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Howletts Wild Animal Park Is Howletts the best Zoo in the UK?

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Zooreviewsuk, 14 Feb 2019.

  1. Zooreviewsuk

    Zooreviewsuk Well-Known Member

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    I made the visit to Howletts the other day and I must say I was seriously impressed.

    Not only was it a fair entry fee (online booking made it cheaper than the likes of Whipsnade, London, Chester, Blackpool, Edinburgh and so on) but for me, all bar the Gorilla's everything had great exhibits.

    The cafes offered proper good food at decent prices and it was a great variety of animals. I also found the keepers really welcoming and happy to talk to and I found it great that lots of animals had on show and off show areas.

    I was seriously impressed by a number of the exhibits and it was one of a few zoo's I've actually found I could spend a whole day there.

    I know people on here are very much the opinion Chester is the best Zoo, but I love my photography and I find Chester difficult viewing a lot of the time and some of the exhibits are really unkind to cameras unless you are very lucky, and a lot of the indoor exhibits the reflection off the glass can be a killer.

    I found even the most awkward of exhibits at Howletts because of how far the stand off barriers are and double mesh it was still possible to get great photos, and they seem to do very well in all breeding areas.

    I am hoping to head to Port Lympne next week to view the other park. i foolishly thought I could do both in a day !

    I was so impressed by Howletts and it ticked so many boxes, I came away feeling that all round it's probably the best zoo in the UK, does anyone else share my views ? What do you guys think of Howletts ?
     
  2. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    Is Howletts the best Zoo in the UK? In your opinion maybe, but in general, who's to say.
    You mention the photography problems at Chester, but does that compare species to species? Chester has so many species that are problematic for photography, but Howletts do not hold them, so that doesn't really count. The species that you can compare, elephants, tigers etc are not particularly troublesome at Chester, in fact are easier photographed there in my opinion.
    Personally, I am not a big fan of Howletts and ave enjoyed PL more.

    Saying all that, if you bump into their photographer, I can't remember his name,
    he is a thoroughly nice chap and quite easy to talk to about photography.
     
  3. Zooreviewsuk

    Zooreviewsuk Well-Known Member

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    Appreciate everyone is different. I feel the cat species at Howletts are more easier to photo than at most collections. I was really impressed by the Dholes, much better to photo than at WMSP and Chester for me I struggle with a lot of species which are at Islands , granted you don't see them at many other places but I find Islands really poor for photos.
     
  4. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    Not only do they have more species, but more options though. Orangutans and gibbons on Islands is as good as you can get (not saying the best overall, but it is up there with any I've seen). Sun bears too. The tigers when the cubs were there offered ample opportunity if it wasn't too crowded, but even then, you could step back and get good shots if you judge your positioning well (or got lucky). Pademelon offer a nice option and if the Tree kangaroo does ever come out, it would be a pretty picture too.
     
  5. Zooreviewsuk

    Zooreviewsuk Well-Known Member

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    I have photos of the Tree Kangaroo out. It was out one morning very early, didn't realise that was a rarity?

    I never have much luck with the Tigers and Sun Bears I rarely see out, only time I've had good images of Sun Bears was at Colchester when I was on an experience.
     
  6. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    Ah okay, I can only comment on experience as a general zoo trip. I did see the Howletts photographing the Colchester bears from the roof, but even he said he struggled to get really good photos there.
     
  7. Shorts

    Shorts Well-Known Member

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    Whilst I love Howletts and it's one of my favourite UK zoos I'd never claim it was the best in the UK (which is subjective in any/all cases). Ultimately it depends what perspective you're looking from but it has a number of arguable weaknesses:

    • Too big for families with small children;
    • Still fairly expensive on a £ per species basis (which is an issue for some);
    • Doesn't display the variety of life (i.e. it's "all" mammals, a weakness shared with YWP);
    • Not a great place to visit in poor weather;
    • It's in an awkward place to travel to for a lot of people (me included);
    • Poor photography for those with "normal" cameras.
    Other places score far better on these issues. However, as said, I love the place because:
    • The exhibits, for what it holds, are universally very good (for the species);
    • I've never seen Gorillas displayed that well (in terms of seeing large groups behaving naturally, seemingly all the time) anywhere else -I don't care about photographing them, just observing them is such a joy;
    • The large Elephant herd is breathtaking to behold.
    I'd also say that navigation is easy (pretty much one, very large, loop), it never feels that crowded (you can often feel you're the only one there in certain parts of the zoo) and, as you say, the food is good.
     
