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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.