Spend a day at the Islands at Chester Zoo

Frankie the Sunda Crocodile, in Monsoon Forest

Frankie the Sunda Crocodile, in Monsoon Forest - Credit: Archant

When the winter chill gets you down, head for some heat at the new Islands development at Chester Zoo and be transported to a tropical paradise, writes Kate Houghton

The bird market on Sumba

The bird market on Sumba - Credit: Archant

Islands at Chester Zoo offers an extraordinary experience, and that’s saying something for a zoo where the emphasis on creating superb enviroments for the animals within has always been paramount.

In essence, visitors are invited to explore six tropical islands and learn about the wildlife - flora and fauna - found there. The threat to the environment in these locations is tremendous, with population growth stretching an already creaky infrastructure and a desire to tap into the global market to ensure an income, it’s no surprise that protecting the natural resources come way down the list of priorities. Chester Zoo’s Islands exhibit acts not only to highlight these issues, but plays a vital part in the conservation efforts being made there.

Start your visit with a walk through Monsoon Forest - the largest indoor zoo exhibit in UK history - and experience the heart and heat of Islands. Moving on to Sumatra, you’ll meet some of the most loved and most endangered animals in the world, the critically endangered Sumatran orang-utan and Sumatran tiger, not to mention some of most unusual and rarest plants and trees on the planet – including the world’s largest (and stinkiest) flower: the Rafflesia arnoldii, otherwise known as the Corpse Flower.

Move through the islands of Bali, Papua and Panay and meet their native, most threatened species and visit Sumba, where you can discover how the illegal bird trade is impacting some of the world’s most unique species; birds whose elaborate songs were common in the forests of Indonesia are disappearing at an alarming rate leaving nothing but an eerie silence among the trees.

A Sulawesi macaque

A Sulawesi macaque - Credit: Archant

Finally, enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Sulawesi, an island rich in unique wildlife including the Sulawesi crested macaque, one of the most affectionate monkeys on the planet. While here, you can dip into another of South East Asia’s greatest delights – street food!

Dr Mark Pilgrim, director general of Chester Zoo, says: ‘Islands is a real game-changer for zoos in the UK, a very different zoo experience to anything else that has been done before. This isn’t just about viewing animals in enclosures, it’s about giving people a sense of the environments they live in - the sounds, the smells, the people, the colour and the culture of far-flung islands in South East Asia.’ w


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