If a week on safari is out of your price range, the next best thing could be a night spent sleeping at the zoo. Themed around Asiatic lion exhibit, Land of the Lions, ZSL London Zoo has launched nine new lodges within a whisker of their resident jungle kings.Here’s what the Gir Lion Lodge is like.
Style and substance
Climbing into bed 100 meters from a lion’s den hardly guarantees sweet dreams, but at ZSL London Zoo’s new Gir Lion Lodge it’s a jungle adventure.New overnight lodges are located in the recently opened Land of Lions exhibit, where four Asiatic lions live in the zoo’s most ambitious and immersive exhibit to date.Once the zoo has closed, guests can explore an area inspired by India’s Gir Forest, home to the only wild population of Asiatic lions, where replica street stalls sell colourful wares outside a crumbling temple and mongooses doze in an abandoned railway station.
A sunset tour and torchlight walk provide two opportunities to see the lions and other nocturnal residents such as aardvarks.
Nine chalet-style lodges feature en-suite shower facilities, heating and beds so comfortable, you could easily slip into a lion’s 20-hour per day sleeping habit. After 10pm, visitors are penned into the lodge area (for safety reasons, night-time roaming of the zoo is not allowed), where they can sit on cabin verandas drinking hot chocolate, reading books from a small library or playing board games. Leave windows open at night to hear peacock mating calls, screeching flamingos and, of course, roaring lions.
While waiting for darkness to fall, guests are treated to a two-course buffet meal, served in a private room at the Terrace restaurant. A mixture of vegetarian and meat dishes are based on Indian recipes – although there’s nothing too spicy – and a children’s menu is available on request.
The close-by residents
An overnight stay includes access to ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo on both days – along with free parking.Get up early to visit some of the zoo’s 17,000 residents before gates open to the public. Take breakfast at the Terrace restaurant and enjoy a coffee at Penguin Beach while Ricky the rockhopper and pals receive a morning feed.
What you need to know
Overnight stays, which are available six nights a week, are already sold out until the end of July, although bookings are currently open until December 2016.Prices from £378 per couple. A contribution from the ticket price goes towards the zoo’s conservation work. More information here.