Colchester Zoo is open for school visits, including educational sessions, and has completed detailed Covid-19 Risk Assessments to enable this. Please see our Risk Assessment webpage for full details and answers to your Covid-19 school FAQs.
This page contains answers to the most Frequently Asked Teacher Questions.
Click on the below points to find out more.
If you have any further questions regarding your school trip not answered on this page, please contact our education department at 01206 332511, 01206 332512 or 01206 331292 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Helpful Tips to Make the Most of Your Visit
Read through these FAQ’s to familiarise yourself with lunch suggestions, and other logistical planning. Make sure you download our maps to plan your route and decide lunch locations, meeting points, etc.
Additional Tips to Plan Your Day:
- If you have educational sessions, you will received the location of your sessions when you check in upon arrival. If you need further directions to find your educational sessions, please check at Guest Services.
- If you want to attend the Giraffe and Elephant feed, the times that are best for schools to attend are 12:15 and 12:30. These are free of charge, and your pupils will get the chance to hand feed the animals. Allow at least 15 minutes to attend either of these activities.
- See the Encounter Timetable section of the website for an up to date schedule of all Keeper Talks and Animal Feeds. Most of these Animal Encounters are between 5-15 minutes long.
- If you want to feed the lorikeets at Australian Rainbows, the cost is £1 per pot of nectar, we recommend going in the morning when the birds are hungrier and more likely to feed (it opens at 10:30 most days). You can also visit this enclosure without purchasing food.
- If you want to ride the train, the Lost Madagascar Express, to see the walk-through lemur enclosure, please allow at least 20 minutes (and more time with a longer queue). If it is raining the lemurs are often out of sight. Please note that all students, regardless of year level, must be supervised while on the train.
- If it rains, we have a number of undercover, indoor areas. See the wet weather page of our website for more suggestions. (Please remember that schools are not allowed in the indoor Jungle Tumble Play Area).
- There are many toilets throughout the zoo. Please see the school map for these locations. Some of these are small, single stall toilets, and some have multiple facilities. If you have a large group we recommend the toilets at: Entrance, Kalahari Theatre, Water Hole (by giraffe building), Remi Brown Play Area (by Edge of Africa), Meerkat Hang-out, and toilet block across from lions.
- You will exit through the gift shop. All students must be accompanied while in the gift shop. If you want your children to have time to explore and spend money, we recommend visiting this earlier in the day so you are not rushing for the coach while waiting in end of day queues in the shop. If you want to pre-order Goody Bags for your group, they are £2.00. These must be ordered two weeks in advance, and are collected from the Outpost Shop as you are exiting. Contact the Education Department (email@example.com) to add these to your booking.
- Check the home page of the website the day before your visit for zoo updates, including if animals are planned to be off show or if any areas of the zoo will be closed.
When to Visit
Colchester Zoo is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day. Pre-booked schools are welcome to visit on any day. Bookings must be made a minimum of 5 days in advance, and must be made online on our booking form (click and it will open in a new window).
If you are visiting on a self-guided, teacher lead visit you can visit on any day that you would like. We do not limit the number of schools on any given day.
If you are interested in booking formal education sessions (click for details), spaces are limited. We recommend booking as far in advance as possible to ensure availability. You can also contact the education department (01206 332511 or 01206 331292 or firstname.lastname@example.org) before making your booking to check availability on your preferred dates. Please note that if you are interested in sessions on weekends, they are possible but must be booked very far in advance to ensure availability.
We have a school map which highlights lunch locations, and other important information for schools. Please be aware that due to special events or other unforeseen circumstances some of these picnic areas may not be available on the day of your visit.
We also have a downloadable general map of the zoo. This map is also available in hard-copy form at the zoo. Please request additional copies at entrance when you arrive if you require them.
If anyone in your group has accessibility needs we also have an accessibility map which shows suggested easier routes to avoid our steep hills.
If anyone in your group has accessibility needs, click here to see our accessibility page, which has further details including a downloadable access map which shows suggested easier routes to avoid our steep hills.
