Last week I was so excited to stay the night at ZSL London Zoo Gir Lion Lodges. Open since May, guests can now stay right next to the lions in one of nine lodges set in their own mini village. I had seen the lodges when I visited the zoo for a press day and featured them in my Weekly Vlog. They are right near Land of the Lions which is themed to transport people to India’s vibrant Sasan Gir where Adriatic lions like the zoos live. The brightly coloured lodges fit within this theme too and you are so close you can hear the lions roar. The ZSL London Zoo Gir Lion lodges are such a good idea and a really unique experience and I couldn't wait to stay. I took my friend Bex with me who is also a big animal fan and a HUGE zoo fan so I knew we'd have fun.
On arrival you are welcomed to your lodge. Each lodge is named after an animal you will find in the Gir forest and we were in Leopard Lodge, a twin lodge with large bathroom which is totally accessible for disabled visitors too. Each lodge has lovely comfy beds and is decorated with painted murals. We were so lucky to find treats for us from the ZSL press team on the bed including some gorgeous Sloth Pj's that you can find in the ZSL gift shop. There were also lots of items from the Christmas ranges for us to have a nosey at. I especially love the Adopt and Animal packs which come in such lovely packaging.
After we settled in to our lodges we were introduced to the ZSL team looking after us, our two guides were lovely and so knowledgeable. One member of the team stays overnight too so you'll always have a point of contact. We were treated to a glass of prosecco and the first of our out of hours tours. Due to the time of year this first tour was in darkness but at other times of year it will be a sunset tour. We headed to Land Of The Lions section themed like a railway station and the male lion Bhanu was asleep right next to the glass by the walkway. It was incredible to be so close and the guides have night vision scopes you can use so you can see fine detail, even in the dark.
Lots of the animals we visited are nocturnal so its a great opportunity to see them, but obviously as it was dark I haven't captured any images. We also headed to help scatter feed for the female pygmy hippo Nicky, which was so lovely and incredible again to see the detail of her on infrared. Also as its such a small group of you on the tour you won't have any problem getting up close to the enclosures.
We were then all treated to a yummy two course dinner plus drinks which you can buy at an additional charge. We sat on a long table which was so beautifully decorated and me and Bex took the opportunity to sit near the guides and get to know them plus some of the other guests which was lovely. Dinner was so tasty and there as plenty of food and the drinks prices were very reasonable.
After dinner we headed back out with our torches for the second tour. This one was so much fun as we got to meet an incredible animal who you most likely won't see during the day. I don't want to spoil the surprise so I'm not going to tell you what animal, but she was beautiful and we got amazingly close. Plus we also got to make up some treat boxes filled with meal worms, insects and leaves and watch her try and tear them open, it was lovely.
After that amazing encounter we headed back to our lodges and after a warm drink in bed we had a lovely nights sleep.
Next day we were awoken by the sound of Bhanu the male lion coughing soooo loud, it was amazing and really made you feel like you were really amongst the lions. They ask that you are up and out of your lodge by 8am and do come round at 7.30am to knock on your door just to make sure. We actually got up earlier so we could go and check out the lions before breakfast. We were so lucky to see Bhanu up close as he passed right by us then watched as he sat very majestically up on the hill. We then headed off to breakfast which as with dinner was a fabulous spread and really good to set us up for the day.
Breakfast at ZSL London zoo after a stay in the Gir Lion Lodges featured cereals, fruit, pastries and a yummy cooked breakfast plus juice, coffee and teas.
After breakfast we headed off on our final out of hours tour, a morning tour before the zoo opened of penguin beach, the zoo's kitchens and the lions and gibbons. ZSL London Zoo penguin beach is my favourite place. I adore penguins and I love how you can see them without glass in front of you. ZSL has Humboldt penguins and they are sooo cute I could have taken a million photos.
We were then taken on a tour of one of the kitchens at ZSL London zoo. Here is where they prepare all the animals meals plus special medications and enrichment which are treats that are designed to keep the animals active and inquisitive. Sometimes they contain food and sometime pheromones or scents. The fridges were full of fresh veg and fruit and outside were piles of leaves and branches too, all of which either go to feed the animals or to fill their enclosures. I was amazed at some of the items they feed the animals, including fruit tea as a treat.
We were then treated to a tour of Tiger Territory and arrived just as they were being given enrichment items so we got to see them play and interact with them. The male tiger Jae Jae was incredible and thanks to my Olympus 75mm Lens I got some great close up images.
We also got to see the Gibbons who were so funny and had so much personality. And this was where our ZSL London Gir Lion Lodge experience ended at around 10am when the zoo opened. The zoo were looking after our cases and the experience includes full day access to ZSL London zoo or ZSL Whipsnade zoo too if you fancy heading over there. We decided to stay for a few hours and discover more of ZSL London Zoo. So we headed off to check out the Gorilla Encounter section and the Butterfly Enclosure which was INCREDIBLE!! I loved that especially.
After that we finished our day in the Out Of Africa section where we saw the incredible endangered Okapi which was beautiful, plus giraffes and zebra's and pygmy hippos and headed back for our cases via the In with the Lemur exhibition, the amazing Rainforest section where we saw a sloth right above our heads and a quick peek at the meerkats too. Sadly we had to head home and wish we had more time as there was so much more to see.
Me and Bex thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Gir Lion Lodges. Our guides on both days were incredibly knowledgeable and so helpful. I loved waking up to the sound of lions and the whole stay was so much fun. Thank you so so much to the ZSL team for inviting us to stay. If you fancy staying yourself you can book the Gir Lion lodges here as well as add extra experiences on top like Keeper For the Day or Meet The Animals. I can't recommend it enough if you are an animal lover and really want a zoo experience like no other.