I am a freelance travel writer creating memories with a 'can do' mind set. I enjoy stepping outside my comfort zone to explore, learn & share. Visit my blog at www.fionatrowbridge.com
Published September 10th 2017
Meet the cast of TVs Tiger Island
The great thing about the Isle of Wight Zoo, apart from the animals, is its size. It is small enough to explore on foot but big enough to feel like you're exploring.
Built in the ruins of an old Victorian fort, the zoo is currently home to 8 big cats, brown capuchin monkeys, black spider monkeys, lemurs and meerkats, there are also coatis who were rescued by the RSPCA and raccoons who live next door to a couple of giant rabbits; and in the zoolittle farmyard section everyone can get hands on with the pigs and goats.
The Goats in Zoolittle Farmyard
The formally family run Isle of Wight Zoo is now the home of The Wildheart Trust, a charity dedicated to providing life-long care to rescued big cats and other animals through conservation and education.
Great for kids
Being a small zoo, it allows you to get up close and personal with the animals. Keepers and animal carers are always around and happy to answer your questions and throughout the day 'Animologists' will give guided walking tours around the various zoo residents.
Most of the enclosures are fencing rather than walls, which is great for little ones because they are able to see through to the animals even if they are still in a pram.
Hands on experiences
You can lunch beside a goanna or two in the reptilarium inside the café, which is open to non-zoo visitors too.
Animal experiences, including the chance to be a junior zoo keeper for a day or an encounter with some lemurs are available all year round although they are weather dependent. If you are over the age of 16 you can even take part in the big cat training experience.
Nahla, The Lioness with Character
Best time of day to see the cats
The big cats have places to hide from the public – and why shouldn't they? Sometimes you just don't feel like facing your public. However, like most animals, they will always appear for food and feeding time is normally around 5pm. So if you've not had much luck seeing the gorgeous cats during the day, hang around until 4.30pm when they'll start looking interested in anyone approaching their enclosure, in the hope that they will be bringing food. As you're likely to be only a few metres from them at this point, it's also a great opportunity to capture a stunning photo.
You can tell that the keepers care very deeply for the animals. It's not just a job to them and although the zoo has a policy of not going in with the big cats, the keepers spend time each day doing health training with all the animals using a clicker and reward system. This involves the keeper asking the animal to display its shoulder or whatever part of the body is required and when it does, the keeper sounds a clicker and rewards the animal with a treat. This means the animals can be examined by vets, given injections or have medication administered without the need for darting. This has worked so well that the vet was able to listen to the heart of Aysha, one of the tigers, recently without needing to sedate her.
Lots to see and do within 500m
The Isle of Wight Zoo is situated by Sandown Bay, a 5-mile long sandy beach and one of the best beaches in Europe. Right next door to the zoo is Browns Family Golf Course and Café with two 18-hole putting courses and two 9-hole pitch and putt and next door to that, is Dinosaur Isle. You could easily spend a whole day or longer without having to travel further than 500m.