fota wildlife park

Family HolidaysHolidays in Ireland

VIP Family Experience at Fota Wildlife Park


We enjoyed the VIP family experience at Fota Wildlife Park recently. Find out why it is one of Ireland’s best family experiences below.

Despite visiting Fota on numerous occasions,  we never knew about the family VIP experience at Fota Wildlife Park until recently. My son Luke (age 10) is an animal lover, and I don’t just mean he likes animals like most kids. The only books he reads are books about animals, and much to my chagrin he watches reruns of Deadly 60 over and over again! This VIP family experience at Fota Wildlife Park seemed like the perfect day out for all the family, especially Luke.

We were staying in Fota Island Resort to see their annual Santa Experience, you can read all about that here. We decided to combine the two and visit Fota Wildlife Park before our return journey home. We booked the 10am slot and were told it would be 2 -3 hours in length. While I am normally very punctual we arrived about 15 minutes late, probably due to the tasty breakfast at Fota Island Resort.


I didn’t realise that being late can actually cause a problem, but animal feeding times are quite specific so if you book the tour, make sure you arrive on time.We were greeted by the enthusiastic head warden, Willie Duffy, who has been at Fota Wildlife Park for over 30 years. He showed us around the park, with lots of  ‘behind the scenes’ access,  all from the confines of a comfortable golf buggy.

VIP Family Experience at Fota Wildlife Park

Willie started by giving us some interesting insight into how Fota Wildlife Park is run and their conservation efforts. Set on 100 acres of land, Fota Wildlife Park is home to 140 different species. Fota is a non-profit organisation and is also a registered charity that cares for several species that are in danger of extinction.


The only way Fota Wildlife Park survives is by the gate receipts, they receive no government funding, which I found extraordinary.

Fota Wildlife Park is also renowned for its successful Cheetah breeding program. It has bred over 200 cheethas since 1985. We heard interesting stories about the animals and learned what it is like to be a warden at a wildlife park. We all found it very interesting but my son in particular was transfixed, a degree in zoology might be on the cards!


Our first stop was to feed the giraffes. Fota Wildlife Park have 13 giraffes so we were all given the chance to feed them, it was a wonderful experience. I was presently surprised at the quality of food the animals received. When we visited the kitchen I could easily have tucked into any of the animals salads, and the steaks looked like something you would see in a high quality butchers.

Fota Wildlife Park - animals food

We then visited the Asian Sanctuary where we got up close to the lions and their cubs as well as the Sumatran tigers. When Willie fed the animals, they came up close to the windows and it enabled us to get great photos.

up close to the animals during the VIP Family Experience at Fota Wildlife Park

Our next stop was the white faced Saki Monkeys from South America, a highlight for the kids as they were able to put the peanuts directly into their mouths. We had a similar experience with the penguins as we had fed them with small slivers of fish.


I naively decided it might be a good idea to feed the pelicans at the same time, and got swarmed! Despite some droppings from over eager seagulls, it was great fun and I got some super photos.

We were not so lucky with the rhinos, although we got up close to them, they were not feeling hungry at the time. A sure sign that this tour is not always predictable, but certainly authentic.


Driving around the park you will see many animals roaming freely, including lemurs, kangaroos and mara. You know you are in a wildlife park, and not a zoo. You can also expect to see bison, ostrich, zebras, red pandas, Brazilian tapirs, wallabies and a host of other animals. This photo was taken from a previous visit, but you can see how close I was able to get to the kangaroos.

fota wildlife park
We love visiting Fota Wildlife Park, there is no where else that you can see so many animals roaming free. But if like us you have visited before, I would recommend trying the VIP Family Experience at Fota Wildlife Park next time. You will get up close with the animals, and learn all about the running of Fota wildlife park with behind the scenes access – I believe it is worth every penny of the ticket price.


Cost is €165 for 2 adults and up to 4 children which includes admission to the park and a 2 – 3 hour private guided tour, tea and coffee, and a certificate signed by the warden to say you took part. You should be able to feed penguins, lemurs or giraffes but these are subject to change.


Click here for more details 

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The Travel Expert
Holidays in Ireland

My Review of Fota Island Resort


I’m a firm believer that the ultimate family staycation is one that combines a touch of luxury, with activities for children. Fota Island Resort has both in abundance.

When I was invited to write a review of Fota Island Resort – a five-star hotel with Fota Wildlife park nearby, I jumped at the chance. We have enjoyed a Dublin Zoo family pass for many years; we are animal lovers who also happen to be fond of nice hotels, this seemed like the perfect family staycation.