    Last edited: 14 Feb 2019
  8. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    ... there is (afaik) still a single Peacock!:D

    I think Howletts (and more particularly PL) do have a number of shortcomings but on the positive side I think most enclosures are excellent and I like the way they allow larger groups of individual species to develop, not just the gorillas but some of the other Primates too, and other species like the Red River hogs, Dholes etc -instead of constantly removing individuals to be sent elsewhere.
     
  9. Shorts

    Shorts Well-Known Member

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    :D:D:D that's why my "all" was in inverted commas -I also wasn't 100% sure they'd got rid of the snake.

    Good point re the large groups though. Like I said, I love the place but would struggle to form an argument it's the best in the UK (though it definitely is on certain criteria).
     
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  10. Zooreviewsuk

    Zooreviewsuk Well-Known Member

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    There was a ball python in the education centre.
     
  11. sidcup

    sidcup Member

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    How many tigers do how let's have now
     
  12. Zooreviewsuk

    Zooreviewsuk Well-Known Member

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    2 Sumatran
    2 Amur
    2 Bengal

    As far as I could see the other day.
     
  13. Shorts

    Shorts Well-Known Member

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    I think you mean 2 "Bengal" (or 2 zoo-mix). ;)
     
  14. Zooreviewsuk

    Zooreviewsuk Well-Known Member

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    Labelled as Bengal, If they are hybrid or whatever I don't know, was just trying to be helpful in reply.
     
  15. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    For future reference - there are no Bengal Tiger outside the native range, nor have there been since the last pure animal died at Bristol in 1985, but it is very commonplace for zoological collections to label their zoo-mix tigers as "Bengal" for the prestige and name recognition value.
     
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  16. Zooreviewsuk

    Zooreviewsuk Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for letting me know, why would they label something incorrectly, seems silly to me.
     
  17. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    for prestige and name recognition value, as Dave said
     
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  18. Zia

    Zia Well-Known Member

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    I very much enjoy Howletts - and as a fellow photographer I do understand where you are coming from on that front. However, Chester just has bags more variety and as an overall visitor experience would top the list imo. I would also put others on a par with Howletts - I'd say the top 5/6 are hard to choose between for various reasons. I've also had good and bad photography days at all of them!

    I don't actually agree about Chester being particularly tricky for togs either - almost all collections have their difficulties but Chester is far better than many. At least the glass (where they have it) is big and clean... reflections are a universal problem you just need to work around. I've got shots I've been really pleased with in Islands too - maybe you've just been unlucky? Also interesting that you say you struggle to spend a whole day at a lot of places. I am the complete opposite and you usually have to drag me to the car regardless of the size of the collection! That would obviously give me more opportunity to 'get the shot' as I am happy to make repeat visits to enclosures or hang around observing for a good amount of time. If anything this is my main photography gripe with Chester - unless we go for a two day visit then I feel rushed and my photography suffers as a result.

    I completely agree on what people have said about the Gorilla enclosures at Howletts though. I can happily just sit with them for hours.

    I've actively begun to dislike visiting Port Lympne - will be interesting to see what you think of it.
     
  19. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    Me too although I still go from time to time as there are species there I like to see that are uncommon elsewhere- but I do not really enjoy actually visiting any more.
     
  20. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    Its easier than saying 'crossbred tigers' or 'impure Indian tiger', in much the same way their Lions are labelled 'Barbary Lion'- but aren't really.
     
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