Wild Place Project has scooped the ‘Large Visitor Attraction of the Year’ award at the South West England Tourism Excellence Awards and after our visit on Thursday we can see why.

The prestigious accolade, which was announced during an online ceremony on Friday, follows another win earlier this month of ‘Attraction of the Year’ from the Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards.

The double win shines a spotlight on the staff and volunteers at the conservation attraction, who have continued to provide the highest levels of customer service and animal welfare and operations management, despite an unprecedented year of closures and restrictions.

The staff were on hand throughout our visit- navigating visitors and explaining procedures as well as giving fascinating insights to the animals that reside at the Wild Place.

Wild Place Project reopened after the third and longest lockdown closure on Monday, with a number of changes to comply with Covid guidelines.

The park felt spacious and safe. A one way system has been put in place but ample time is still available to visit all of the animals- especially those that are a little shy and take their time to pop out to say hello!

In 2019 Wild Place Project opened Bear Wood and its a fantastic exhibit to of woodlands and raised walkways that the 5-year-old could see over and the 3-year-old could spy through to hunt for wolves, wolverines a lynx and the infamous bears.

We were only greeted by two bears and spotted one dozing wolf but the children were absolutely enthralled with the walk-through and enjoyed finding out if they weighed the same as a bear or a lynx.

The 7.5 acre exhibit takes visitors ‘back in time’ to 8000 BC when bears, wolves, lynxes and wolverines roamed Britain.

We strolled through to meet the family of giraffes who were out in their paddocks- its incredible to be stood so close to such magnificent creatures.

Th children then enjoyed a run through the meadows towards the tower- and lots of families took the opportunity to utilise this space for socially distanced picnics.

A firm favourite, as always, the meerkats were on fine form and posed nicely for their photos at the end.

Wild Place Project is a wonderful place for all of the family to enjoy, in a completely Covid-safe way and we can see why it won a second accolade so soon.

Dr Justin Morris, Chief Executive of Bristol Zoological Society, which operates Wild Place Project and Bristol Zoo Gardens, said: “To have been voted ‘Large Visitor Attraction of the Year’ in our region is a fantastic achievement and recognises the passion and hard work of our staff and volunteers.

“I am extremely proud of Wild Place Project, which has become hugely successful over the past eight years. We are regularly told by our visitors and members about how much they enjoy visiting, seeing our animals and relaxing in nature with their families and friends.”

Judging of the awards took into account entrants’ investment, commitment to sustainability and accessibility, visitor feedback and digital presence, along with evidence of COVID-secure measures. In total 76 winners were announced during the online event, which was supported by headline sponsor South West Water and award category sponsor Worldpay.

Co-organiser of the awards, Nell Barrington of Services for Tourism, said: “I have been really humbled to hear stories from these amazing tourism and hospitality businesses about how they have overcome adversity in these terrible times. It has been great to be able to celebrate their success today and I hope they have a fantastic season. Congratulations to them all.”

Last year, Wild Place Project was also awarded the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ South West Social Impact Award as well as being awarded the ‘We’re Good to Go’ COVID-19 Industry Standard by Visit Britain. The attraction was also a finalist in the Climate Coalition’s Green Heart Hero Awards and was highly commended in the 2020 Bristol Life Awards.

Wild Place Project is located just off junction 17 of the M5 and invites visitors to take a glimpse into eco-systems from around the world, including Madagascar, Cameroon, the Congo and British woodlands.

Wild Place Project and Bristol Zoo Gardens are run by Bristol Zoological Society which is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work at both zoos, but also its vital education and community outreach programme.

In March last year the Society launched the BZS Appeal to ensure the future of its work ‘saving wildlife together’ following the temporary closure of both its sites in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As school groups can now be welcomed back to both zoos, appeal donations will support the Education Bursary Fund, to ensure schools and youth groups in disadvantaged areas are able to benefit from visiting Wild Place Project and Bristol Zoo Gardens.

To find out more, or to make a donation, visit https://bristolzoo.org.uk/bzsappeal.

To find out more about Wild Place Project, or to book tickets online in advance (highly recommended), visit www.wildplaceproject.org.uk.