I always feel a bit silly going to the zoo when I’m on a trip – it feels very ‘I could do this in London’ – but I have a real soft spot for Barcelona Zoo. If you’re travelling with children it’s obviously a big draw, but I’m not a child and still love it.
Visiting Barcelona Zoo
A trip to the Zoo is usually expensive. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t go if I had to pay full price. However the discount they offer for people who are over 75% disabled allowed me and my companion to get in cheaply. There was no excuse not to go.
I was lucky enough to be visiting on a weekday right before a bank holiday weekend. This meant it was really quiet. The weather was great, and I was able to just wander and take it in. I didn’t even have to queue in front of any of the animals. While this made my visit quite accessible, I think access would be a lot worse if it was busy.
Meeting the animals
Most of the animals were easy to get to. Between child-height viewing windows and my riser, I was able to see a lot of them.
Maybe because I was coming in the off-season (just) or maybe because of the wheelchair, I often get interesting reactions from animals in zoos. My first was befriending a peacock who followed me around for a while. After that, it was the mangabey. It even ran and told its friends about me, and brought them to stare at me. I don’t know why – I suppose the wheelchair gives me a different profile, and this interests animals. A small chimp saw me and leaped at the glass, teeth bared.
It was quite difficult having this engagement with the primates if I’m honest. Seeing them interact with me, communicate with each other about me, and then come and stare made me feel uncomfortable. It really made me question the ethics of zoos. They are something I have mixed feelings about when you test imprisonment and conservation against each other.
After that I went on to the giraffe, who I also befriended. They have a wonderful accessible viewing space where you can be at head height with the giraffes. Seeing eye-to-eye how big they are was an incredible experience.
Access at Barcelona Zoo
I mentioned that access was good – but there were some smaller failings. Some viewing platforms weren’t ramped, or the surface had eroded so much it was battered and no longer easily passable.
It feels like the initial intention was to make it accessible, but that over time the flooring and ground deteriorated. It wasn’t maintained in a way that demonstrated really caring about making wheelchair access feasible. These small issues really were a shame. Overall they were not significant to the overall enjoyment of the zoo for me.
What is disappointing is that there are no Changing Places toilets. These have seemed a lot rarer in Spain than I saw in England. In Spain, even very large venues don’t seem to have them. The only one I found was at the wonderful Nova Icaría beach – definitely the high point of my holiday.