- Disabilities & the Disabled
Paignton Zoo Accessibility
Paignton Zoo & Environmental Park, Totnes Road, Paignton, Devon, TQ4 7EU
There is a drop off area outside the zoo entrance which is great for loading and unloading wheelchairs, the disabled parking area is up a slight slope so it’s worth picking up and dropping off in that area and then parking, there are plenty of spaces.
Child ( 3 – 15 years)
Child under 3 years
Senior citizen & Student
Child (3 – 15 years)
Child under 3 years
Senior citizen & Student
Family (2 adults + 2 children)
Pusher/attendant/nurse - Admitted free of charge
Accompanying visitors - Normal admittance fee
Fully trained assistance dogs are permitted but must wear their respective identity jackets and Environmental Health and Identification cards must be carried.
An induction loop is available at till 4 (main entrance).
Paignton Zoo is located in the heart of the English Riviera in South Devon, a very beautiful (and hilly) part of England. With over 3000 animals, five habitats and botanical gardens set in 80 acres of land - there’s plenty to see and do. The Zoo was opened in 1923 and right from the beginning it has concentrated on conservation and education. It is a charity dedicated to conserving global wildlife heritage, inspiring and educating visitors to respect animals and the environment. Some zoo’s can seem too small and the enclosures inadequate however Paignton Zoo has the welfare of the animals as its priority, as all zoo’s should, and I didn’t see a single animal that I thought to be in distress. I would of course prefer to see these animals in their natural habitat but at Paigtnon Zoo the site is so large and the enclosures so spacious and well attended that the animals appear to be happy and respond well to the visitors, so it's the next best thing for me.
My husband, Mother-in-law and I visited in the summer of 2011 and had a brilliant day. Hubby currently needs to use a wheelchair to get around public spaces, so we looked at the zoo's website and consulted the book Accessible Britain (£6.99 www.roughguides.com, free for registered Disabled) to see how much of the zoo is wheelchair accessible, check parking and facilities. These days most public areas are wheelchair accessible and make provisions for disabled visitors, but knowing that the zoo was very old, and hilly, it seemed sensible to make sure that hubby would be able to see everything he wanted before we booked the tickets. The information available assured us that the zoo is accessible and so we decided to go.
Paignton Zoo prides itself on being an Access for All site. They have created an environment free from barriers and obstacles, the zoo ensures that children and wheelchair users alike have an unimpeded view of the animals. The only obstacles that we encountered were other visitors, which is normal for anywhere we go when Hubby is in the wheelchair. Sadly people don't generally take in anything other than what is directly ahead in their eye line and consequently cut you up, bump into you or block your view.
There are coloured routes around the zoo, the yellow route reportedly the most accessible for wheelchairs. However we didn’t really stick to routes, preferring to find around way around Zen style (so getting lost a lot) and occasionally (often) looking at the map. We did end up on some pretty rough terrain and the park is very hilly. By the end of the day my calves were very sore from pushing hubby up the hills and for the next few days I knew I’d had a good workout. If you do not want to have a full workout or your attendant is not very fit you can hire motorised scooters (£5 hire charge plus £20 refundable deposit) from the main entrance. About half way around hubby wished we’d done that as the hills were as tiring for his arms as they were for my legs.
Allen Key Emergency
The terrain did take its toll on the wheelchair and unfortunately the foot plate loosened and dropped, scraping on the floor just next to the Lion enclosure. So we had to have a pit stop. We didn’t have an allen key with us so I left hubby in mum-in-law by the aviary and went on the search for a member staff and hopefully a set of allen keys. The staff was incredibly helpful at the main entrance I was able to borrow a set of allen keys and get us back on the road in no time.
Animal CrackersClick thumbnail to view full-size
Talking to the Animals
Hubby has always had a knack for voices and impersonations and has been known to talk to a flock of baby Flamingoes in Florida (yep, they 'talked' back). So it was no surprise to me when Hubby started to do a very good Gorilla impersonation.
Pertinax is the Silverback Gorilla. He is spectacular, majestic, powerful and awe inspiring, I had never seen a Gorilla in real life before and he took my breath away. Because of the way the zoo is laid out, and his enclosure is designed, you really can get very close to him without any danger. The fences are good and low (and electrified) so that the visitors can get the best possible view of the Gorilla's in their outside area without any danger.
We were alone around the side of the Gorilla enclosure and could see Pertinax through the bushes and tree's, banging his swing door and keeping the other Gorilla's in check. Once he had finished with the others, and they had retreated inside, he went for a wonder around his enclosure and consequently came a little closer to us. Not expecting it to make an impact at all, Hubby did a very good Gorilla impression and we were stunned to see Pertinax stop in his tracks and turn and stare directly at us. I was delighted, especially as I had control of the camera at the time and was able to get my first close up of his face with the zoom lens. I wanted him to come closer for more photographs and so I asked hubby to do the noise again, hoping that Pertinax would be interested enough to saunter over and say hello. Well, saunter is not the word for it, he charged! When hubby made the noise a second time it was with more gusto and a beating of his chest. Pertinax went mental, he was running straight for us beating his own chest and roaring. I was watching all of this through the zoom lens of the camera and he seemed a lot closer than he actually was. I only managed two decent photographs and they certainly do not convey his speed and agility or the terror I felt at being charged at by a Silverback. Add to that it didn't seem as though there would be much to stop him teaching us a lesson if he really wanted to and all three of us backed away pretty quick! We assume that Hubby's vocal agility was close enough to a real Gorilla to make Pertinax think that he was being challenged, and after he'd reminded us who is boss he sauntered over to a nearby tree, sat, and then as if he'd understood what I'd wanted all along, posed for photographs!
Once we'd gathered ourselves I managed to take some lovely photographs of Pertinax and the three of us had a good laugh and admitted how terrified we actually were.
Pertinax the SIlverback GorillaClick thumbnail to view full-size
You Must Visit
At reception we were told that the zoo had some new arrivals, baby Meerkats and Baboons. Any baby animal makes my heart melt, but the Meerkat family all cuddling up together was just so sweet and the baby baboons adorable. The zoo have scheduled talks and feeding times which are free to attend. We didn't manage to make it to any of them, and I really wanted to see the Baboons. When we arrived at the Baboon enclosure they were very much in a food coma, crashed out all over there rock, but we were treated to a lighting display of afternoon Baboon nookie!
The primates were stunning and I of course loved the Gorilla's. Most animals have indoor viewing areas, all fully accessible, and when we arrived at the Baboon area we were treated to a very athletic display of machoism, each male trying to outdo the other swinging around on ropes and clambering about their climbing frames, until Pertinax popped in to put them in their place of course. There was a fare amount of food throwing and pooping but we could have spent all day in there just watching the Gorilla's go about their business, no matter how gross.
The variety of animals and information about them available make's every square meter of the park fascinating, I would recommend getting the guide book for extra information about each animal and their care.
All in all we had a fantastic day out, it was hard work but well worth it to see all of the animals. My personal highlights were the baby Meerkats, baby Baboons and of course Pertinax - I will never ever forget that moment.
If you find yourself in Paignton or nearby in Devon or Cornwall I would highly recommend a visit to the zoo, it's a great family day out.
Paignton Zoo Official Website
- Welcome to Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, Paignton, Devon, UK.
The official website for Paington Zoo.