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A Walk on the Wildside
Paradise Wildlife Park (Hertfordshire)
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Paradise Wildlife Park (Hertfordshire)
Advantages: Small, well kept wildlife park
Disadvantages: Not a big range of animals, pricey
During one of the sunny weekends last year my friend and I decided to visit Paradise Wildlife Park which is near Broxbourne in Hertfordshire. The Park is situated just off the A10, not far from Junction 25 of the M25. It is clearly signposted with brown tourist signs from here so easy to reach if coming by car. They also offer a courtesy mini bus service from Broxbourne Rail Station. We came by car and drove straight in, paid and parked, and then wandered the park. We got a map as we arrived. It cost £16 per adult, and it is £11 for Pensioners and children, plus they do a variety of family tickets and discounts.
The park seems to offer a kiddie play area as well as a woodland trail and railway, amongst other activities. We didn't really explore this aspect of the park as we had come to see the animals. I do think this park is geared up for families, so kids would have plenty to occupy them. There are a number of food/drink options, such as a Diner offering sit down meals - mainly the Hot Dog or Jacket Potato variety, plus a few snack or drink kiosks. There is a nice coffee shop by the Tigers too. There are some picnic areas also.
The Park is not large and the wildlife section seems a bit random as to its layout - for example the meerkats are next to the penguins. During our visit we saw a number of fellow visitors who had animal encounters, which can be purchased from the park. A half hour penguin or meerkat feed was about £99 (ouch!), but everyone seemed to have a lovely day.
On our map it indicated that there was soon to be a penguin talk so we decided to start there. The penguins are African penguins, so quite small and there were about ten of them swimming in their lovely clear pool and popping out for a walk as the mood took them. You can look at them at ground level, or climb up some steps to look down on their enclosure. The keeper gave a short but informative talk on them, and answered questions.
There are two meerkat enclosures, but we spent the most time at the one by the penguins, and you can see them quite well from the upper penguin viewing platform. Again there was someone having an encounter and feeding them, but no official talk. However as you are close to them we could hear what the keeper was saying to the lucky visitor. Apparently the meerkats only trusted the visitor as the keeper was with him, and they showed their trust by sitting in their food bowl whilst the visitor was holding it (he was sat on a rock) and by climbing on their keeper's shoulder and grooming his hair for potential bugs! As soon as anything flew overhead they ducked down and once fed, one of them climbed their mock anthill home to keep watch for incoming predators. There is a little kiddie sized tunnel under the enclosure, allowing kids to stand in the middle (under cover) and view the meerkats.
Also near here are the wallabies, these were mostly sunning themselves, and we did spot one with a joey in her pouch. The tapirs and zebras were busy eating and again can be viewed from an upper platform. I think this is a well thought out touch by the park, allowing you to get a good view of animals that either climb or tend not to linger too close to the fence. The wolves however, were quite good at hiding, those that were awake at least, we spotted one having a mid-afternoon snooze in the shade. The lions has worked out the best place to lay that allowed them to be concealed by the upper platform, but we could see them through the glass wall at ground level. He-lion was kipping, but the lioness got up and moved about briefly before returning to the important stuff of kipping some more. When we went passed later on the way to the alpacas, he-lion was more alert and I got a couple of good photos.
There is a rainforest house here, representing the Amazon and it is hot and humid here with lots of water dripping (be careful of cameras), and it was a bit stuffy and stinky, not everyone seemed to like it. Here there were Amazonian reptiles, frogs and similar. I think the sloth was here too. There is another small Toucan house - I wasn't so impressed with this - there was one toucan, some noisy birds of paradise, some tortoises in their shells (to escape the noisy birds I suspect), and some bats in a corner.
There are not a great deal of primates here, there were some gibbons at the bottom, near the penguins, they had two lovely large enclosures, as well as little private huts for sleeping in which we could see into. There was a slightly raised platform that you could walk along to see them swinging. There is also a mirrored door in the enclosure (presumably for keeper access) which fascinated them. This was another example of how well designed the enclosures were, with lots of different levels and things for the animals to climb/sleep on and keep them active and entertained.
The big cat area is also well designed with a high platform with various access points to view the cats who have climbed to various parts of their enclosures. The lions aren't in this section though, they are elsewhere. The snow leopard was another animal that had worked out the best place to sit to confuse visitors - right up against the window of the upper viewing platform. There is a big jungle type cage holding the jaguars - a spotty one and a black one. Here we bumped into someone who had done the Big Cat Keeper experience, and he raved about it, having picked up lots of anecdotes about the cats, such as how the black jaguar, the most dangerous resident, uses her dark coat to hide in the shadows to try and jump out at the keepers. A nearby crying child was of great interest to her also, presumably for a mid afternoon snack. All the big cats were behind thick mesh bars (two lots in the case of the jaguar), and there was a wooden fence. Some were behind glass. I found it quite easy to take photos of the animals as you were not too far away, plus I had a good zoom to cope with the less obliging residents. The enclosures seemed a good size for the animals - there were usually only 2-3 big cats per enclosure - although there was one cheetah that had a smaller enclosure. There was a notice explaining why: she was rescued from another zoo where she had a much smaller enclosure, moving her straight into a larger enclosure had scared and distressed her, so they are gradually expanding her space to keep her calm and comfortable. She still had lots of branches and trees to climb on and a little box with a window that visitors could look into, where she could have a quiet snooze. I had a peak at her through the window - because the sun was shining on it, I put my hands up either side of my face to block any reflection - only to find the cheetah staring straight back out the window at me, about a foot away! We also caught the big cat feed and talk.
As we were leaving the lemurs who had been having a post lunch nap and a sedate mooch about when we went past earlier were getting livelier. There seemed to be a kind of lemur domestic going on, which involved a lot of shrieking and angry swinging and jumping. There are also reptiles, red pandas, and reindeer in the park.
All in all we really enjoyed our afternoon, yes it is pricey, but the animals and the park were clean and well kept, the animals seemed content, and we felt the information plaques on each animal were generally informative. As small as it is, they have a good selection although traditional zoo favourites like elephants, hippos and giraffes aren't here, presumably as they would need such a large enclosure. If you are in the area, especially with the family, then I do recommend this for a day out. If, like us, you are visiting as a couple or a group of adults, then you will probably be able to do the Wildlife section in 3-4 hours easily, including catching a couple of talks.
Summary: A good family or group day out