Fota Wildlife Park is one of Ireland’s top attractions and one of its biggest hidden gems at the same time, and is an absolute must see attraction for any animal lover on a trip to Ireland.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a huge animal lover. I love zoos and wildlife parks and try to visit one whenever I can, so I couldn’t resist a visit to one of Ireland’s top animal attractions while I was in nearby Cork!
How to get there:
Fota Wildlife Park is a short, easy distance from central Cork and is very easy to get to. There is a direct train running regularly from Cork train station that drops you directly outside the wildlife park and takes around 25 minutes. Alternatively you can drive almost the exact same route as the train track and should take you around 15 or 20 minutes. For more details visit the Fota website here.
Fota Wildlife Park is a unique animal attraction that dispels any illusion of an average zoo the second you arrive. It has been specifically designed as a free range attraction with large, open spaces that allow animals to roam in a free range environment, and the animals themselves have been chosen because they can adapt easily to the Irish climate and would thrive in this environment whilst mixing with other species.
As you walk round you’ll notice numerous birds, peacocks and even capybaras just wandering aimlessly on the path in front of you looking for something to nibble on, and on that basis alone Forta wildlife park is worth a visit just to have a nice, easy afternoon stroll. The park itself is not huge and can easily be done at a slow, ambling pace in an afternoon.
But most people come here not just for the walk, that is just a nice bonus. Most are here for the animals themselves! Now Forta is not a major zoo and it does not pretend to be. It has neither the space nor the inclination to house thousands of different species. Instead it carefully chooses the species it has to maintain a natural balance.
Easily one of the more popular attractions, the giraffes were roaming in a vast expanse of a field alongside the zebras, with only a small, unobtrusive and cleverly designed barrier between the path and the enclosure.
These enclosures are genuinely unique within the UK, and are designed to promote biodiversity and natural animal behaviour, and I can’t wait to come back again and see how the new Tiger Forest enclosure develops in the future.
I was assured by staff there were places for every animal to go and shelter if they so chose, and it was obvious where they were in the smaller enclosures but some I had to actively look for because the enclosures were so big. They were – as promised – there though, and I loved the fact that the animals themselves chose to show themselves or not.
Obviously the barriers for the more potentially dangerous animals like the Cheetah’s are more visible and substantial, but the enclosures themselves are still quite substantial in size, and have a lot of enrichment programmes in place such as making the Cheetah’s actually work for and ‘hunt’ for their food (artificially of course but they don’t know that)!
What I like about Forta wildlife park, apart from the obvious effort to maintain high ethical standards when it comes to animal care, is the obvious commitment to responsible wildlife tourism too. This is something I always look for and insist on when visiting any animal facility, and I was in no way disappointed.
Like most great zoos and wildlife parks, Fota Wildlife Park participates in the international breeding programme and other conservation efforts to maintain and conserve diverse and endangered species across the world, and run a lot of educational programmes to raise awareness of this in the general public.
This is what your money helps fund, so by visiting Fota Wildlife Park you are also ensuring your tourism money has a positive impact in the world.
Opening times and prices:
Fota Wildlife Park is open most days except Christmas from 1000 to 16.30. It costs €16.90 for adults and €11.50 for under 16s. Concessions cost €12.50. For up to date information please visit the Fota website here.
Fota is right up there amongst one of my favourite wildlife parks in the world, and I will be making return visits every single time I come back to Cork. I know it is billed as a family attraction and it does excell at that, but there is no reason why independent travellers can’t come here and enjoy the wildlife too!
If you are in Cork at any point, make sure you set aside at least half a day for this amazing wildlife attraction, you will not regret it!
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