19 March 2015 by Jessica Boston
Our Top Five Zoos & Aquariums in France
If you’re taking a family holiday in France plan a day trip to one of these great animal attractions. Entertaining, educational and great fun in any weather, a zoo or aquarium can be a perfect child focussed activity to reward them for all the time spent browsing though markets and vineyards and exploring historic sites!
1. Aquarium La Rochelle
The aquarium in La Rochelle is a fabulous place to visit. The huge modern building houses over 12 thousand creatures and is set right on the harbour with plenty of parking at the site.
Your visit starts in a lift that sets the scene with portholes showing your ‘descent’ under the waves. A tunnel of jellyfish leads out from the lift and into the main exhibition. The aquarium has so much to see, there is a huge shark tank with a tunnel though it and enormous tanks with panoramic viewing windows that seem to immerse you in the marine scene. There are hundreds of surprises in tanks big and small, interactive displays and a rainforest biome with turtles and piranhas.
Highlights include the prehistoric looking swordfish, fearsome eels and sharks and cute penguins. Don’t forget to take time to discover the smaller tanks too – they hold fascinating and beautiful creatures including shrimps, seahorses, puffer fish, octopus, anemones and intriguing garden eels. And of course you will find ‘Nemo’!
The aquarium gets busy in peak season especially on rainy days, but you can avoid the crowds by going first thing in the morning or taking advantage of the extended opening until 11pm in July and August for an evening visit.
2. Zoo de La Fleche
The zoo has a good selection of animals on display including lions, tigers, polar bears and elephants. The polar bear enclosure has a viewing wall into the pool so you can see the bears swimming and get really close up to these impressive animals! Similar glass walls in the penguin, otter and sea lion areas also give you a real insight into their underwater antics.
The zoo goes out of it’s way to make sure you get a really close look at the animals without compromising on the comfort and habitat created for each species. Carefully placed windows and viewing areas give you a chance to peek into dens and caves for a unique view of the animals. You are also invited to join in with a schedule of animal feeding that goes on throughout the day – pick up a guide to make sure you see your favourites. There are sea lion and bird of prey displays to watch too – it really is a full day out.
The zoo is well laid out with leafy pathways and plenty of places to have a picnic. You can rent pushchairs for younger children and there are play areas and inflatable bouncers for your little monkeys to play on too!
3. Zoo parc de Beauval
The beautiful Zoo parc de Beauval is home to the largest collection of different animals in France. There are all the usual favourites to see and also many rare and unusual species including manatees, white lions, white tigers and giant pandas. If you visit this unique zoo you’ll definitely come across animals you’ve never seen before!
Beauval zoo prides itself on breeding programmes that mean there are often lots of cute baby animals to see. Signs on the enclosures tell you the names and birth dates of any new arrivals – this summer there were cubs, calves, pups and chicks galore including lion and tiger cubs, baby elephants and baby gorillas.
Throughout the day keepers do talks and animal feeding sessions for you to get a closer look at the penguins, gorillas, koalas and giant pandas amongst others. There is a tropical house with an open aquarium to explore, a sea lion show and a spectacular falconry display. The ‘Masters of the air’ show takes place in an amphitheatre where around 200 pelicans, storks, ibises, cranes and birds of prey take to the skies accompanied by music to breathtaking effect – don’t miss it!
4. Cerza safari park, Normandy
Cerza safari park is a spacious, well-maintained park ideal for a full day of family fun. This zoo is big – bring a pushchair for smaller children to make sure you get to make the most of it. The paths are well signed with themed routes to follow and treats to discover around every corner.
There are hundreds of species on show here including tigers, lions, hippos and giraffes, all in their specially designed habitats recreated in the French countryside. There is a 25 minute train ride you can take to give you a good overview of the park too.
Take the opportunity to get hands on at Cerza, feeding the giraffes, meeting the kangaroos or getting in with the friendly goats and kids for a cuddle!
The huge tropical greenhouse with alligators, tropical fish, turtles and snakes and the African Plains are not to be missed. The restaurant terrace overlooks the park so you can watch white rhinos grazing as you eat your lunch.
5. La Palmyre zoo, Royan
Enclosures at La Palmyre zoo use modern technology to reduce barriers while still keeping animals secure and visitors safe. This gives you a feeling of getting up close to impressive animals including lions, tigers, leopards and cheetah. The Polar Bear pool with viewing window is brand new and gives a wonderful window into their underwater life.
A sea lion show and a parrot show also take place at scheduled times each day.
The greatest treat at Palmyre is to buy the special popcorn they sell and feed some of the animals. This feature means the animals are much more friendly and interested in visitors. You’ll get amazing opportunities to feed and stroke giraffes, rhinos, elephants, alpacas and zebra (and fend off the greedy goats!). It’s an unforgettable experience.