zoo, make sure to explore the gift shop. There are an array of souvenirs to choose from including a variety of fun plushies.
One tip to consider, if you are a local or even someone coming back to visit a couple of times- is to get a yearly membership. That way you have more time to take in all the details, animals, and views that Edinburgh Zoo has to offer. I decided to get the membership on this visit as I really enjoy the Zoo for its beautiful location and it is a great place for me to sit down, get inspired, and do a little writing. The membership is handy because you get a 25% discount on tickets for up to 6 friends and family per visit. There also is a nice discount at the cafés which is handy for someone like me who loves coffee and a wee treat here and there. Head over to the Zoo’s website for more information and important details.
If you would like to take a tour of Edinburgh with a less ‘wild’ animal, you can join Sawyer. He thinks he’s a lion king, but he’s really just the fluffiest and friendliest Golden Retriever tour guide you’ll ever meet. Check out our homepage for more information.
Until next time- Explore & Discover!