Date Night #4: Safari, so good

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Ah date night. That wonderful night when you screw your courage to the sticking point and put yourself out there for one more spin on the merry-go-round of love. This one took place at ZSL London Zoo, during the launch of their new summer programme, Sunset Safari…

I’ve never really been a big fan of zoos in an abstract sense. The idea of sad gorillas, holding onto the bars of their cages while people gawp and shout at them has always seemed like a horrific idea. Once, when I was in Lanzarote, we visited a zoo that mainly consisted of beautiful birds locked in small cages. They looked so despondent, and quite a few of them seemed to be moulting. If that wasn’t depressing enough, they then ushered us into a show, where they demonstrated a cockatiel riding a penny-farthing. Or at least he tried to, but then he fell off, and just sort of lay there under the bicycle, weakly fluttering his wings. So when the idea came up for V. and I to visit London Zoo’s new late night event for the summer, Sunset Safari, it’s fair to say that I perhaps was a bit more reticent than usual but V. had never been to a zoo, and was quite excited by the idea. We were on a high anyway after a successful Sunday lunch at her parents. Well, I say successful, but for me that just meant I’d managed to only spill one glass of red wine over the dinner table. Which was somehow still less embarrassing than the game of Cards Against Humanity that followed, during which I had to explain to her mother what a Fleshlight was.

We arrived at the Sunset Safari to find everyone in great spirits. The sun was out, there was a steel band playing in a field near the entrance, and the main square was full of restaurant pop-ups, all promising various delicious treats. V. however was instantly drawn to the face painting tent, where she wasted no time in getting a peacock painted expertly onto her face. From there, we raced over to the monkey enclosure, where you can actually walk through an enclosure where a group of black-capped squirrel monkeys run (and jump!) freely around you. It was an amazing experience that couldn’t be further from the grim gorilla Guantanamo that I’d envisioned. When we saw a tiny baby monkey the size of a mouse holding onto the back of it’s mum as she ran along the ropes above our heads, we couldn’t resist squee-ing at its cuteness.

After a detour into the bug house for a bracing dose of ew (I declined the opportunity to visit the “In with the Spiders” exhibit, which is exactly what you’d think it is, on the grounds of really not liking spiders. V. gleefully accepted the challenge though, and I have asked her to never ever tall me what she experienced in there), it was time for our zoo tour. We donned silent disco-style headphones, and our guide took us deep into the wilds of Africa, starting with a quick blast of the Circle of Life to get us in the mood. The pygmy hippos we visited first were pretty cool, but it was the next stop that really blew us away – the giraffes. Now I’ve never really thought that much about giraffes, but this was the first time I’d seen one in the flesh, and it was absolutely magical. They were a little shy at first, hiding in their incredibly tall stables, but once they trotted out to meet us they were so graceful and beautiful that any residual cynicism I had about the zoo experience just evaporated. V. was entranced too, and we almost lost the entire rest of the tour party as we lagged behind to stare at them.

Throughout the rest of the tour we learnt many fascinating facts – for example, zebras are black with white stripes, and not the other way round, warthogs are incredibly cowardly, and kangaroos have to clean their young’s poop out of their pouches with their tongues. We ended in tiger territory, watching a one-year-old Sumatran tiger called Nakal slowly stalk a bird through the undergrowth. It got away, much to the tiger’s dismay. We were shocked to learn that there were only 300 tigers left in the world – less than the amount of people that had visited London Zoo on that day alone in fact.

It had been such a lovely date, and the zoo was brilliant, with lots of wide-open spaces for the animals and a really brilliant vibe, with everyone looking like they were having lots of fun. As V. and I walked to the exit, I decided I’d surprise her with a gift to remember the day. I pretended to go to the bathroom, then sneaked off to the gift shop to buy her a toy giraffe. I presented it to her when we met up again at the exit gate.

“Oh!” she said – and presented me with a bag that also contained a much larger toy giraffe. We named then Glenda and Geoffrey, in case you were wondering.

If you’d like to take a walk on the wild side, Sunset Safari will be running at ZSL London Zoo every Friday night between 5th July and 17th June. You can find out more info and book tickets on the ZSL website.

 

Jon Hamblin writes ‘The Things I’ve Done To Impress Women”, an award winning blog that details his frequent failures to impress any women ever. Read about his other Date Nights here.


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