The Lodge at Bristol Zoo Gardens – An overnight experience

When is a hotel not a hotel? When its the lodge at Bristol Zoo!

This was one of those odd things, after a busy summer because of the wedding and not having a honeymoon as we are saving for a house we felt something was missing.  Then in conversation the subject of the lodge at Bristol Zoo came up, it was a 2 part thing of how unique an experience it would be and also what type of people would book such an experience.  After a chat with friends, it turns out the latter is actually us!

During the conversation we were looking at the prices and saw how much a standard night was, then it was a competition to find the most expensive day of the year and I stumbled upon what appeared to be the cheapest day of the year too.  This was £750 which sounds like a lot, but split that 6 ways (the max number of guests is 6) and thats £125 each, consider not having a honeymoon and it being Xmas so treating it like a Xmas present then it suddenly becomes a lot more affordable.

A few months passed and then it was Xmas and then time to go to the zoo!  Luckily I used to work in Clifton so managed to sneak past all the traffic wanting to hit the after Xmas sales.

The day was planned so that we would ‘bump’ into our friends and their 2 daughters at the zoo and then pretend to hide out (this didn’t quite go to plan), they had already arrived earlier in the day and the attendants at the carpark were expecting us.  We were directed to a parking space virtually outside the main entrance so didn’t have too far to walk, which was good as being Xmas we had presents with us.  We were helped from the car to the lodge and left our luggage and presents in the lodge – first impressions are lasting and whilst from the outside it looks like many of the other buildings at the zoo, inside is very different.

We didn’t spend long inside the lodge and quickly found our friends flirting with the penguins, now this is were things didn’t quite go as planned….we were going to pretend to hide at the zoo until everyone else had gone home and then see all the animals, we had a magic key to a room to hide in, everything was fine until we went to hide – the innocence and morals of a small child meant we had to come clean and explain it was a Xmas present.

Now back in the lodge we got the chance to relax and have a look at our overnight accomodation, the website described it as luxurious and this is exactly what you have, its not over the top but is done tastefully and very well – everything worked well and went together, from the bathrooms sinks to the room decor, it all felt right and inviting.

The main living room contained a couple of little treats, a small hamper containing a selection of biscuits, fudge and jams in addition to the ample supply of tea/coffee and other biscuits (the biscuits went down very well!), a personalised welcome note and the mini fridge containing the extra wine we had ordered (well its xmas after all).

Me being me decided that a cup of coffee and some biscuits were needed whilst we waited for the keeper to arrive for the first part of our own zoo tour.  For me this was probably the only negative thing about the whole experience, the coffee (the type that is coffee in a brew bag) was awful, no taste or flavour – I’d suggest maybe installing a Nespresso machine with a selection of coffee pods would be a better option, especially for people who appreciate decent coffee.  We also took the opportunity to fill in our breakfast order for the next morning.

A few biscuits later and the doorbell rang, our keeper had arrived – Polly explained what we’d be doing and we all wrapped up warm and headed over to the seal and penguin enclosure.  Feeding time for the seals, and some showing off as to who could eat more of the fish, I was there with the camera happily snapping away as fish were thrown to the seals.  Polly told us all about the seals, their names, relationship to each other and a brief history of the seals and how they are more like sealions rather than seals.

More behind the scenes with lemurs and monkeys and more knowledge transfer, Polly explained everything exceptionally well and had everyones attention – not only a fun experience but also very informative, not just for the kids but us grown up kids too.  Then through the nocturnal area and outside to see some of the animals in their warm pens (the frost was coming).

We then headed back to the lodge and Polly told us she’d be back bright and early for our meerkat feeding and breakfast with the gorillas.

Back in the lodge we were warming up as it had become pretty cold outside at this point and the nice and cosy lodge was just the answer.  The fridge was opened and the pre-ordered bottle of white was opened as were our Xmas presents, shortly afterwards the doorbell rang and feeding time at the lodge!

Our chef and hostess for the evening had arrived along with all the ingredients for our four course evening meal.  Now I suffer from a rather odd allergy that rears its ugly head if I eat aged cheese (instead of the fresh types) and as the 4th course was a cheeseboard the hostess checked that it was OK to put the board out (this is attention to detail as this had been noted at the time of booking and checked prior to our arrival).

Anyway, first course was ready and we tucked straight in, quickly followed by second and third courses – all were outstanding, delicious and plenty of it.  The cheese board was left on the table and the chef and hostess left.  The meal came with half a bottle of wine per person (and juice for the kids) so we were enjoying this whilst playing some nerve wracking games of Jenga and a competitive game of trivial pursuit.

Morning came and before we knew it Polly was back to take us on another tour including breakfast time for the meerkats. (These didn’t try and sell me insurance) and then chance to warm up in the gorilla house with freshly made breakfast – a huge roll stuffed full of our toppings of choice and a hot drink in a thermal mug (which  was also our souvenir of the experience).

We then had the rest of the zoo to ourselves until it opened and then checkout at 11am, we disappeared off as we had prior arrangements but the rest of the party went to the sister attraction near Cribbs Causeway.

All in all this was an experience and a half, its not every day you get the zoo to yourself, get guided behind the scenes tours, excellent food, breakfast with gorillas, luxury accomodation and some of the friendliest staff you could meet – yes it was £750 for the night, but once you break that down on a per person basis and for what we experienced then its worth every penny.  I’d love to go back, maybe in the summer when it is warmer but that won’t be for a while – saving for the house is our priority!

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