Six year old POD loves animals so she was thrilled to hear we were off to Paradise Wildlife Park over the school holiday. She was especially excited to discover the award-winning park has launched Penguin Falls as she’s been learning about penguins at school recently. As it happens the state-of-the-art enclosure at Paradise Wildlife Park is new, created for critically endangered African penguins.
It was our first time at Paradise Wildlife Park which now has a charitable status enabling it to focus its operations on education and animal conservation. Formed way back in 1982, the park is already known for its animal breeding and conservation work with a whopping £5 million contributions made to conservation projects and wildlife causes. It’s part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme and has received awards for the EAZA Tiger Conservation Initiative and Lemur and Madagascan EAZA appeal.
Although penguins were top of POD’s list, Paradise Wildlife Park has some 400 exotic wild animals to see. I have a bit of a thing for capturing big cats so I was looking forward to seeing the big five. After larking around on a gorilla, a polar bear and a zebra, as well as admiring a lion created with clock pieces, our first stop had to be the Animal Park. Of course POD wanted to see the penguins straightaway but we had lots of other animals to catch en route. And we had two animal food bags.
POD always enjoys seeing ring-tailed lemurs so they were a great first spot before we headed to the farmyard. POD was itching to feed some animals so we found a couple of sheep who were happy to oblige. There were quite a few animals at the farmyard like goats and pigs along with smaller animals like rabbits, gerbils, guinea pigs, rabbits, hedgehogs, rats, ferrets and chickens.
POD took a deep intake a breath when she saw a white tiger (as did I!) although a nearby camel was vying for our attention. POD heard a lot about camels when we were in Lanzarote a few weeks ago so she was delighted to see one up close. He (or she!) was happy to pose for us too although that might have been POD smelt of food! A little further on she was able to get it out again for the alpacas and llamas who were very friendly. We also got to see a zebra up close too, POD commenting they really are just stripey horses. Rather excitingly, we spotted the white tiger on the move so we rushed back over to the enclosure and up onto a viewing platform. From there we got a perfect view of the tiger sharpening its claws before relaxing in the sunshine. The white tiger turned out to be one of POD’s favourite animals from our trip to Paradise Wildlife Park.
Having grabbed a quick snack at one of the food outlets, we found ourselves on the hunt for a cheetah. Having already seen one pass by, we headed inside and out trying to track it down and get a good view. Even when they’re walking, cheetahs are so nimble and they change direction ridiculously quickly too. We decided to stay by the glass viewing area outside in the hope it came near us. Much to our surprise it did and while it didn’t slow down, I managed to capture it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen POD so excited, she told everyone nearby to come over and have a look! The cheetah come by again although missed photographing it that time as POD put her hands and forehead on the window! What an absolute thrill though.
Tiger Treetops was our next stop while still en route to Penguin Falls. We discovered a sleeping tiger followed by the most beautiful jaguar I think I have ever seen. We spent quite a while watching it as it moved around its enclosure. They’re such graceful creatures, this one had the shiniest coat – and we got a glimpse of the sharpest looking teeth! We headed over to watch the otters playing after that, saw a red panda way up high in a tree before heading over to see the ocelot and snow leopards. As soon as POD spotted Penguin Falls, she was off!
The penguin enclosure is new and launched at the beginning of this month. We especially loved what POD referred to as the “penguin houses” and saw a few venture in or out. We’d hoped to catch the penguin feeding (there are lots of talks and feeds on at Paradise Wildlife Park throughout the day) but we’d been so long in Tiger Treetops we missed it. Penguin Falls seems like a great area for the critically endangered penguins though. We also discovered emus and wallabies nearby before devouring a lolly and heading to the meerkats. They are always such good fun and there’s a little tunnel for kids at the enclosure so they get to see them up close.
The Rainforest area is brilliant. We got to see all kinds of animals like gibbons, marmosets and tamarins. POD liked seeing the Silvery Marmoset, which stopped to have a good stare at us, the squirrel monkeys and the ruff. We were aiming to catch one of the Jungle Theatre shows after that but got distracted by the Reptile Temple. In there we found an alligator, a gecko and a chameleon along with creepy crawlies and an impressive collection of snakes. The pythons were especially large although nothing compared to the anaconda which even popped its head out of the water for us. It made POD jump when she first saw it but she was soon telling everyone how amazing it was and how they had to see it!
Having worked up quite an appetite, we each hoovered a hot dog before heading to Fantasy Land which is one of the play parks. There are various adventure play areas and rides dotted around Paradise Wildlife Park (including an undercover area and the Paradise Lagoon paddling pool). Fantasy Land is much quieter than many of the others. We found a pretty gypsy caravan that was a hundred years old, along with a fire engine, swings and a little yellow house. There are tractor and train rides available too although we opted to explore the park by foot. Next stop for us was Birds of Paradise which is where the bird show arena is. Although the cages of a few birds are covered with netting (to protect them following DEFRA’s guidance), there are lots still to see. From macaws and cockatoos to lorikeets and toucans. There are several owls and they were certainly our favourite in this area of the park – especially the amazing Great Grey Owl. POD also loved seeing the giant tortoise and seeing a smaller one on the move (she’d not seen a tortoise walk before!).
On a quest to see some more animals, we headed to the Woodland Walk which is certainly the most peaceful part of Paradise Wildlife Park. We saw the woodland train pass by as we explored finding owls, deer and dinosaurs along the way. There are red foxes here too although we didn’t spot any of these. We did however see reindeer and a couple of dinosaurs – a T-Rex and a Stegosaurus. We also looked out for mini beasts, checked the wildlife hotel for bugs and went on the hunt for butterflies across the pond.
Although we’d seen signs, Dumbleby Forest was an unexpected find and POD took great delight in exploring this magical-looking area before we went wolf hunting. We thought we were out of luck when we reached the wolves enclosure but in actual fact we saw two, one of which was sitting up taking in the sunshine.
Having taken quite some time to get round the Woodland Walk (we loved it that much!) we headed to the Safari Sam’s diner which is near the entrance. There we found a chap making animals from balloons for £1. POD was itching to have one of these. Although he named about 20 animals she could have, she decided she wanted him to make a unicorn. Luckily he could so everyone was happy. That and jumping on a ride with Hello Kitty topped off an excellent first visit to Paradise Wildlife Park. We realised on the way home we’d completely missed seeing the lions, disappointingly one of the animals we’d both really wanted to see. They’re located next to the cheetah enclosure though so I think with all the excitement there, we just walked in the wrong direction. It’s a good reason to pay a return visit though isn’t it plus we want to catch some of the animals being fed next time too.
Disclaimer: We received two tickets to Paradise Wildlife Park in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are as always our own.