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VIP Experiences / Photography Days?

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Zia, 19 Dec 2016.

  1. Zia

    Zia Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    30 Apr 2010
    Posts:
    167
    Location:
    UK
    As seasoned zoo-goers I'm wondering who among you have participated in any VIP experiences or 'meet the keeper' kind of days - and if so, what did you think of them? My partner and I have done a few at different places and found them all to be a lot of fun so far.

    Our most recent was an 'up close encounter plus' experience at Woburn. This was for my partners Birthday - he got to pick two animals from a list and went with his favourites the bears / wolves and the tigers. We were taken in an off road vehicle all around the enclosures by a keeper who was very open and happy to chat to us and answer our questions. She also took us off road in the lion enclosure as a free extra bonus. To be honest I think we got more time than we should have and the whole thing was most enjoyable and well worth the money imo.

    The only other (non bird of prey) experiences have been at Colchester - I did 'meet the tigers' and my other half has done both the sun bear experiences and met the Aardvarks twice (so I think you could say he enjoyed it!). Again - all have been great and actually very reasonable money wise.

    So who else has done any? Are there any that you would (or would not) recommend? I've always wondered if the full on meet the keeper days are worth the money - as they do get very expensive.As a photographer I would also be interested to know if anyone has done any of the photography day options?
     
  2. migdog

    migdog Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Norfolk
    Hey Zia, me and my wife did around 20 experiences last year in the UK, so am happy to meet someone like-minded!

    We did the Black bear encounter at Woburn, and this was the only experience we felt wasn't worth the money - Sure we went off-road slightly but didn't feel it was much different to driving in our own car.

    Best experience? Feeding the polar bears at Yorkshire Wildlife Park. We did it last July, nothing so far has beat the feeling of a polar bears breath on you when feeding them through the bars. Was very expensive though, and now seems to be double the price we paid!

    Also, whilst Combe Martin isn't in my top 10 zoos of the UK, swimming with Morgan the Sealion is a great experience.

    I have a Youtube page with videos of our "Zoo Tour" if you want to check out some more fab experience :)

    Paul Syme
     
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  3. Panthera1981

    Panthera1981 Well-Known Member

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    9 Mar 2014
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    Location:
    Buckinghamshire,UK
    I've been on, and organised, many and found them all thoroughly enjoyable. However, I'm of the opinion that you get out what you put in! Some individuals I've been with just couldn't be bothered with the whole experience and it sullied it a bit for me.

    Paignton's pretty good but Icarus Falconcry in Northamptonshire is excellent-a full on/hands on day.
     
  4. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Arizona, USA
    A few years ago I did a group photography day at Wildlife Heritage Foundation. It was thoroughly enjoyable and I got some great photos. (They also do individual photo sessions if you have an unlimited budget).

    On my last trip over there, I also had a private tour of Rare Species Conservation Centre and was allowed to photograph on my own with no one around (they were not yet open for the season). However this was not a regularly advertised experience, just a personal favor the owner did for me since he knew (from this forum) that I was coming over from the States.
     
  5. Zia

    Zia Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    UK
    That is a shame you didn't think much of the Woburn bear experience - I have to say ours was great and we went all over the place off road. I guess a lot depends on who is doing the driving.
    Very jealous of your YWP experience, that sounds amazing! Did not know Combe Martin did the swim with a sealion. We've not been there at all but will bear that in mind if we do.

    I could not agree more. I've noticed over time that the keepers have become more engaged in the whole thing - let's be honest, they are not employed for their tour guide skills - but it definitely helps if you show some enthusiasm. We love Paignton but have never done an experience there. I've done a couple of BOP days - both falconry and photography and all have been very good and on a par I would say.
     
  6. Zia

    Zia Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    UK
    Many people I know through a photography forum have been to WHF for the photography days and literally EVERYONE raves about it... and the resulting pictures are usually great. I seem to remember it being pretty expensive though.
     
  7. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Arizona, USA
    Yes most experiences that are guided by a photographer and designed for photography are expensive (this is true on my side of The Pond as well).
     
  8. Angel

    Angel Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    24 Jul 2012
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    237
    Location:
    England
    I did the Zookeeper Experience at Dudley about 6 years ago and loved every minute of it. I got the chance to feed and meet a variety of species (penguins, flamingoes, giraffes, chimps, orangs, tapirs, lemurs, lions, snow leopard, birds of prey) and all the keepers where extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Best part of the day was feeding the snow leopard - unbeatable. My husband came with me to take photos and they very kindly invited him into several off-show areas so that he could get better shots.