Saturday, 1 June 2013


The Saatchi Gallery is in a right swanky part of London town near Sloane Square on the King's Road. It's right swanky let me tell you. But this swanksville vibe contrasted sharply with what was inside and on the walls. We caught a very bleak art exhibition about extreme poverty in Russia. It was unrelentingly depressing with the huge blown up images of cocks with runny growths on the ends being particularly harrowing. To cheer us up, I took a picture of a coy looking bear. Check him out below. Awwwww...

Russian ting

Pearls or pills

A stoic bear

Red cheeseburgers

Oil slick

Tiger spotting in London zoo

Back in April I decided to try and better myself, add an extra string to my bow and possibly another income stream by taking on a travel writing course.

Peter Carty, former travel editor at Time Out, was the man behind the four sessions which he delivered via a wit as dry as the sahara. Check his website and more deets on him.

I chose to write my feature on a recent trip to London's Zoo. You can check it below.

Tiger spotting in London Zoo

London Zoo’s new Tiger Territory gets you closer to the animals than ever before, writes Jim Ottewill. 

‘She won’t bite. Go on. Get a bit closer.’

The tiger eyeballed us with a stare which looked, despite the words of the guide, very much like she wanted to extend that luxurious neck, unclench those jaws and rip a chunk out of us. We ignored the encouraging words, stood stock still and looked in awe at her beautiful fangs. We were close enough to clean them with a brush but this feline jungle queen popped the tension between us before we were able to embark on a new career in animal dentistry. She did an about turn and sloped off into the bushes with a derisory swish of her orange and black tale.

We weren’t on a jungle safari or a wilderness adventure. This is London Zoo’s new Tiger Territory and our guide an enthusiastic young volunteer. It’s a new exhibit which gets you so close to these animals, it’s a wonder you can’t smell their breath.

As any London dweller so painfully knows, size and location can be delicate subjects when it comes to discussing bricks and mortar. And the word ‘view’ does not often apply. But Jae Jae and Melati, the pair of endangered Sumatran tigers who now call this exhibit home, have plenty to boast about if their big cat mates ever call up to discuss the state of property in the UK’s capital. Although not cheap at £3.6m, their territory is an impressive 2,500 square metres with huge amounts of outside space and even a view overlooking Regent’s Park. It points to a future where animals can roam, if not free, in ways they would be more accustomed to in the wild.

While the enclosure is ostensibly built to provide its residents with the kind of mod cons they’d find in the jungle (pool, high vantage points, open skies), it also allows visitors to get close to these creatures but in a way which does not risk life or death. They may look like they have savage designs on your person but there’s (thankfully) a thick piece of enclosure between you and them.

While the Tiger Territory offers an injection of novelty to the London Zoo experience, there are animal-shaped treats to be had right across the zoo - and big does not necessarily mean better. Often the weirder, more eccentric creatures from the 750 different species living here offer just as much fun and entertainment.

Highlights on our recent visit were numerous. The bearded pigs are a curiosity with facial hair more usually seen on hipsters in the trendier quarters of London's east end. We were also hypnotised by watching a sloth eat with its over-long nails and the enthusiasm of the penguins during feeding time makes you want to jump into their pool and bray for fish from a keeper as well.

A visit to the zoo may not be cheap, but you'd have to go far further afield and spend much more to feel this much like David Attenborough. And the new exhibit does much to suggest the future of zoos will not be cages but spacious loft apartments. Just don’t get too close to the inhabitants…

When to go? 

Get there early. The zoo becomes busy especially at the weekends and during school holidays. If you can, try and take a day off work and head there during the week.

How much is it?

£23 for an adult, £17 for a child. Find out more on group deals from the zoo website.

How to get there?

London Zoo is within walking distance of Camden Town and Regent's Park tube stations and a short bus ride from Baker Street station.

Other animal attractions 

Still after an animal fix? Then see the below…

London Aquarium 
London’s Aquarium offers a whole host of underwater delights allowing visitors to get up close to penguins, sharks and more than a thousand other creatures.

Battersea Park Children’s Zoo
Heading south of the river takes you to the Battersea Park Children’s Zoo and it’s menagerie of monkeys, ponies and meerkats. It’s meant for kids but adults can have fun too.

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park
This area of wetland and marsh allows visitors to get close to the numerous birds and frogs which make up its population.

Lost in space

Frog ting

Our bearded brethren

Bearded pigs are nuts

Wee men!

Sloths having a munch innit