We made a late decision to come here with our 2 year old son after it started raining and we didn't want to stuck outside at a National Trust park. I was shocked by how expensive it was to get in, but this was tempered slightly by the fact you can come again as many times as you want for a year. However if you weren't local and couldn't take advantage of this then it is too expensive to get in for just 1 visit.
We were surprised how small it was once inside, although if you pay attention to the wide variety of animals, fish and plants on show it takes you longer than you think to get around. Also the split level layout is very clever and really maximizes the display space on offer. We then went for lunch in the café, limited menu but decent and fresh baguettes and not unreasonably priced. I was pleased to see Bacon and Brie baguette on the menu, but disappointed that this was only served cold! The gift shop was sparsely stocked but did have some nice things above the normal range of tat you tend to get. We then did another lap of the inside before heading out to the play area which had a good range of equipment for most ages.
Total visit was around 2.5 hours including lunch, as a one off it would represent average value for money but if we go back in the next year it will be good value. Whether it's worth a 45 min drive is debatable, but maybe when the weather is nicer to take advantage of the outdoor picnic and play area.
Finally, I was very disappointed with the staff there - in the café they were more interested in talking amongst themselves than taking our order, at the entrance they were far from welcoming and none of them working inside the rainforest took any interest in talking to us or helping us find the exhibits in some of the darker or overgrown displays. My wife is a teacher and mentioned about bringing a school trip here but no one showed any interest in this at all. I gather they rely on volunteers a fair bit, but this is still a weakness that could be improved on without too much work that would go a long way to improving the visitor experience.
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