You know those summer days where the fates all align and allow you to actually go and do something nice together as a family? We had one of those last Friday, so decided we would head to Fota Wildlife Park and make the most of the weather. At two, E is animal mad – he knows all the noises, he knows the names and was very excited about the concept of going to see all the animals. In particular, the cows. Ahem. Once we had him corrected to realise that it would be more lions and monkeys, rather than farm animals, we were set to go!
We live in Cork City, and don’t drive, so public transport access was a must for us. Thankfully, this is an asset of Fota Wildlife Park, as it’s served directly by a train which goes on the hour every hour from Kent Station. Armed with our coffees from AMT Coffee, we were able to bring the buggy on board and leave it locked by one of the non-opening doors while we sat nearby. Eliott was very excited to be on a train – despite it not being his first train journey, it’s the first one he remembers, so it was great seeing his face lighting up as we got moving. The tunnel the train went through was funny – his eyes went so wide!
The journey lasts just less than 15 minutes so even the most discerning of commuters won’t find it too bad. An adult return ticket was €6.90, and because E is under five he was free. The train lets off on the Fota side, so disembarking and heading into the park is easy. The one downside we did find was trying to get the buggy back across to the other side when we were finished. A sign said that wheelchair users should board and head to Cobh, wait until it turned and come back, but we were unsure about the logistics of that. As a result, the long-suffering himself carried the buggy (child included) up the steps, over the bridge and down again – not ideal, but not the end of the world. Just something to keep in mind if you choose (like us) to take the train route with a buggy in tow.
Yes, yes, we came to see the animals, but Fota has lots more to do. It’s filled with playgrounds, for one thing, which is exactly what our little man wanted to do. The playground you hit upon first entering the train station entrance (there are two separate entrances, the other one from the car park leads into another side of the park) is intended for 4-12-year-olds, but that wasn’t going to stop our feisty little man. He was thrilled to be able to climb up, walk across the shaky bridge (I had ALL the fear for that one), play in the playhouse and head down the slide. It’s a really handy playground as it’s next to the main food court, so great when the family is grabbing lunch to entertain kids! There are other play-places around the park, including a large giraffe slide and a climbing frame, but this was definitely our favourite at his size.
And of course, the stars of the show. I’d seen advertisements that Cork has a new king over the last few days – yes, Fota Wildlife Park has recently obtained a new Lion! We were excited to see him, but he seemed to sleep through our whole visit! We did, however, get to spot some tigers from a distance, which Eliott greeted with a loud “Raaaaaaar!”.
At 4pm we wandered past the Cheetah enclosure to watch them being fed and running after their prey – you could definitely see which ones had copped onto the game and waited back to be fed without making the effort! Giraffes and monkeys also made the list of highlights for the tiny man, whereas we found great joy from watching a seal sunbathe and feeding the ducks, of all things. That is until a duck over-excitedly eating from E’s hand nipped him on the finger – he scolded the duck and lamented his “injury” for the next few minutes until a distraction by monkeys meant all was forgotten.
Overall, Fota Wildlife Park has a fantastic range of animals so regardless of what critter you or your little person is mad into at the moment, you should find something you like!
I was slightly surprised to see the formerly wild mara’s, tapirs and capybaras (as in, roaming around the general area) were now in their own fenced off area, as they’d been out in the open last time we visited, but now that there is a South American enclosure area on the way to the Tiger Jungle, they’re happily roaming away from the public in an area that they can easily access a temperature regulated pen if it gets too cold!
Let’s not forget the two animals we wound up stowing away home with us – from the Gift Shop of course, no news-worthy penguin breakouts here! Welcome to the family Raff and Tat, the giraffe and the cheetah… welcome to the madhouse.
It wasn’t our first visit to Fota Wildlife Park, so I did have some idea of what the lunch options would be like. As a result, I knew to pack lots of snacks for on the go, and a healthier diet-friendly lunch option (I got mine from Loving Salads in Cork City).
While Fota Wildlife Park does have two big restaurants, the healthier choices are a lot lesser than the tempting fast food options. For little man, we got the lunch pack – a ham sandwich, an orange, a capri sun (this was taken by his Daddy and replaced with a kiddie bottle of water) and an Animal bar – he seemed very happy with it!
It has improved since our last visit – and I did spot a pizza oven stand during our wander around the park. There are plenty of seating areas inside and out if you buy in the restaurant, and a picnic area out on the grass by the playground if you choose to bring your own options!
We walked around the park with our buggy, all of the ground was even. We had Eliott out of the buggy for most of the walk around, it definitely got him tired out, he was thrilled wandering around with his backpack on thinking he was independent – with us knowing he wasn’t able to bolt into the many open water areas which he was prone to trying! Make sure to keep that in mind if you do have a runner.
Overall, Fota Wildlife Park is a fantastic family day out, especially with a curious toddler who is animal mad. I’d definitely recommend it for a nice Summer day, or even just for the long wanders on a colder day!
Have you been to Fota Wildlife Park with your family? Let me know if you have any tips/tricks, and what you found to be your favourite parts in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!
We’ve since visited Fota Wildlife Park a number of times and have written more up to date posts about it here.