Ever have that feeling you should have been born as an animal? Do you connect with big cats, meerkats, or apes more than you do with humans?
These animal encounter experiences let you get up close and personal with a range of different animals, with something to suit everyone.
Choose an individual experience to spend time with one type of animal, or choose a general zookeeper experience to have close encounters with a variety of magnificent creatures.
Lions and Tigers in Big Cat Experiences
Get up close and personal with the pride of the species in this breathtaking big cat experience. Undergo a guided tour and learn all there is to know from zoo-keepers and wildlife experts about these big beautiful beasts. Enjoy a rare chance to stand just inches away from the likes of lions, tigers, leopards and cheetahs – and not only live to tell the tale, but hand-feed them too! Safely outside the enclosure but with barely a whisker between you, this is an exhilarating experience that will certainly cast big cats in whole 'mew' light.
Fancy meeting the king of the jungle? Then brace yourself for a seriously humbling experience and stand just a hair's breadth from some of nature’s most ferocious beasts. Feel their breath on your skin and your spine tingle in this extraordinary, hair-raisingly close encounter, with nothing but cage bars between you. You’ll have the chance to hand-feed these incredible creatures and learn everything there is to know from big cat experts in this unbeatable behind-the-scenes encounter. As experiences go, it’s certainly the cat's meow.
Get back to nature and enjoy a guided stroll across country, up hill and down dale with a very special guest: your very own llama! In this trek with a twist, your furry friend will happily carry your bags and step out beside you during a leisurely walk across beautiful British countryside. Fluffy and friendly, llamas make wonderful travel companions and bring an enjoyable, restful presence to your trip. Afterwards, spend time at the farm and meet the rest of the llama herd. It’s a great day out and a rare chance to spend quality time with these gentle, intelligent and captivating creatures.
There’s nothing better than a pleasant stroll in Britain’s beautiful countryside. Except a stroll with a llama of course. Fuzzy, friendly and full of curiosity, these inquisitive creatures have an air of refined dignity and a cool, calm demeanour. Get to know their quirky character and lead your llama on a relaxing trek through Britain’s lovely rolling countryside. If you’re not acquainted with llamas, this is the perfect way to introduce yourself. They’ll charm your socks off and you’ll soon develop a soft spot for these woolly and welcoming animals.
Monkeys and apes in primate experiences
If ever there was an animal we should be able to understand, and enjoy, more than any other, it has to be a primate. As close to us as they possibly can be, these magnificent and fascinating creatures are incredible to learn more about. With every new fact we learn about them, we find more and more that shows they are just like us.
No wonder so many people cite some kind of primate as their favourite animal. There’s something in the way their hands move, or how they walk, or how they communicate and interact with one another (and humans too) that makes it impossible to look away.
Zookeeper for the day
Want an all-encompassing experience that doesn't focus on just one animal? Find out what ‘feeding time at the zoo’ really means in this fantastic hands-on zookeeping experience. Go behind the scenes, step into David Attenborough’s shoes and get up close and personal with nature’s finest, from gangly giraffes and the king of the jungle to the wonderfully waddling, wiggling penguins. Spend the day with these captivating creatures and take part in their daily routine, helping to feed, groom and play with them. It’s a jungle out there and as experiences go, you certainly won’t forget this one in a hurry!
Fancy meeting the meerkats? Feeding giraffes? Standing within a whisker’s breadth of a lion? Then this zookeeping experience has got your name on it. In this unbeatable behind-the-scenes encounter you’ll spend the day caring for wild animals and meeting all creatures great and small. Life as a zookeeper is certainly not your average day job, and few get to appreciate how rewarding it really is. Who knows, perhaps this is a step towards a new career? Or maybe it’s just a rare chance to meet some of the world’s most breathtaking and beautiful beasts. Whatever your reason, there’s really no reason not to do it. This is an exhilarating, once-in-a-lifetime experience – so grab life by the horns and go wild!
You’ve seen them on TV adverts, nature documentaries and even in cuddly toy collections. Now in this unique close encounter of the ‘furred’ kind you can meet the meerkats and find out everything there is to know about these cute and curious creatures. Step into the enclosure with the keeper and learn about their way of life, from tunnelling tactics and guard duties to their characteristic hind-leg stance. Fuzzy, friendly and fearless, the lovable meerkats will happily climb all over you, take food from your hand and quickly become your new best friend.
Meet the stars of Meerkat Manor in this cute and cuddly experience that will turn even the most poker-faced person into a gushy giggling wreck. Enjoy the chance to get up close and personal with these furry friends as they clamber all over you and burrow into your pockets. You’ll be nuzzled and cuddled to within an inch of your life as you help to hand-feed these lovable rogues with the help of the keeper. Learn all about their orderly routines, military-style sentry duties and social roles complete with guards, foragers and even babysitters. It’s a fascinating encounter and a rare glimpse into the life of these curious and captivating creatures.
Get up close and p-p-p-personal with penguins in this unique and extraordinary experience. Acquaint yourself or introduce special someone to the wonderful world of these waddling, wiggling birds, and enjoy the chance to feed them with the help of their keeper. This is a truly delightful experience in which you’ll learn all about their Arctic antics, discover their sociable side and feed them their favourite fare. This is a great treat for Pingu fans, budding zookeepers and big kids alike – so prepare to fall head over heels and have your heart warmed by these fascinating sub-zero creatures.
