Dino-tours: Dinosaurs in the Wild

The Lowdown:
Attraction: Dinosaurs in the Wild
Location: Greenwich Peninsula, London
Tickets: £25 per adult (off-peak) + £3.50 ticket flexibility
Duration: In current location until July 31st 2018

Before we begin...
I'm going to offer a quick disclaimer here and state that I pledge not to go into too much fine detail for fear of spoilers! I will try to keep this review informative and fun, but the real joy of experiences like this is never quite knowing what is going to happen next, so I'm going to endeavour to give you all the useful info that I can without giving too much of the game away. Also, whilst others in our tour group were openly taking photos (and the staff seemed fine with it), we were discouraged from doing so at the beginning of our tour, so out of respect to the organisers, I have not posted any images of exhibits that I have not already seen posted online or on TV as part of official promotions.


Ever wanted to embark on a Mesozoic safari, with Triceratops instead of rhinos, Tyrannosaurs in place of lions and stooping Sauropods where there would be Giraffes? Well, if you can hie thee to Greenwich before July 31st, then you can do just that!

'Dinosaurs in the Wild' is an immersive experience, blending staged sets and actors with animatronics and 3D animated graphics. The premise is that a company founded by a physics genius has cracked the secret of (safe!) time travel and now funds their Mesozoic field research operations by opening up their 'Timebase 67' (in late Cretaceous Montana) to visitors as an attraction. Think 'Jurassic World' but with time-travel instead of genetic engineering.

First let's begin with the venue. Greenwich Peninsula is reachable by the Jubilee line: we got off at Greenwich North tube station and made for the O2 arena, knowing that 'Dinosaurs in the Wild' was right around the corner from there. Whilst not terribly well signposted, we were able to find our way down to the venue with relative ease (at the time of writing, there's a lot of roadworks and construction going on around the O2, so allowances have to be made for that). It was only a ten minute walk for us, but small kids might find it a bit more of trek.

Ron Raptor uses his heightened senses and superior intelligence to find the way to the exhibit...

We were visiting off-peak, so there were no queues to contend with and the staff were friendly, welcoming and efficient. There was a small cafe in the waiting area as well as immaculately clean toilet facilities and a cloakroom. We did not have time for refreshments, as we were bang on time for our alotted tour, so I can't say anything of the value for money to be had there, but I believe the cloakroom was free to use, which is nice.

Upon being called up to the entrance our first task was to stand in front of a green screen and look like a Tyrannosaurus was coming up behind us for the obligatory souvenir photo (to be presented at the end of the tour). I always slightly dread these, partly because it's a one-shot deal with no option to retake your image if you come out looking like Jabba the Hutt and also because prices at various themed attractions in my experience can range anywhere up to £20, so we reserved judgement on whether we would opt to keep our photo until the end of the tour.

All the staff were fully dedicated to the experience from the start, ushering our group through waiting areas and into the pod that would serve as our time-travel vehicle much like flight crew or tour guides from any other attraction. The 3D elements always a view our of a window of a vehicle or facility building are cleverly structured so that you will have your 3D "safety" glasses on ready for any sequences; the first of which was a jolty ride across the Cretaceous landscape from the drop-off point to the facility, via herds of Triceratops and Alamosaurus among others.
The treatment of this sequence was absolutely spot-on, complete with perfectly timed bangs and shakes on the vehicle and nicely-observed little touches like swarms of flies crowding a Triceratops much as you will often see on any large herbivore.

Once inside the facility itself, the doors opened and we were ushered through a series of laboratories and staging areas, crewed by security staff, animal handlers and vets. Several of these rooms featured interactive exhibits which we were invited to peruse at our leisure. Mike & I both agreed that we would have appreciated more time to investigate these areas (we typically only got about five minutes to wander around in each room), but I'm aware that the guides are on fairly tight schedules with individual groups, so this is understandable.

The friendly lab technicians are happy to answer any questions on the nesting habits of Dakotaraptors

 The grand finale of the tour is a trip to the "Observation platform" at ground level, where we spent a good 10-15 minutes enjoying a panoramic 360 view of the Cretaceous landscape. The guide would cannily draw the group's attention to one screen or another if something really special was about to happen, but the beauty of this setup of course was that you could simply choose to turn and look in any direction and you would still find something interesting to watch.
I don't want to go into too much detail here because, as I say, I don't want to give too much away (by far the most fun in an experience like this is not knowing what comes next!), but suffice it to say that there were a couple of very nicely-staged key scenes in this part of the tour.

One thing that I have neglected to mention (and again I don't want to give too much away) is that alongside the science and the fabricated storyline of the company itself, there is a sub-narrative to the tour which we had seen unfold gradually as we progressed. Needless to say this reaches its conclusion at the Observation Level and this ushered us into a frantic departure from the Mesozoic and back to the present (and the gift shop!).

Naturally, souvenirs are obligatory after such a unique experience, so we left with a T-shirt and a fluffy Alamosaurus to add to our ever-growing menagerie of dinosaur toys at home! And, being very happy with our photo, we opted to take it home for the quite reasonable sum of £10, although if we had wanted a digital copy, we would have had to purchase this on a branded USB for a whopping £25, which would have been a stretch too far for us.

From left: Tyrannosaurus rex, Mike of the Mesozoic, Ron Raptor, Bryce Dallas Howard. Only kidding; it's just me.

All things considered, the tour lasted just over an hour although we had so much fun it seemed much shorter to me! I could have very happily dragged it out another thirty minutes just by wandering around the lab areas and poking at things in cases. Everything from the sets and the actors to the puppets and the animations were just spot-on both from an entertainment and a palaeo-accuracy perspective. The dinosaurs were presented as animals throughout: not movie monsters, just animals wandering about and doing their thing which is exactly what I've always wanted to see from an experience such as this.
There was just one shot that I found unlikely: of a nesting Dakotaraptor wrapping her tail around her as she incubates her eggs. Since (like many other dromaeosaurids) Dakotaraptor had grotesquely elongated prezygapophyses on the caudal vertebrae, which interlock with the bones in front to stiffen the tail, I found it unlikely that a nesting dromaeosaur could bend its tail in quite this way. However, I am slightly nit-picking here as this was the only palaeo-duffer that I was able to spot in what was otherwise a jaw-droppingly detailed and beautifully executed experience!

All in all, I recommend anyone to catch 'Dinosaurs in the Wild' whilst it's still on until July 31st (Whether the exhibition goes on tour after that, I cannot say). We did end up spending quite a lot of money (£25 each for entry, £16 for a t-shirt, £22 for a floofy Alamosaurus and £10 for the photo), but we didn't come out of it feeling ripped off in any way - we had a thoroughly enjoyable time and I know that this is one of those experiences that will stick in my memory as a great day out for a very long time to come...

The Verdict:

Ease of access: 8/10
Entertainment value: 10/10
Educational value/Scientific accuracy: 9/10 (I don't think it's possible to get a 10!)
Suitable Age group: Kids below 10yrs might find it frightening-but-fun if accompanied by their parents, but I wouldn't recommend this experience for under 7's.
Facilities: 8/10
Value for money: 10/10

Raptor selfie!


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