What Are London Zoo's Overnight Lodges Like?

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 92 months ago

Last Updated 18 November 2016

What Are London Zoo's Overnight Lodges Like?

"Never mind the lions, it's the flamingoes that'll cause you trouble," says Olivia, our host, as we arrive for our overnight stay at London Zoo's Gir Lion Lodges. Apparently the lions haven't been causing the guests too many problems in the way of night-time noise, but their feathered neighbours are another story.

The Gir Lion Lodges are part of the Land of the Lions exhibit at the zoo, which opened in March 2016, and we're here to try them out, starting with a welcome drink in the Terrace restaurant and a tour of Land of the Lions.

After a wander round the eclectic Indian village part of Land of the Lions, we're expecting a certain amount of shabby chic from the lodges, but the reality is pure chic. A pastel rainbow of wooden houses greets us, arranged in an arc around a central grass area, each with its own veranda.

Inside is all white-washed wood. Each lodge has a mural of the animal it's named after — we're in Kingfisher.

The modern, white-tiled en-suite bathroom wouldn't be out of place in a luxury hotel, with cute mini toiletries and an illuminated mirror. Towel swans on the beds and a communal lending library of books, puzzles and games are nice touches.

Admittedly there's not an abundance of space, especially if you're a family of four, with the sofa bed in use, but the facilities are plentiful for the small amount of time you'll spend in your lodge.

As luxurious as the accommodation is, the animals are the reason we're here and there are plenty on the pre-dinner walk around the zoo. It's dinner time at the pygmy hippo enclosure, while the usually docile warthogs and hunting dogs are wide awake in the twilight hours — we're even given a handful of food to throw to the warthogs.

The hunting dogs are notoriously difficult to spot during the day — it's a different story on our evening tour when they're up running round and playing.

Dinner is a massive banquet style table, with tasty food served via a buffet, offering both meat and vegetarian options (and a delicious Eton Mess to boot).

Humans and animals fed, it's time for the next part of the tour — the night walk. Look out for bats, hear zoo history and see nocturnal aardvarks — normally asleep when day visitors to the zoo peek at them — and even feed them if you're brave enough to pick up a live cricket. The roar of the lions rolls across the zoo at this point, so it's back to the lodges to see if we can spot them before bedtime.

Sadly they've retreated before we get there, just a twitching ear of one of the three lionesses visible in one corner, but as we wait with baited breath, hoping for the others to reappear, a church clock chimes, reminding us that we are in fact still in London, despite the silence and stillness convincing us otherwise.

As far as lion sightings go, we'll have to make do with that twitching ear until the morning as we head off to our lodges for the night.

We lie in bed in almost complete silence, nestled in the fluffy duvet as the occasional squawk of flamingoes lulls us to sleep (Olivia was right about that one).

As promised, we're also woken up by birdsong — but not your usual blackbirds and sparrows — and a couple of monkeys too. The village looks vibrant in the morning sunlight, and there's just time to see the lions being given their breakfast before we head off for ours.

After breakfast, the zoo is waiting to be explored without the usual daytime crowds. Dawn is the best time to see many of the animals at their most active, and we swing by Penguin Beach to see the little waddlers getting their morning fish before descending on the rainforest, where sloths and tamanduas crawl among the trees, unimpeded by our presence.

As interesting as it is seeing these animals when they're at their most active, hearing the sounds they make is fascinating. The miaowing of the lemurs is a rare treat, and the surprising bird-like squawk of the tapirs is something usually drowned out the by the day-to-day hubbub of the zoo.

Gir Lion Lodge needs to be booked in advance, with adults-only and family nights available. See website for dates and prices. All funds raised by special events at ZSL London Zoo are invested back into the Zoological Society of London's conservation projects, both here in the UK and abroad.

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