When asked if I would like to be the first member of the public to have an aardvark encounter at Chester Zoo , I obviously said yes. I then spent the next 20 minutes looking up what an aardvark is.

I imagined they were big scary things, not the cute weird-looking animals that they are.

So what exactly are aardvarks then?

They have the head of an anteater, the ears of a hare, the body of a boar, the tail of a kangaroo and the claws of a bear.

Aardvarks are medium-sized, burrowing, nocturnal mammals native to Africa. They live on small insects such as ants and termites and use their snout and claws to dig them out.

What do you get with an encounter?

Do you get to look at them? Touch them? Stroke them? Feed them?

Well you certainly get to look at them close-up inside their enclosure. You also get to spend about 30 minutes with one of their keepers and yes, you get to touch and stroke them, but not feed them as they will more than likely to be asleep.

Related: World's smallest monkey born at Chester Zoo

Asleep! Doesn't sound much like an encounter

Well surprisingly, it is. To book an encounter you phone up and answer some risk assessment questions to make sure YOU are suitable for the encounter with the aardvarks.

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Is it worth the money?

Assuming you meet the requirements you book a date and turn up. At £59.99 it may seem a bit much for half an hour with some aardvarks, but included in this is entrance to the zoo, a surprise gift ( I am not spoiling that, sorry), a drinks voucher, a certificate and half an hour's visit to the animals themselves.

Oh, and you might also get to quiz keeper Kirsten Wicks, one of the stars from Channel 4 TV programme 'The Secret Life of the Zoo'. Does that seem expensive now? No, I don't think so either.

Anything else we need to know?

Obviously the three stars of the encounter are the lovely ladies, Tatsu, Himba and Oni. You have to be dressed in appropriate clothes and wellies to visit them, but don't worry - Chester Zoo have these on hand for you. Plodding to the enclosure in your lovely overalls gives you time to quiz the keeper about the aarvarks. If you have watched the Channel 4 programme 'The Secret Life of a Zoo', then you might already have some questions lined up. Kirsten was like a mother hen with her chicks, proudly showing off her charges.

What's the verdict?

I haven't met many exotic animals and it is quite awe-inspiring to be in their home. You don't know whether they will wake up and play or just doze away on your encounter, but I don't feel it matters.

Whilst talking to Kirsten, I felt like a Bond baddie with my unusual pet of choice being the aardvark. Stroking their coarse hairy bodies, touching their amazingly soft noses (honestly, you will not believe how soft an aardvark's nose is), tickling them under the chin, marvelling at their claws and all done whilst they sleep.

I am not sure what I expected from an aardvark encounter, but I didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I did. After the big cats, my new favourite animal might just be the earth pig (or aardvark to you and me).

Chester Zoo have quite a few animal encounters for more information visit their website .