A trip to Chester Zoo again today, and we made a beeline (hee hee) for the Lazy River Boat Ride, as I was keen to try out the accessibility. Despite being members on and off for years we haven’t tried out the ride since the Islands opened.
It’s quite a walk for small legs or limited mobility as Islands is at the far end of the zoo from the entrance, so you may need your buggy or wheelchair. Emily is getting heavier as she gets older, and the walk pushing her in the heat was a good work-out!
A one-way system has been set up through Islands, presumably to manage the crowds, so it’s a nice island hop through the Coral Sands and 4 of the 6 South East Asian islands (these are Panay, Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi) to reach the jetty at Sumba. We didn’t go into the Monsoon Forest as we knew it would be too hot (!) but know from previous visits that accessibility is good.
The website states that you must be able to walk unaided to travel on the Lazy River Boat ride, but wheelchair users can travel on a wheelchair adapted boat.
When we arrived at the entrance to the ride we overheard the guide stating that the wait time was 30 minutes, but he directed us to the right of the entrance down towards the wheelchair access point at the exit of the ride. I was so glad of this as it would have been difficult to queue with Emily for that length of time. (Amazingly this is a free ride for everyone!).
At the jetty the staff ask if you need a wheelchair adapted boat, but as Emily could walk to the boat we only needed to wait a few minutes before being able to get onto the next boat. It is a bit of a drop down into the boat, so I got in first and lifted Emily in with some help from a member of staff.
A lovely family also waiting needed wheelchair access, so they just had to wait a few minutes for the next boat. A ramp is guided to the back of the boat and the wheelchair user is pushed on and placed in a slightly raised adapted point at the back of the boat. It looked like a fairly quick and straightforward transfer. (Any wheelchair users who have travelled on this ride please feel welcome to leave comments and feedback for other visitors!).
The boat ride takes just under ten minutes and is very tranquil, encouraging you to listen out for the sounds and spot the signs and clues. It takes you closer to the animals as you pass alongside the tiger reserve and orangutans outdoor space.
It was fairly straightforward to exit the boat by lifting Emily out, but it’s definitely a 2 person job both from a physical and safety point of view.
The Lazy River Boat ride is a great opportunity to experience something that isn’t always straightforward or even accessible for those with mobility difficulties (particularly wheelchair users). To be able to have immediate access onto the boat was a real bonus.
I really think Chester Zoo should promote this accessible ride more on their website, as it’s a great attraction! Photos of the wheelchair access would be helpful and reassuring to disabled visitors, as you can sometimes be put off from visiting certain attractions if you can’t visualise how the access may work. Some attractions now provide ‘Visual Stories’ which are just amazing!
I think access onto the boat would be difficult for adults who can walk unaided and don’t use wheelchairs but have very limited mobility, as it is too big a step down into the boat. I would advise you contacting the zoo to enquire further though.
So, a lovely cooling (and accessible) ride through the South East Asian Islands and if you close your eyes and listen to the sights and sounds you can transport yourself there (if you’re lucky enough to have a hot day that helps)…..