17 May 2011
During the Children's evening entertainment at John Fowler's holiday park in Ilfracombe there was a visit from the Devon Wildlife and Dinosaur Park. They brought some animals along for the children to meet. As it was only a short drive from the holiday park we spent a day visiting the park.
Before we went I'd heard that there were some steep hills which became evident from the moment we parked at the car park and had a long flight of stairs to get into the park. This continues throughout the park, although in most places despite the steep hills it is possible to get around with a pushchair. You do need to be fairly fit and I'd suggest you avoid if you are pregnant or struggle walking up hills (see below picture), but it's worth the effort if you can do it.
The walkways are well maintained and they seam to have an expert with concrete as they are all patterned to match the theme of the area, so at least you don't have to negotiate over pot-holes.
The Dinosaur part of the park is a compound containing some animatronic dinosaurs. These are dormant most of the time, but then wake each hour with sounds and motion. The bit that the young children seamed to enjoy most was when one of the dinosaurs squirted water at them.
There is also a dinosaur museum with a skeleton, a video and some fossils.
They have a reasonable selection of animals, although these are spaced out into different areas of the park. It includes some animals which are free to roam around amongst the visitors, including some lemurs, wallabies and parrots. The lemurs and parrots mainly stayed out of the way of the visitors when we were there, but are perhaps more sociable at other times.
The big difference with this park compared with other zoos is being able to get close to the animals. These animal encounters have an additional fee. We didn't do any when we visited although the Meerkat session did seam quite good and wasn't too expensive at £5 per person. I would have liked to have gone swimming with the sea lions, but at nearly £80 it was a bit too expensive for me to treat myself.
They even do training courses in looking after wolves if you are looking for something a bit more than a quick encounter.
These are encounters that are not available at most other places some of these are only available (in the UK) from the Devon Wildlife and Dinosaur park.
There are a couple of odd attractions that don't seam to fit in with the general theme which are a laser and light display and an Egyptian Tomb. The Egyptian Tomb kind of fits as an ancient theme (although not quite as far as dinosaurs), but the light display is completely different. The light show is quite good, it takes a bit of Star Wars, some synchronised lights and the Music from Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds. I am a War of the Worlds fan so I particularly enjoyed it, but I was a little surprised when they kids said that they enjoyed it as well. Whilst it felt a bit out of place it's still a good attraction.
There is also a playground, with some pay-for rides and amusements, including Bumper Boats which were a little to get in without assistance (some other visitors helped us so that we could all go on together), but were great fun. There is also a train ride with a volcano and water rushing from a burst dam which was quite good.
It's well worth a trip to the Devon Wildlife and Dinosaur park, but you may want to avoid if you are not physically able to walk up the hills. If you fancy a go with any of the animal encounters then it's worth having a look at what is on offer on their website and then booking once you arrive.