Arrival and Coaches
On arriving at the zoo, coaches should park in the designated coach car park. During June and July, zoo staff will usually greet coaches in the car park. Pupils and adults should remain on the coach, and our staff will direct your lead teacher where to check in.
During the rest of the year and on quieter days we will not have staff in the car park. In this circumstance, the lead teacher should proceed to the Admissions Kiosk to check in. Please leave pupils and adults on the coach until after you have checked in.
When going to check in, your lead teacher must:
- Know how many pupils and adults you have
- Bring any proof for pupils who qualify for free adult carers (a letter on school letterhead is acceptable proof)
- Bring all Zoo Passes (gold cards) collected from pupils and adult helpers with them
After your lead teacher has checked in, they can go back to the coach and collect their group. At check in the lead teacher will be informed where their group should enter the zoo.
Coach parking is free. Coach drivers for school trips receive free entry and a meal voucher. To claim this, coach drivers should report to the Entrance Kiosk with their ID and job sheet.
We have a number of undercover picnic areas around the zoo. These cannot be pre-booked and are available on a first come, first served basis. Please download and see our Schools Map showing all of these locations. During wet, cold weather we recommend schools eat inside the Giraffe Building. Please note that schools eating packed lunches are not allowed to eat inside our food outlets or café.
If your older students plan to eat at our food outlets, please be aware that on quieter days some of them may not be open. The main café, Penguinis, is always open. On busy days there are often queues at our food outlets. To avoid the queues eat outside of the peak times of 11:30-1:30.
Schools have the option of preordering Orange Calippo ice lollies for £1.75 (15p off on-the-day prices). Simply select this when completing your school booking form, or contact the education department (01206 332511 or 01206 331292 or email@example.com) to add them to your order. Please note, Colchester Zoo requires two weeks notice that you wish to purchase these. If you have ordered Calippos, please collect these from the ‘Southern Kitchen’ food outlet during your visit. Please note that all Calippos must be collected at the same time.
Teachers can refill their student’s water bottles at The Penguini’s Restaurant at the top of the zoo. Please take all collected water bottles (not the children) into Penguini’s and ask a member of staff for assistance. Please note tap water will be used.
There is also a water fountain at the hand wash station by the wallaby’s located in the Familiar Friends farm area at the bottom of the zoo.
Educational sessions are provided to schools free* of charge. These sessions are is limited availability and these sessions must be pre-booked. During peak times (including summer term) we recommend making bookings well in advance to ensure availability. This is especially true if you have a very large group who requires multiple sessions.
To check availability on a specific date prior to making your booking, please contact our education department directly at 01206 332511 or 01206 332512 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have pre-booked a session, you will receive the location of these session at entrance when you check in. If you need further details of your session location, please go to the Guest Services building. Please do not go to the Education Centres or Animal Enclosures unless specifically asked to do so on the day.
For details of all the sessions available, please see our sessions pages.
*Please note, due to an increase in schools booking sessions and not attending them, we have sometimes been unable to offer sessions to schools who request them. For this reason, Colchester Zoo reserves the right to charge a £20 fee for all educational sessions which are booked but not attended either due to last minute cancellation (less than 1 week notice), or not attending on the day without a valid reason. If you attend the session they are free of charge. The charge only applies to non-attended and/or late cancellations.
We offer highly discounted prices for school visits to Colchester Zoo. Full details of these prices can be found on the school admissions page.
To qualify for our school rate, the visit must be booked by a school teacher on a school visit, visiting from an official registered school. Officials schools are defined as registered educational establishments maintained by the Department for Education.
School rates are only available to teachers leading pre-booked trips (not available to students doing self-guided trips). Bookings must be made online a minimum of five days in advanced. (click here for the school booking form).
Nurseries, preschools, playgroups and daycares do not qualify for school rates. These may qualify for Group Prices.
Guides, Scouts, and other uniformed youth groups do not qualify for school rates. These may qualify for our Uniform Youth Group Prices.
Other groups do not qualify for school rates, but may qualify for our discounted Group Prices.
Home educated children do not qualify for school rates (however, we do offer free educational sessions, see the home education page for more details).
