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Take a walk on the wild site
Paradise Wildlife Park (Hertfordshire)
Member Name: Fritzthecat
Paradise Wildlife Park (Hertfordshire)
Advantages: Great zoo with lots of activities to keep the kids happy
Disadvantages: Expensive, lots of extra costs in the park, almost too many activities
Paradise Wildlife Park is a privately run zoo with huge play areas. It is located in Broxbourne, not too far from North London, and the park can easily be accessed from the A 10. Broxbourne also has a railway station and this is served by the park's own free shuttle bus. We didn't use this service so I can't tell you in which intervals the shuttle bus arrives at the station or if you have to call them from there to tell them that you wish to be picked up. If you are interested and want to find out more you better contact them directly.
We arrived by car and found that the way to the park was well signed out. The parking area is located at the back of the park, a rather unusual lay-out which means that there is a road leading right through the middle of it. The pay booth is located somewhere in the middle of the access road; you just drive up, tell them which ticket option you require and pay with either cash or card. I didn't pay any attention what they expect visitors who are not arriving by car to do - and if they'd have to queue up in between the cars - but guess that there is a separate booth somewhere away from the road that I just failed to see.
Our kids had decided not to have a "normal" birthday party this year and opted to take one friend each on a speical day out, and the Paradise Wildlife Park had been their choice for the occasion. At the ticket booth we chose a family ticket, which covered my husband and me and two children, and two separate children's tickets. The family ticket was £50 and the two single tickets for our little guests were £11 each, which added up to a heft £72.
To find a parking space was easy, the facilities are ample, the park wasn't very busy and we'd arrived fairly early.
From here on it was walking back to the entrance area, I really can't get over this lay-out !
The zoo area of the park is located in one half of this divided park while in the other half you will find mainly play areas, in and outdoors, the restaurant and a forest trail. Every time you want to change to the other area of the park you will have to cross the road. There are zebra crossings and cars are supposed to go slow but I still think that this is not ideal in a place where there are that many small children running around.
After the long journey, it takes us around an hour to reach there, we thought it would be best to take them to the play area first so that they could let of some steam. There is a really nice big playground with lots of wooden play equipment, a "Thomas" engine to climb on and have your photo taken in, a carousel (extra fee), a train ride (also extra fee), play area for children with special needs and a second play ground we discovered later on. After some playtime we took the girls on the small train which lead us through a forest in which all kind of "Dinosaurs" are living. These are pretty good models and some looked so realistic that our little daughter asked me a few times very cautiously if I was really, really sure that they weren't alive.
The ride lasts about 5 minutes and if I remember it right was £1 per person, kids and adults alike.
As the forest trail is also located in this area we went to have a look and found enclosures with woodland animals like deer or beaver to explore. The beavers were a bit shy and we didn't spot any but some of the deer came quite close and we were all able to have a good look. We also managed to get up and close with one of the Dinosaurs we'd seen earlier on the train ride and our little one was finally convinced that these weren't really alive.
At the end of the trail we found the second playground, this time not with wood equipment but more the metal style climbing frames I'm used to from my childhood. This play area is very large, the equipment might be older and a bit dated but is well looked after, and of course the girls wanted to try all. By now was close to noon, our daughters and their guests had signalled that they were getting hungry and we decided to keep the zoo area for after lunch and made our way to the picnic area. This is located at the rear end of the park, next to the parking area.It means that you do have to walk all the way back again but is handy as you do not have to carry your picnic a long way. The other practical side of the strange layout was that you don't need to leave the park to fetch something from your car, no need to queue up and get an ugly stamp on your hand that shows that you've paid already.
The picnic area is designed like a garden, very pretty, and on the day we visited we had no problem finding a table.
Directly next to the picnic area is a small paddling pool with some water features. Neither of us knew of this facility before so none of the kids had a swim suit or a towel and during lunch I got quite a few complaints for not being more attentive. It was a rather hot day and the water is only a few centimetres high so the girls could have used it to cool down a bit. I did feel sorry for them, and guilty for not checking teh website better, and had to promise not to forget the swim suits ever again if we should visit again.
After lunch it was finally time to go and see the animals. Before we reached them on the other side of the park we had to cross some kind of fun fair area. Here you can find a few more rides, mainly again against extra fees, some stands where you can hook a duck and similar games, buy popcorn or a hot dog, or dig for gold nuggets - and spend, spend, spend.
By this time we'd grown a bit tired of all the extra costs on top of the park admission and were glad that all girls were eager to see the animals now. They didn't pay all a lot of attention to the few rides or sweet vendors and wanted to get into the actual zoo.
This can be accessed from several points and we started in the small farm animals section. Here you can find rabbits, sheep, goats and the like, touch them and feed them. Paper bags with suitable animal food is sold in this area also but there are a few more animals around the zoo which you can feed with it so you might want to keep some. They don't sell it in any other section so if you use it all here you'll have to go back if you'd like to find another animal later on,
The animal enclosures are kept as close to the natural habitat of the animals as possible, which is not only good news for the animals but also looks great. The downside for the visitors is that some animals are hard to spot and you might not be able to see all the animals that life here. They have a lot of walkways on elevated positions to make sure that your chances are as good as they possibly can be but still there were a few we had no chance spotting. For a small, family-run business they do have a lot of animals from all around the world and we were really impressed. If a few in between are not in the mood for visitors, there are still enough others to see and you probably won't get disappointed.
