Last year one of the first big purchases I made with money I earned myself was the yearly pass for Fota Wildlife Park here in Cork. So many of my friends have it and even though its about a half hour drive from the house I just knew it was something we would get a huge amount of use out of. And I was so right, I would estimate we have been about 20 times in the past year and honestly there has never been a time where I have suggested going to Fota and the girls have been anything less than ecstatic. And it’s been a joy to watch Lucy change over the last year going from a ‘baby’ that stayed in the buggy the vast majority of the way round to a little lady that literally walks or runs the whole route now and grows more and more fascinated by the animals every time we visit. And the park has changed loads since we started going, there have been new animals introduced and new babies born so it really is a new experience every time we go.
Another thing worth noting about the Fota pass which I think is a another real selling point is that you can use it to get into Dublin Zoo which we only did once in the last year but I was heavily pregnant or sporting a small child during that time so we didn’t get to use it as much I would imagine we will this year. The pass covers a good selection of group combinations, like it’ll cover two adults, 4 kids over 2 and kids under 3 are free, for me recently I could bring my sister, her husband and the four girls which was all covered by the pass and then the two younger ladies were free.So anyway, the Fota pass is really excellent for people who live relatively near by which I appreciate isn’t everyone who reads this blog ha! I get asked the whole time about things to do in Cork and without a doubt Fota is always the first thing I suggest simply because it is one of a few places that literally suits every single age group. And obviously if you are coming to Fota for one day the regular entry is perfect especially with younger kids BUUUUUT did you know that you can book an extra special tour where you get to go literally behind the scenes in Fota?!!?! I didn’t until recently when Fota got in touch to see if I would like to experience the park from a whole different perspective and, errr in the name of research (!) I absolutely JUMPED at the chance. They run private tours twice daily for groups of 6 or less (kids over 4 only, honestly judging by my two under 4 it would have been wasted on them and kids need to be able to take direction so it’s just safer that way!). When you do the private tour you are taken around with a guide in a golf buggy which the gang with me thought was just the best thing ever!I will run through the tour here, I also showed our experience on my Instagram so if you want a snippet of the day be sure to check out the highlight on my Instagram! First off this is a real treat of a tour, I think it would be ideal as say a communion or confirmation treat, maybe if you’re coming to Cork on a holiday and want to make it extra special or whatever, the VIP family tour (which is what we did) is €165 for the family. There are other tours and options so check out their website here.
I am sure all the tours are probably a little bit different and what we learned was completely led by the kids asking questions which was just lovely. We started with the giraffes so the first thing we did was got to go into see where they sleep and also to see the kitchen where food for all the animals in the park is stored and prepared. Then we shot off to the new viewing platform on the other side of the large area where the giraffes, zebras and ostriches are. Four giraffes arrived over as soon as we arrived (one called Aoife much to the delight of the two Aoife’s we had in the group!!) and we each got a turn feeding them nuts and branches. It was so cool to be that close to a giraffe it was just amazing we couldn’t stop smiling.One thing to note is that you will feel like a bit of a celeb going round the park in the buggy and when you feed the animals because they come up so close expect a crowd to gather round you. We didn’t pass much heed because we were so taken by the experience at hand but if you’re kids aren’t great in front of a crowd its worth noting but nothing that would ruin the experience either.
After the giraffes we went down to see the rhinos, we saw where they sleep and learned about the Koi fish in the indoor pools the rhinos use and how they are there to break down the grass and dirt that comes with the rhinos, very interesting. After seeing we went around the back of the rhino enclosure, past the willow plantations that provide food for the giraffes, to where the Rhinos were. We were incredibly lucky the Rhinos were in the mood for food so we got to touch them and I mean that was just amazing, amazing!!!!We then went round to the Exotic House and got to go around the back which I think was actually my favourite part of the whole experience. Here there are so many more animals and insects either been grown to feed other animals or new baby animals. It was just fascinating to learn the hierarchy of how animals survive and we got to see a baby clown fish which, despite being 3 months old was about the size of the tip of my nail on my baby finger. We saw baby sea horse and locusts and salamaders, it was so, so interesting.
Then we went out to feed the penguins, boy can those guys move through the water when they know the food is coming! Three herons also joined us and the kids got to throw loads of little fish out into them all, such fun seeing them jump up for their food.We also fed the monkeys, I can’t remember which ones they were, but they were very polite graciously taking peanuts off the kids. Outside one of the monkeys was just after having a baby a week ago so that was absolutely adorable to see, the baby was clinging on and so tiny.In between all the feeding of animals honestly we learned so much about the park, about how they hold the ‘stud card’ for the cheetahs so they control the cheetah population in zoos around the world, we learned about the different breeding programmes ones that are on view for the public to see and others, like the natter jack which our guide Willie (who was hands down legend and hilarious and brilliant!!!) had a special interest in, it was just fascinating the whole thing honestly you take everything at face value when you visit and wander around but so much goes on behind the scenes it was just amazing.Anyway I feel like I could write for weeks about our experience but then I don’t want to spoil it for people either but I think even if we did it again next week it would feel different because it depends so much on the animals and the course of your conversation which is a lovely way to have it.
A quick mention about facilities in the park, there is a lovely coffee shop at the very start of the park and a large set of toilets and changing rooms beside the small playground. About a third of the way round just past the rhinos there is another set of toilets and changing rooms and an outdoor dining area that has tables for use throughout the year but the food places are generally closed off season. There is also a little marquee tent there where kids can do some arts and crafts in the morning, there are set times I can’t remember them off the top of my head but I’m pretty sure it’s closed from 12-2 and reopens with face painting in the afternoon. About halfway round then there is a restaurant that serves sandwiches and fast food. Prices are really reasonable and the portions are HUGE! There is plenty of space to sit indoors or outdoors here. There is also a brand new playground there now and a load of toilets and changing rooms again. From there on there are no more toilets until you get back to the start of the park. Bottom line is Fota is fab, visit it if you ever get the chance or make a point of coming to see it, it’s so different to a zoo experience and it is a genuinely wonderful day out.
This is an ad, I was gifted my tour experience and paid to write about it BUT we bought our Fota pass last year ourselves so my overall sentiment about Fota has always been, and always will be, overwhelmingly positive regardless.