If you are from an overseas school, please contact our Education Department directly (email@example.com) to discuss if you qualify for the school rates.
Deposits are not required for schools when they make their booking.
Schools can pay via: invoice after the visit or pay on the day. There is an admin fee of £10 (incl VAT) for schools requesting to be invoiced. Payment on the day can be via cash, card or cheque.
Cheques for payment are only permitted for local authority groups and should be made payable to Colchester Zoo Ltd. If your numbers change after your cheque has been written (e.g. a child is sick on the day and doesn’t attend), a refund for the difference can be provided in cash at the till at the time of payment. However, this must be made obvious at the time of payment as the refund cannot be issued at a later point in time
We will confirm your final numbers with the lead teacher when they check in on the day of your visit. After you have checked in, we are unable to change your numbers. This also means we are unable to retrospectively apply Zoo Passes to your booking. Please ensure that when your lead teacher goes to check in they know exactly how many pupils and adults they have with them, and bring all Zoo Passes with them to be scanned. All the pupils and other adults should remain on the coach until the lead teacher has checked in and been issued tickets.
If you require a purchase order number on your invoice, please ensure you enter this on the booking form when making your booking.
Please note that the entire group needs to enter together to qualify for the discounted school rates. Parents, adult leaders, or other individuals arriving late and entering separately from the group will be charged full price admission at entrance.
There is no charge for schools to change the date of their visit or to cancel their school booking. If you are unable to visit, or need to rearrange your visit, please contact the education department as soon as possible at 01206 332511 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any booked education sessions which you need to cancel (while still visiting the zoo), please ensure you let the education department know as soon as posible. Spaces for educational sessions are limited, and if you are unable to attend, the time slots can be reassigned to other schools. Colchester Zoo reserves the right to charge a £20 fee for all educational sessions which are booked but not attended either due to last minute cancellation (less than 1 week notice), or not attending on the day without a valid reason. If you attend the session they are free of charge. The charge only applies to non-attended or last-minute cancellations.
Any children on school trips are allowed to use their Gold Cards (Zoo Passes), however, any children using Gold Cards will not count towards your free adult ratio (which only includes paying pupils).
Your lead teacher should collect all the Gold Cards together and bring the cards (not the pupils) with them when they go to check in upon arrival at the zoo. Gold Cards must be brought with you on the day of your visit. We are unable to retrospectively apply Zoo Passes to your booking.
Colchester Zoo provides a risk assessment guidance sheets with general outlines of potential risks and controls identified (click here for our risk assessment page and full details).
It is strongly recommended that all organisers make a preliminary visit to Colchester Zoo to carry out their own risk assessment before bringing a class of children. Two free familiarisation tickets to complete this visit can be requested after you have made a school booking (see Pre-trip Familiarisation Tickets for details of how to obtain these tickets).
Pre-trip Familiarisation Tickets
We offer school teachers two free familiarisation tickets to visit the zoo to plan your day and complete risk assessments. These tickets are only available to teachers (they cannot be used by friends or family members).
In order to qualify for these tickets, you must already have a booked school trip to Colchester Zoo.
If you have already booked your trip and received confirmation of it, please download and complete the following form:
Please note, this form must be sent in at least 10 days prior to your suggested visit date.
Public Liability Insurance
Information regarding Colchester’s Zoo Public Liability Insurance including a downloadable letter describing the coverage can be found on our Risk Assessment page (click to open).
You are offered free adult places to ensure your school group has adequate supervision. Children who qualify for carer places are provided free adult carers at a 1:1 ratio and therefore these pupils will not count towards your free adult ratio. Children using Zoo Passes (gold cards) may enter free of charge, but do not count towards your free adult ratio.
The ratio of free adults to children is:
- Primary (years R-6) – One free adult is per 6 paying pupils
- Secondary (years 7-11) – One free adult per 8 paying pupils
- Post 16 – One free adult per 10 paying students
These are guidelines only. While we require students to be supervised, we do not require these exact ratios. Please base your supervisory ratios on the behaviour of your specific students.