The big cats are especially impressive and thanks to those walkways you can get really close to some. We were able to get within a metre of a leopard, which is the closest I've ever been to one. It would go too far to mention all the animals we've seen and we were really, really impressed by the variety and the way they are kept and presented.
There were definitely many more species than we thought there would be, their enclosures are spacious and offer enough hiding places for them if they want to stay out of the picture and the whole park, not just the zoo area, are kept impeccably clean.
The reptile house, always one of my favourites, is rather small and I'd have loved to see more of them but I've seen bigger parks that do not offer any at all.
When you arrive you will be given a leaflet with the feeding times of some of the animals so if you want to attend you'll need to schedule your visit around those times. This can be a bit daunting and I always find it stressful to add too many of these feeding times to our visits. Nice as it is, I just don't like having to check the time every few minutes and rushing from one end to the other to make it to the right enclosure at the right time. We usually opt for just one and otherwise discover the zoos we visit at our own pace. At Broxbourne the feeding of the penguins was scheduled just half an hour after we arrived in the zoo area, so that's where we headed. Penguins don't seem to be the big sensation and there weren't many other visitors apart from us to watch how they were fed. Good for us as we all, no matter which size, had no problems seeing the event and the kids loved it !
They do offer a tractor ride which will take you around the zoo which we happily took. We'd all got started to get a bit tired and sitting down sounded good.
Toilets and stands selling refreshments or ice-cream can be found all around the zoo.
The aviary, where you can see lots of birds of prey and other feathery friends, is located at the far end of the zoo. Here is also a theatre for shows, not a facility we used and I can't comment on the quality or even remember what those shows are about.
During our visit we managed to stroke a very friendly camel, make friends with some entertaining merkats, and spend ages watching the lions. The later had just been fed and where lying lazily in the sunshine, directly under the viewing platform. It was more like watching a game of "Whoever moves first has lost" and we did get very good idea of the impressing size of a lions' mouth and teeth while it is yawning .
Time just flew by and by the time we left the zoo it was tea time and thus feeding time of the children was on the plan. We'd only brought lunch as a picnic, so headed for the restaurant.
The restaurant is a large purpose built hall with a covered outside sitting area and cheap furniture. The counter where you order your food is at the back of the building and as soon as you enter you can tell from the smell that grease is the word - and it that it will be not such a great dining experience.
Nevertheless, we don't judge the book by the cover or the eating facility just by its smell, and went to check the menu above the counter. Not very surprised we found burgers, nuggets, hot dogs and the like, chips as side orders, no veggies or salad anywhere. The kids all wanted chicken nuggets, we opted for hot dogs, and the orders came up fast. They were fairly busy at lunch time when we had our picnic, but now there weren't many guests left and we waited only a few minutes.
We ate outside and the food was, as suspected, not great. I didn't try the nuggets but my chips were very oily and the sausage wasn't very good. With lots of mustard and ketchup it all went down. Only one of our little guests was clearly not impressed at all and refused to eat her food (can't blame her) . I wished I'd prepared a second picnic for tea.
For desert it was ice-cream for the children and some more time on the play ground, and when we realised that there is a café in the indoor play area we decided to let them have a go there instead.
This a good sized indoor play ground with a large playing frame and some areas like ball pools for smaller children. One of our guests wasn't wearing socks, which is required in all indoor play areas, and a member of staff quickly delivered her back to our table. The problem was solved fast, they sell socks for such emergencies, rather nice ones even and not expensive. Within 2 minutes she was able to join the others again and we enjoyed a peaceful cup of coffee.
We hadn't prepared any party bags for our little guests and I wanted to buy them something from the park as a little souvenir. I left the husband in the indoor play area with the kids to sneak over to the very large gift shop on the other side of the road.
They have a huge variety of gifts, covering probably all price ranges and tastes, and you can find everything from small erasers, bouncy balls, postcards and pencils, over caps, mugs, bags, to T-Shirts, umbrellas and so on. Everything here is animal themed and of course many items carry their logo. It wasn't hard to find some nice stuff for the two girls to take home, and a little souvenir for our daughters too. It would be very easy to spend a small fortune in here and I was glad that I went alone without the children.
The stuff happily obliged to divide all the little presents in separate bags, instead of one big plastic carrier, so each girl was handed one little goodie bag when we reached the car. This of course also kept them fairly busy until we were about half way home and the first one of the girls fell asleep.
We all had a great day and enjoyed the visit to the park and I'd happily come back for another visit but would not eat in their restaurant again.
It is a bit annoying that there are so many attractions in this park that will cost extra money on top of the rather expensive admission fee. You'll need to be a bit tough and say "no" quite often, or you'll end up spending a small fortune.
The zoo is great and was much better than we'd hoped it would be but the many play areas distract a bit and we had one guest moaning constantly that she'd "rather be in the playground". Sigh !
If I'd visit without children just to see the zoo I'd probably feel pretty cheated to have to pay for more than half a park that is really only suitable for kids.
For all those who want or need to know, they also offer arranged children's birthday parties and "Keeper for a day" experiences. Many of the keeper experiences require a minimum age and come with a big price tag. You can find more information on the website.
White Stubbs Lane
Broxbourne, EN10 7QA
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Thanks for reading !
Summary: A fantastic day out
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