All-weather fun at Paradise
- Credit: Archant
It was on a drizzly day that we found ourselves taking a trip to Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne. I wasn’t sure how we would fare trying to look around a zoo in wet weather, but since we seem to be having a rainy autumn I thought it would be a good test of how much Paradise could offer the out of season explorer.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much there was to do undercover and although a sunny day would show off Paradise Wildlife Park at its very best, our day was far from being a wash out.
Paradise Wildlife Park was bought by the Sampson family in 1984 when it was no more than a scrap yard containing a few animals. Now it is a large and diverse zoo, specifically targeted at young families. It houses about 400 animals and boasts numerous play areas, mini golf, a farm, soft play, a mini railway, dinosaur woodland walk, a speedway museum and all important decent baby changing facilities and cafés. There was so much to see and do that we couldn’t possibly cover it all in our trip, especially at toddler pace.
It is the only zoo in Britain to have all five big cats; lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards and jaguars, and the way their area is designed gives you the best opportunity to see them. A ‘tree top’ elevated walkway runs across the edge of each of the enclosures which also have platforms near eye level for the cats to lie, play and preen themselves. Situated along the walkway is the undercover Tiger Tree Tops Café where you can sit and eat your sandwiches while watching the tigers through a large window. We were lucky to have two tigers lying on their platform, level with us, while we had lunch, a bit like a safari experience but with a nice bit of safety glass between us. Theo particularly enjoyed ‘meowing’ at the snow leopards that appeared right in front of us in the viewing pavilion overlooking their enclosure. I think our neighbourhood cats might be a little disappointing to him after this.
The ability to have what felt like a close encounter with the animals was echoed throughout the whole park and it definitely heightened the sense of wonderment at looking at these rare species. At this point I have to mention the red pandas and their cub, sitting in a tree above our heads happily munching their lunch. You will get requests to take one home from your children. I warn you!
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There is an educational emphasis throughout the zoo, where regular shows and keeper talks take place. During the school holidays there is a keeper talk every 15 minutes and shows on the half hour. Out of season there were four or five shows throughout the day and we caught ‘From Dawn ‘til Dusk’, with displays from a medley of animals who conduct their living during night-time hours, including an albino skunk. You can even see what the animals are fed on a daily basis in The Arc, a small educational building in the centre of the zoo, where the keepers lay out the animal food for the day, dead rats and all. It’s a nice touch, although not for the squeamish.
If your children want to feed some animals themselves, there is a mini farm in the zoo area and bags of food can be bought for the ponies, rabbits and various other inhabitants.
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The soft play Jumble Jungle is large and popular. The café is in the same room so parents can enjoy a coffee while little ones go crazy. By next summer there will be an additional undercover play area and, if the weather is good, there is a huge outdoor play zone next to the woods, as well as a splash pool for the summer. The outdoor play area in particular looked brilliant.There are also activities such as Krazy Sands (sand modelling) and other types of entertainment. Some are free and others cost two or three pounds.
On December 1 the Park is having a Walking with Dinosaurs day where you can bring along your 3G phone or tablet and use it to create 3D dinosaurs on your screens. All you need to do is download the free Augmented Reality app beforehand.
I was thoroughly impressed with Paradise Wildlife Park and their vision for the future. There is a lot to do there for young families and the staff were kind and enthusiastic. Ticket prices vary according to the season and annual membership is available. For more information visit www. pwpark.com