Primary children must be supervised at all times.
Secondary students in year groups 7, 8, and 9 must be in supervised groups at all times.
Students in years 10 and older require supporting teachers to accompany them into the zoo, but are allowed to traverse the zoo in small independent groups without direct supervision. All unsupervised students must be in uniform or wearing a school identifier in the event we need to contact you regarding their behaviour.
All primary and secondary students (including KS4) must be supervised while on the train or in the Gift Shop.
Are you a SEND registered special school who visits Colchester Zoo frequently? If so, we offer prepaid school tickets. Click here to find out more. Contact the education department directly via phone at 01206 332511 or 01206332512 or email (email@example.com) with any questions or to book these tickets.
Students in year 10 and older can be unsupervised. Please ensure that all unsupervised students are either in uniform or wearing a school identifier in the event we need to contact you regarding their behaviour. All other students must be in supervised groups at all time.
If you are planning meeting points for either individual groups of students, or groups of adult helpers with children, out of respect for our other visitors, please do not block pathways nor congest food outlets.
We recommend using outdoor meeting points, including: the outdoor decking by Penguini’s Restaurant (next to the Veg Box cafe); the wide area of the path in front of lions; the picnic benches between otters and the elephant house; the garden outside of Koi Niwa (next to the Koi statue); the picnic benches along the back of the elephant paddock (at the opposite end from the elephant house); the deck over-looking the African hunting dogs across from the Komodo dragons. Please see the school map section for specific locations on a printable map.
Before you visit Colchester Zoo, please make your pupils aware of the following points:
- School children are not allowed on the Road Trains unsupervised
- School children must be supervised while in the Gift Shop
- School children are not permitted in the Jungle Tumble soft play area
- Primary children are only allowed to use the Kids Safari play area between 12-2pm only
- Secondary and older children are not permitted on any play areas
- Litter can get into enclosures and harm the animals. Please put all litter into the bins provided
- In order to see the animals and watch them behaving naturally, visitors must be quiet. Banging on the windows, shouting or imitating animal sounds will frighten and scare the animals away
- Our animals are provided with balanced diets to keep them healthy. Please do not feed them as this will cause harm (unless at dedicated feeding times)
- Be aware that there are other visitors in the zoo at the same time as you, please be respectful and use appropriate language
If your students are completing customer service/visitor service/visitor opinion or staff surveys while you are at Colchester Zoo, please ensure they are familiar with and comply with our survey guidelines.
We have qualified first aiders on site. If you require first aid assistance please report to the Guest Services Office or ask the nearest member of staff from any department who will be happy to help.
We cannot guarantee that our animal food at Familiar Friends has not come into contact with nut products. We therefore advise that students with nut allergies do not use this feed.
If any pupils have specialised medical requires (e.g. a private location to insert a feeding tube, etc.) please contact the education department at 01206 332511 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Please ensure that you are carrying all of the necessary medication for your pupils. The administration of such medication is the responsibility of the group organisers and cannot be carried out by our First Aiders. If one of your pupils has severe allergies, we advise that you inform the zoo in advance in order to notify the first aiders.
Free adult carer places at a 1:1 for all school students with physical or emotional disabilities, are the subjects of SEND statements or EHCPs, or can provide other evidence of specific needs. You may be asked for proof at entrance. A letter on school letterhead is acceptable proof. Please see our school admission prices for more details.
We have a number of resources designed to help you plan your visit and enjoying your day including maps, a social story, and sensory trails. Please see our SEND page for more information.
Manual wheelchair hire is available. These can be booked on a first come, first served basis in return for a refundable deposit of £20.00 and a small hire charge of £5.00 to contribute towards the upkeep and maintenance of the chairs. The deposit and hire charge must be paid in cash on the day (it cannot be added to school invoices or cheques). Please contact the Education Department directly at 01206 332511 or 01206 331292 or email@example.com to check availability and to reserve one for the day of your visit.
All learning spaces for educational sessions are wheelchair accessible. Please contact the Education Department directly at 01206 332511 or 01206 331292 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to discuss specific needs or sessions.