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"Whipsnade Zoo on a Vita Lite" Mark's blog

11th October, 2021

Bank Holiday is not the time I usually go out but my daughter had a day off from work and volunteered to drive so we booked a trip to Whipsnade Zoo on the Saturday. Booking was simple and easy. Tickets are generated when you pay online and you just present your phone at the gate on arrival. As a disabled visitor my accompanying carer gets in for free, plus if you present your blue badge at the gate your vehicle also gets in free as an essential vehicle. That’s a saving of £32.50 entry for the carer and £25 for the car so well worth the effort and only 1 hour from my home. I loaded my vita lite in the car the night before and as I have a WAV, this is nice and easy.

We arrived bang on the 10am entry booking time and as soon as security spotted our vehicle, they waved us down an empty lane, past the other cars. It’s handy having disabled badges displayed exactly for this purpose. It was already busy as we made our way to the first area but parking is plentiful and we didn’t have a problem parking all day. Before we left, I familiarised myself with the layout as it had been 20 years from our last visit and things had moved on with plenty of disabled parking and toilets available. No changing places yet but very large and clean toilets that I found easy to navigate. Most curbs were very low, every crossing had dropped curbs and all buildings totally accessible for my Vita Lite. Mobility scooters, wheelchairs and adapted pushchairs are available to hire. As it’s a huge site, if any of you are unfit then I suggest taking the car in.

Perched on top of Dunstable Downs it can get chilly so having a jumper or coat is a must in all but the warmest weather as the wind can be a factor. It’s now one way in the zoo so negotiating most exhibits is a doddle. Signs are excellent and most of the paths are tarmac or concrete with just a couple of trails being either gravel or compacted soil which the Vita easily coped with. I did need a push when I took my grandson down to the edge of the Chalk Lion cut into the hillside that the zoo sits on. The incline back up was quite severe but once he got me rolling it dragged my rather large self up the hill with ease. Eurasia is the first area and it seemed most of the animals were hiding away. The Zoo has taken to wilding many areas including the exhibit pens rather than the manicured approach that it had previously. I think it’s a good thing as although you will miss some animals, it does give them a lot more areas to hide in and those you do spot seem a lot more relaxed in their surroundings.

My Grandson was hoping to see the Wolverine which did not disappoint as one was very active and almost seemed to play to the crowd. My daughter wanted to see the White Rhinos and although the newborn was well out of sight, we had a pair of adults bounding along in front of us. A full-grown adult at full tilt is a sight to behold and they are captivatingly agile and soft on their huge feet. The drive through far Asia was a pleasant surprise with various types of deer gathered around a pretty water hole. The Elephants never disappoint. The Wild Dogs remained hidden. After a long wait and lots of peering through trees, we finally spotted the Brown Bear. The Chimpanzees were vocal and very active and attracted a big crowd around their enclosure and was the first time I started to feel people were encroaching on my space so I moved on quickly. The Lion enclosure showed no signs of any social distancing and I think by the time people had got to this exhibit all inhibitions about Covid had been forgotten as nobody was wearing masks anymore and they were packed into the viewing area so we sat outside.

Apart from these two areas everywhere else was fine with people respecting each other’s space. We were there for over 5hrs and missed the farm, aquarium, and butterfly house due to being worn out. The Vita still had two thirds of charge left and I must admit I found the seat very comfortable for the full five hours. I can’t sit this long in any car so top marks to TGA and it’s easily as comfy as my Vita X seat. The suspension although it’s more compact is just as good and the tyres coped with gravel and grass with ease. I would highly recommend a visit to Whipsnade for those less able. Some of the animal houses are still closed due to Covid but there is still tons to see. Take your scooter as the place is vast and take your car in if any of you are limited in how much walking you can do.