There are some wonderful wildlife parks in France.
From zoos in chateaux set in fabulous surroundings to zoos in cities or for something a bit different how about watching the animals just metres away from the balcony of your hotel…
Here is our pick of the best wildlife parks and zoos in France:
Zoo Parc de Beauval, between Tours and Vierzon, Loire
We predict that with the arrival of pandas this zoo will join the list of most visited sites in 2012. The pandas named Yuanzai and Huanhuan arrived in France from the city of Chengdu in January 2012 and will be staying for a period of ten years. They are the first pandas to be sent to France since the death of Yen Yen in 2000 and there are only 16 other zoos outside of China which have giant pandas on show.
There are over 4500 animals at Beauval Zoo – the largest wildlife collection in France, the zoo has been classed by Forbes Traveler as one of the 15 most beautiful zoos in the world. There are big cats including lion, Bengal tigers, snow leopards, jaguar and pumas; a gorilla complex and many other primates; giraffe, white rhinoceros, elephants and many other species and finally a large aquarium with over 1500 different types of fish from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
The zoo also offers a number of programmes such as “trainer for a day” – you’ll need to organise this in advance but for a day out for the family with a difference this is an exciting opportunity to get up close to the animals. The cost is around €160 each and 5 people need to take part, the day includes feeding animals such as giraffes and meerkats as well as the birds and penguins, preparing food for racoons and baboons and distributing their meals, possibly feeding the reptiles (season dependent) and various other activities.
The zoo’s website gives more information on the programmes and opening times etc.
Cerva Safari Park, Lisieux, Normandy
Just three hours from Calais or an hour from Caen ferry port, the zoo has over 800 animals which live in 120 acres of natural surroundings. There’s a safari train and you’ll see lions, tigers, giraffes, bears, monkeys, kangaroos, zebras and panthers and many other species. Although it’s not the biggest zoo in France, we’re featuring it because it offers something a bit different. Attached to the zoo is the Four Seasons Park village which overlooks a small valley and lake where Indian Rhinoceros, Antelopes, and Siamong Gibbons live only a few metres away. Wallaby and Deer roam freely around the lodges and the lake is home to many exotic birds such as Pelicans, Cranes and Ibis. If you stay at the lodges here you can also book some time with the animals, working alongside the keepers to prepare the meals and feed the animals – at a cost of around €70 per family or €5 each to feed the wolves at night – always accompanied English speaking guides.
Réserve Africaine de Sigean, near Narbonne in the Languedoc.
3,800 animals in a huge area of natural Mediterranean environment, one of Europe’s oldest safari parks and the biggest tourist attractions in the area.
Réserve Africaine de Sigean is a huge semi-natural wildlife park located in the South of France, between Narbonne and Perpignan, in the town of Sigean on the Mediterranean coast. There are more than 3,800 animals (around 2000 birds, 900 mammals and 900 reptiles) on nearly 300 hectares. This is one of the oldest nature parks in Europe and is a grand tourist attraction.
The zoo manages a successful conservation programme and since opening more than 10,000 births have been registered there, some of which are rare including the pink-backed pelican, Grevy’s zebra and Hartmann’s mountain zebra, cheetah, African elephant, wild dog and chimpanzee.
Visiting the park includes a drive through area or you can hire a minibus and guide for up to 15 people starting at a cost of around €100.
For more information the Zoo’s website has an English language section.
Amnéville Zoo, Moselle
Described as a new generation zoo, with an educational orientation and aimed at protecting species. It welcomes more than half a million visitors every year, and it ranks it second in the list of most visited zoos in France. The tourist board calls it one of the most beautiful zoos in France and there are some 600 animals from 5 continents. We think this one is high on the list for French families but if you like zoos – you’re very likely to have a great day out at Amnéville Zoo .