As members of Chester Zoo, my family is always excited when a new development opens.
We’ve attended numerous special events over the last few years. The Christmas lanterns are a highlight that I’d recommend to anyone, and we couldn’t wait to go when Islands opened this summer.
Anticipating the inevitable crowds, we took advantage of our membership and arrived late in the day. Not needing to worry about covering the entire park (as we’ve seen it all before), we headed straight for the Islands area itself.
The Islands concept is an ambitious £40m redevelopment which houses recreations of 6 South East Asian islands. Crossing over the footbridge into the Islands Zone was also great fun, and we couldn’t wait for the lazy boat ride which forms the central feature of the Islands experience.
Sadly, despite my love for Chester Zoo, and attempts to convince myself that the boat ride was great fun, I just wasn’t that enthusiastic about the whole experience.
Brands and Empty Promises
We were promised a tour into the fauna and flora of another world, but instead we visited a series of empty building sites.
The animal enclosures are no doubt excellent and the attraction will be glorious when fully opened, but the lack of animals shattered the experience and made it somewhat laborious. A wasted and very disappointing 20 minutes.
The lack of conversation on the boat spoke volumes. I felt great sympathy for the hostess who tried to keep the positivity and energy high, but after the fifth or sixth “that’s where the orangutan, tiger or other stunning animal will be when it opens”, the entire boat switched off.
When opening any attraction there are, inevitably, delays to developments and unforeseen challenges.
In this case, however, I’d have preferred it if the magic of the Islands development was maintained, and the entire zone was open in its full glory.
Chester Zoo’s reputation on Facebook, Trip Advisor and Twitter remains strong – but for my family, Islands really could have been the attraction highlight of the summer, if only it had delayed opening its new exhibit until it was completely ready.