Stars of Happy Feet, March of the Penguins and too many David Attenborough programmes to mention, penguins are one of the nation’s most loved species. And now you can meet these fantastic flippered creatures in the flesh – or rather, in the fur! Step into the enclosure and get up close to see them preen, watch them zip through the water, and get ready to see them guzzle their favourite grub with glee. Learn all about their aquatic Arctic existence and enjoy a rare encounter with these cute and captivating creatures as they flap and shuffle their way into your heart.
Bird of Prey Falconry Experience
If you like the idea of hawking around and learning more about the magnificent flying raptors, then this bird of prey falconry experience has got your name on it. Get up close and personal with nature’s finest hunters and discover the intricate characteristics of hawks, falcons, eagles and owls. Spend time observing these captivating creatures with expert commentary from your falconry expert, then it’s time to get serious and fly these handsome birds yourself! Fly a bird of prey to the fist and take your first steps to becoming a falconer in this fascinating and exhilarating experience.
From perches to pecking orders, there’s a lot more to falconry than meets the eye – and in this unbeatable behind-the-scenes encounter you’ll enjoy a flight of fantasy with some of the world’s finest and most fearsome predators. Swoop into the world of falconry and learn all there is to know about these beautiful birds from the experts; then it’s time to head out for an unforgettable fly-to-fist session with the likes of hawks, eagles, falcons and even owls too. There’s really no reason not to do it. It’s a magnificent experience that will leave you as high as a kite long after you return home.
Owls are magnificent creatures; mysterious, haunting, beautiful things that fascinate so many people. Legend says that they are the messengers of the heavens (and of witches and wizards, of course), that they are wise, that they denote bad luck or death, that they can even turn their heads three hundred and sixty degrees… They are graceful and stunning as they fly through the night. What is a night in the country without the cry of an owl?
As wonderful and wondrous as they are, face to face meetings with these impressive birds are few and far between. They are notoriously shy when it comes to humanity, and, of course, they are nocturnal, so we are usually sleeping when they are flying.
With one of these fantastic owl encounter experience days, you can now get up close and personal with these incredible creatures, and learn more about how and why they do what they do. What do they eat, and how do they find their prey? How do they attack? How high and far can they really fly? And what is even better is that you don’t just sit and learn about the owls, you don’t just look at them; you are actually able to handle them, under the supervision of expert and knowledgeable trainers. For two whole hours you can immerse yourself into the owl’s world, and enjoy the unique experience of holding and stroking one of the world’s most fascinating birds.
Snakes and insects
Prefer your creatures to be slimey or slithery? A snake or insect encounter will be right up your street. Learn about these creatures and interact with them.
What to expect on the day
Most experiences will start with a safety briefing - safe handling of, and interaction with, wild animals is paramount. Your guide will be with you every step of the way.
Be prepared for the activity to go ahead regardless of the weather (animals tend to have strict feeding regimes). Old comfortable clothes with flat walking shoes or boots are advised as the terrain may be wet or muddy. Any necessary protective clothing such as gloves will be provided on the day.
Feeding Time! - What You Need To Know
- WHEN: These experiences take place all year round.
- WHERE: Most of the these experiences take place at zoos and wildlife sanctuaries right across the country. Specialised activities may take place at one or two locations in the country.
- WHO: There's an experience for all types of animal lover. These animal encounter experiences are ideal for anyone who wants to get closer to the action and learn more about some of nature's most incredible beasts. They cater to a variety of ages, although children often need to be accompanied by a paying adult.
- OCCASIONS: These experiences are great options for birthday and Christmas presents.
- PRICES: Expect change from £50 for a basic experience. More comprehensive experiences start at around £100. One-to-one experiences typically cost upwards of £200. (correct at the time of writing)
- QUESTIONS: Need help? Ask questions here and I'll try to help as best I can
- TRIED THIS?: Would you recommend it? Share your thoughts here
Top zookeeper experiences
With hundreds of animal encounter experiences, picking the best is tough. I've picked out some of the standout experiences below.
Perfect for a budget gift, this Birds of Prey offer lets you meet a host of feathered friends. Available at locations nationwide, the three-hour experience takes place in small groups. You will get close to birds of prey such as Falcons, Eagles, Hawks, and Owls. You'll watch displays and meet the birds of prey.
Meerkat Encounter at Knowsley Safari Park
Head to Merseyside to meet the meerkats at Knowsley Safari Park. You'll help to prepare their food before entering the enclosure to feed them. Entry to the safari park is also included so you can spend the rest of the day exploring the attraction.
Zookeeper Experience at Paradise Wildlife Park for One Adult and One Child
Muck in and help a zookeeper at Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. You'll help the keepers care for a variety of wildlife during the day. This experience is for one adult and one child so is ideal for a day out with a parent and their child.
Big Cat Ranger for a Day (Weekends)
Visit the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent and spend a Saturday or Sunday with some rare creatures. You'' shadow a big cat keeper and will learn about lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars during your visit. Work up an appetite helping out before enjoying a buffet lunch.
A weekday version is also available at a slightly reduced cost.
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Prices are supplied by retailers, are regularly updated, and are displayed purely as a guide. Check current prices at each retailer, along with any applicable terms and conditions. Delivery costs, surcharges, and optional extras may also apply.