After a short two and a half hour drive from Dublin we arrived at ‘the island’. I had never really paid much attention to the name before but when we drove into the lavish grounds and arrived at Fota Island Resort, the penny suddenly dropped,  we were in fact on an island! The gardens are superb (more on that later) and first impressions were really good. I couldn’t help but notice the pretty bronzed sculptures throughout the gardens and my daughter Alex was quick to notice them too 😍

We stayed at one of the new Fuchsia lodges, which were outstanding. Just check out my video below and you will see what I mean! The three bedroom lodge (house being more accurate) has a ‘good room’, a massive living area with modern kitchen, and a perfect back garden for the kids to roam around.

Upstairs all three bedrooms are ensuite and two have walk in wardrobes! There is also a balcony off the master bedroom with views across the grounds. Rabbits were constantly bouncing around the garden so when the kids weren’t outside chasing them, the balcony was a great viewing point!

I was conscious that there are only six of these available for rent so I made a point of looking at the Courtyard Lodges too. I was really impressed with these also and they also have the advantage of are also beside a great outdoor playground. I was thinking how handy it would be to relax in your lodge while the kids played happily beside you.

fota island resort

The Fota Island Resort hotel  has a warm cosy feel, with dark bog oak furniture in large lounge areas. Personally I preferred the bright modern décor of the lodges, but I couldn’t help but think that it would be fantastic at winter time, especially with the log fire blazing ❤.

I also investigated the hotel rooms and found them bright and spacious with modern decor. Fota Island Resort offers great facilities for children including a kids club and an indoor swimming pool. My kids loved the pool, however we didn’t have time to try the kids club on this occasion.

During school holidays the Fota Camp operates daily for children aged 4-12 and there is also an adrenaline adventure centre for children aged 8 and over. Children will love the obstacle course and can try kayaking, learn about bush craft and lots more. Budding golfers will love their golf camp – suffice to say there are camps to cater for all children.

We enjoyed tasty meals in the bar and Fota Restaurant, although perhaps not five star standard, but they offered an excellent kids menu. I noticed many groups of girls enjoying afternoon tea so I asked how they were getting on. They had booked a spa package which came with this incredible array of food. It seems Fota Island Resort is not just ideal for families!

fota island resort

I mentioned the lavish grounds earlier and thankfully on our last morning I look the opportunity to walk around them. There are numerous walking trails from 2.5km to 7km, each one was better than the next. You can walk through woods, along the golf course (did I mention there is a championship golf course here?) and along the waters edge.

I spotted wildlife at every turn, red squirrels, rabbits and exotic birds; along with, I was told, the finest collections of rare trees and shrubs to be found in Ireland. Children will love the new Fota fairy trail, that has over 20 magical Fairy Doors hidden throughout the woods. 

You can also choose to walk the 1.7km to the wildlife park, but with two young kids in tow, we decided to drive. After a few short minutes we were at Fota Wildlife Park.

fota island resort

We were only in the park a few minutes when my son spotted a peacock roaming around. This set the tone for the entire day. Everywhere we looked there were animals roaming free, it was so refreshing to see. My son was re christened ‘the spotter’ because he constantly spotted animals hiding in nearby hedges.

There were wallabies hopping through the parkland and lemurs scampering up trees. We planned our visit around the Cheetah’s feeding time and seeing them run at an incredible speed was quite special. My son, Luke (9) was mesmerised. 

After the cheetah ‘show’ we strolled pass the numerous giraffe and bison and arrived at the Asian sanctuary ,where lions and tigers were happy to meet us.

The 100 acre park is very easy to navigate and it wasn’t long before we were at the lakeshore. This was our highlight. We got up close and personal with kangaroos and lemurs as well as the hundreds of friendly birds, ducks and geese. They even have a food dispenser (50cent). The kids loved feeding the birds and geese, the odd peck added to the excitement.

The kangaroos are so used to visitors you can easily stand right beside them and get some amazing photographs. After a three hour visit we decided to hop on the train back to the entrance. It only costs a €1 so if you have tired children, this is a Godsend. We all loved the wildlife park, in fact I have already been asked when we are going back.

Fota Island Resort also has the luxury of being only minutes from the pretty Cork town of Cobh. Famous for being the Titanic’s last port of call in 1912, you can’t help but fall in love with this historic town.

Take a the Titanic experience tour or have lunch in the Titanic bar. There is also a heritage centre and museum. If you fancy a boat trip, take a trip to Spike Island and explore the fortress that held 2300 prisoners. The town itself is pretty with lots of shops, bars and restaurants and the colourful streets are an instagram favourite.

I would highly recommend Fota Island Resort for a family break away. The proximity to Cobh and the Fota Wildlife park combined with a luxurious family friendly hotel and excellent lodges, make for a truly memorable holiday.


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The Travel Expert

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