Travel UK

Travel || Edinburgh Zoo

Visiting the Edinburgh Zoo has been on my UK bucket list for as long as I can remember, for one specific reason: the pandas. I absolutely love pandas. Always have, always will. My parents called me Manda Panda when I was little. My Dad still calls me “Bear” for the same reason. (Plus I was chubby like a bear cub but that’s a different story.) 

And despite my mounting excitement to see these beautiful creatures, in the back of my mind I felt like a hypocrite. You see, I have very mixed feelings about zoos. I think it’s fantastic that people get exposed to seeing animals that they might never get a chance to otherwise. And I think the more that you are exposed to nature the more you care about it. Great zoos do have positive points; some play essential roles in conservation projects and breeding programs. 

However, I hate seeing animals in cages and enclosures that are much too small for them, or in environments that they aren’t suited to in the slightest. So it was with some trepidation that I prioritised going to the zoo. 

Edinburgh Zoo was much bigger than I expected. Sam and I had only set aside about 2 hours to be at the zoo, but you could easily spend 3 +, to all day there. You should be warned that the zoo is very hilly and towards the top end of the zoo, the walk is very steep and some people might struggle with it. 

But on to the reason why I was there: the pandas. First and foremost, seeing the pandas doesn’t cost any additional money but you must book in advance for a time slot to see them. And even then it’s not guaranteed that you will see them. If one of the pandas wants to go inside and play, then you’re out of luck and no pandas for you. I was on pins and needles waiting, hoping against hope that the pandas would show their heads. You are advised to start queuing about 15 minutes before your pre-booked time slot and once we were let it, the beautiful Yang Guang was out playing. (Tian Tian, the female, remained inside and I never glimpsed her.) You only get to spend 15 minutes within the panda enclosure, but it’s worth every minute. Zookeepers also ask you to be as quiet as possible and to not use any flash on your cameras so that you don’t disturb the pandas. I’m not going to lie: Yang Guang was so beautiful in person that I cried. (Not full weeping, but definitely a tear or two.)

For the most part, I think Edinburgh zoo was taking great lengths to make sure that all the animals had as much space as possible. The one exception seemed to be the chimpanzees. They didn’t seem to have enough space, and if any animal looked sad to be there, it was them. 

meerkat meerkats
spider monkeys
more pelican
walking towards pandas
watching the pandas
panda at edinburgh zoo
ying guang
taking photos of pandas
panda insidepanda eating bamboo
riding a panda
view from the zoo

Edinburgh Zoo is located at 134 Corstorphine Rd, Edinburgh EH12 6TS

£17 pp 

How do you feel about zoos?

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  • I have to go visit this adorable panda!

  • I feel exactly the same about zoos as you. I’ve been to Melbourne Zoo a lot, which is lovely and with a good conservation program and enclosures, but I would never visit a zoo here in Japan because they really don’t have the same “standards” for the enclosures and I think it would just be too depressing!

    • There’s just nothing worse then seeing an animal that knows it’s a prisoner. You can definitely sense their sadness 🙁 x

  • Totally agree with you on the zoo front, as much as I love seeing the animals, and have visited a lot of different zoos in the UK, but it is sad to see them in cages and enclosures that are small or different from their natural habitat. Longleat is a good one for providing tonnes of space – have you been? I also went to Dartmoor zoo recently and I was really impressed for a little zoo in the middle of nowhere. It’s the location that “We bought a zoo” is written about. Alice xx

    • I’ve read some really amazing blog posts on Longleat so it’s on my list. I’ll have to add Dartmoor as well! x

  • pretty much the same as you do. I haven’t been to many zoos, actually just 2 I think.

    • I’ve been to the London Zoo and I’m not a huge fan – that’s one where I think that animals definitely need more space! x

  • I visited Edinburgh Zoo two years ago and at that time they had a baby koala! I had never seen koalas in my life before that so it was a pretty amazing experience 😉

  • I’m definitely the same about zoo. I have some mixed feelings, but I can definitely see value in the zoos that are more like rehabilitation reserves – we have a couple like that in Aus that I’ve visited. So cool you saw the pandas! That’s one animal I’m sure I’ll never see in the wild but would desperately love to see! Xx

    • I think there’ve been some really terrible zoos worldwide but that in recent years most have tried to clean up their acts and try to focus on rehabilitation and conservation instead. But I could be being naive! x

  • I love zoo’s love wondering around and seeing all the animals that I would never get to see if I didn’t visit a zoo

  • Manda Panda is just so damned cute!

  • Aw I really want to see the panda but I’ve only been to the Edinburgh Zoo during one of their night events and panda’s aren’t out at night so I wasn’t able to see them. What a cool thing though! 🙂

  • I may follow the National Zoo on Instagram solely for their baby panda photos. No shame.

  • Huge apologies for the delayed response – for some reason your comment was flagged as spam and didn’t come through until now! I was referring to the Budongo Trail, it was just the sheer number of chimpanzees that looked so horribly unhappy. I even opted not to add my pictures of the chimpanzees to the post, because I found them so distressing. But I’m no animal expert! The zoo is definitely doing great conservation work and it’s amazing at teaching visitors about chimpanzee lifestyle and social habits.