Wildlife Parks in Europe
When we start pining for an escape to Europe, it’s typically images of gothic cathedrals, narrow cobbled streets, and meals at rustic restaurants that first enter our minds. But few things can match the beauty of nature, and the zoos and wildlife parks of Europe bring the greatest fauna from all over the planet practically to our doorstep.
There’s been something of a revolution in animal care over the past decade or two, with many menageries functioning as charitable organisations that aid research and species conservation. Thanks to extensive research and investment, the space and stimulation afforded to the animals at modern facilities does much to replicate their behaviour in the wild, ensuring that they lead enriched lives.
Whether it is only for an afternoon, or better yet for a whole day, consider turning your trip to Europe into an all-encompassing adventure by visiting one of the many fantastic wildlife parks in France, Germany, or the Netherlands. Here are four animal destinations certain to fill you with wonder.
The Parc Zoologique of Paris is conveniently located in the 12th district of the city. Take a brisk 10-minute walk from Porte Dorée tube station to arrive at this magnificent haven for wild animals. Opening in 1934, it proved immediately popular with the locals, and its attraction has remained constant throughout the years. Today, it’s best known for the iconic 65-metre Big Rock that adorns its logo, as well as its stars, the elephant seal and the giant panda. Closed in 2008 to for extensive refurbishment, it reopened with a bang in 2014, now letting visitors discover animals by country or region in new and spectacular habitats. The year 2019 is particularly exciting as the zoo has welcomed two jaguar cubs, Lenca and Aloha, as well as a new species in the furry South American sea lion. Be sure to check the zoo’s website for feeding times – the fossa, a secretive carnivorous mammal from Madagascar which spends most of its life sleeping on trees, is a real highlight. Don’t miss out on the tropical hothouse, as large as a football pitch, where the feared green anaconda and the orange-beaked toucan reside.
The Loire Valley was once most famous for its Renaissance castles where many French rulers held court, but today, it’s the animal kingdom of Zoo Beauval that draws in visitors from across the world. Founded in 1980 by Françoise Delord, the park was originally dedicated to birds. Nine years later, it welcomed its first primates and Leopardo, a panther that Delord, according to the legend, carried on her lap. Since then, the zoo has grown; it now covers 30 hectares of land where koalas, gorillas and Sumatran tigers – including rare white tigers – roam. In 2019, Tasmanian devils, cheetahs and arctic wolves have been added to this real-life Noah’s Ark. With over 10,000 animals from 600 species, Beauval zoo has the happiness of its diverse population at its heart: monkeys feed on the park’s plants, which are cultivated pesticide-free, and everything is done to respect the wilderness of the animals, especially that of the elephants and the lions. To finish the day on a grandiose note, take your children to see the impressive flying bird of prey spectacle – a show that will leave them in awe.
Cologne is undeniably an exciting European city, whether you’re spending the day riding the roller-coasters at Phantasialand’s theme park, or you opt to go and meet the animals in its renowned zoo. Created in 1860, this major wildlife sanctuary hosts 10,000 animals and more than 850 species. One of Cologne Zoo’s missions is to protect endangered species – so you can visit the zoo knowing you are supporting an effort against the extinction of many of Earth’s magnificent creatures. And what a wonderful tour it will be: with its sea lion show, adorable farm – which kids are particularly fond of – mischievous meerkats, and stunning aquarium filled with magical seahorses, this zoo truly is a paradise. We highly recommend venturing into the intriguing rainforest house, land of the mysterious fruit bats and a variety of phenomenal colourful birds. And pack a picnic – in a sealed bag of course – for the Cologne Zoo. There are lots of pleasant places where you can enjoy a bite to eat in the open air.
A safari park offers you the exciting chance to see animals roaming freely through magnificent surroundings from the safety of your own car. Lions, elephants, giraffes, pink flamingos, crocodiles, baboons, and even hyenas are all waiting for you – in a friendly way – at Beekse Bergen Safari Park in the Netherlands, a huge menagerie boasting 150 different species. Located near the vibrant city of Tilburg, it takes just over an hour by car to get here from from Rotterdam Europoort. When you arrive, you can drive straight onto the safari tour – although you can also choose to take this splendid journey on a bus or by boat. The park is also an ideal destination for hikers, and with accommodation and a swimming pool on site, you may wish to consider a longer stay there too. It’s a trip guaranteed to leave you as content as the lioness pictured above.