If you’re looking for a family friendly day out, look no further than Monkey World. Situated between Weymouth and Poole, near to the South Dorset coast line, Monkey World is packed full of as many primates as you can think of; from chimpanzees to spider monkeys and more. Get up close and personal with them as you walk the many different enclosures, grab a bite to eat at one of the cafes or spend some time letting your own little monkeys swing from the ropes in the park areas. Here’s our review of what Monkey World has to offer families.
Please note – Monkey World have a strict policy on the use of images for commercial sites, as such there are no images to support this review in order to adhere to these guidelines. The image used for the header of this post is a stock image and not affiliated with Monkey World.
WHAT IS MONKEY WORLD?
Monkey World isn’t your traditional environment to view animals. It’s not a zoo but a rescue centre, aimed at providing rescue and rehabilitation to primates from all over the world. This can include those that have been sold on the black market to street performers even down to smaller creatures that have been sold as pets to individual ill equipped to deal with them.
Monkey World is open every day of the year apart from Christmas Day. Times vary in the summer months but admission is usually 10am – 5pm, with last admission one hour before closing. Family tickets start at £42 with a reduction for single parent families. An adult ticket is £14 and a child (aged 3 – 15 years) is £10. Children under 3 are free. Our visit coincided with a special reduction whereby children were £1 so look out for promotions throughout the year to reduce your ticket prices. Monkey World is both wheel and pushchair friendly. There is adequate parking on site although this is on grass so could be muddy when wet.
WHAT IS IT LIKE?
Upon approaching Monkey World, we did have some concerns about what it would be like – the entrance process and gateways weren’t the most modern and we were in a large queue which could be down to going at the end of a half term promotion. You’re given a map of the park when you buy your ticket and the minute you walk in, you’re met with an enclosure… great for getting you right in amongst the action.
We took an approach of wandering around the meandering paths in between enclosures and found it to naturally lead us around the park. The spaces were large and despite the cool weather and odd shower, plenty of the monkeys were outside and clearly visible. Many enclosures also allowed you to see their inside spaces making it really easy to spot the main events; monkeys! So often you visit a park like this and struggle to spot anything which makes it hard going when you’re got little people with you.
One of the things we appreciated the most was how easy it was for the kids to see everything. Whilst there was the odd occasion where we had to lift them up, the majority of the park was really accessible for children and those with less mobility such as in a wheelchair. This was down to the layout of the enclosures, often relying on a mix of mesh and a wooden fence, which also meant it felt like you were seeing them in a more natural habitat rather than in captivity. These were interspersed with clear, large viewing windows to allow you to get that little bit closer. Throughout, there were panels of information about the breeds and the individuals themselves, including snippets of how they came to be there or their past history – making it a really interesting and informative read.
WHAT FOOD IS THERE?
We ate at the main restaurant near to the shop and entrance, complete with indoor and outdoor seating and a softplay area. It was self-service with food delivered to your table and a large menu at very reasonable prices – two adult hot meals and drinks plus a child’s meal and extra drink came to £18. Impressive given the portion size and that it was all cooked to order! At other places around the site there were food areas and spots for ice creams to be sold but given that we went out of season, these were either closed or running on limited capacity.
There is space for families to take their own food with two large picnic and park areas on the site, plus another park area with large grass space. In warmer weather, this would certainly be very attractive and lower the price of an entire day out for the family.
As a side note – the main restaurant had clear guidance and separate options for vegans and gluten free customers A really welcome sight to see!
IS IT SUITABLE FOR TODDLERS?
I’d say that our 3.5year old got a lot out of the visit but was definitely the younger end of those that would. There were children of all ages there but the majority were that little bit older. Play areas were suited to mixed ages and the facilities did deal with younger children but to get the most out of the day I would think primary school age is the optimum. That said, as adults we enjoyed it far more than we thought we would!
WHAT WERE THE HIGHLIGHTS?
We loved seeing the orang-utans and the chimpanzees. We were able to get really close to them and observe them interacting with one another which spawned lots of conversation with the children about the links between humans and primates. In particular, the chimpanzee enclosure worked really well with showing their inside and outside spaces. We managed to catch one of the talks from the volunteers about them and it was interesting and informative without being too heavy – I just wish the kids would have wanted to listen to more!
We were also really impressed with the catering provision: most places like this tend to go for money over substance but it felt that Monkey World had really put effort into servicing all different types of customer and offering great value for money.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER?
As with many places like this, there were a few areas that looked a little shabby and run down. Monkey World isn’t the most polished of places and it’s worth trying to remember that they aren’t a zoo. Areas such as the toilets were functional but by no means pretty, and in the main toilet block the only baby changing area was out in the open right next to the hand driers – not a pleasant experience for me trying to do a change or the women trying to dry their hands!
We didn’t manage to do the Lemur walk through as this closed at 3pm, something that we weren’t aware of. It would have been good to have been given a brief run through by the ticket seller to highlight points like that and the timings of the talks. Whilst this information is available on the maps or other areas, we didn’t even think to check!
ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW?
If you’re a big fan of monkeys, you can apply to adopt a primate at the centre or take part in one of their experience days. Monkey World also offer birthday parties and group rates, details of which can be found on their website
IS IT WORTH THE TRIP?
Having been recently, I wouldn’t make the effort to visit Monkey World again for another couple of years. Ideally when the children are old enough to read and take in some of the background information on the signs. We like monkeys and there was an element of ‘seen one, seen them all’ but some of the big highlights such as the chimpanzees and orang-utans certainly made up for this. If I was taking older children and paying for a family ticket, I’d certainly go better equipped with food and drink for picnics as the site is really well set up for this. That and I’d visit in the summer as there’s little shelter against the elements… not that we expected otherwise but it’s worth considering! So yes, it’s worth the trip providing you’re prepared!
For more information on Monkey World, visit https://monkeyworld.org