Going wild with animal-centred summer days out

From whale-watching and open farms to zoos, Marjorie Brennan looks at some of the options for animal-centred days out.

Rumleys Open Farm, Waterfall, Cork

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3 best friends! ❤️ #meerkats #bestfriendsgoals #cutenessoverload

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Rumley’s Open Farm is a working farm featuring exotic and domestic animals; there is also a petting zone, tractor-drawn trailer rides and a robotic milking machine.

€10 per person, family (2+2) €37, under-twos free. Seasonal passes available.

Tír na Sí Open Farm, Watergrasshill, Co Cork

Another working farm, Tír na Sí emphasises self-sufficiency and sustainable living, and features mainly indigenous breeds, as well as rescue animals. The farm also grows fruit and veg, which are harvested for use in the farm café.

Adults, €5, children €10, family (2+2), €28, under-ones free.

Leahys Open Farm, Dungourney, Midleton, Co Cork

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Ferdinand is getting big!

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Leahy’s has all the usual favourites, as well as a forestry trail and beehives. There are also plenty of activities including that perennial favourite, the digger park.

€10.50 per person. Under-2 are free.

Ardmore Open Farm and Mini Zoo Ballykilmurry, Ardmore, Co Waterford

You can pack your bucket and spade for this farm adventure. Located only a five-minute drive from the seaside village of Ardmore, overlooking the beautiful Whiting Bay, this farm features a wide range of exotic and farm animals.

€10.50 per person, family (2+2), €41, under-twos free.

Cork Whale Watch West Cork

Witness the most majestic creatures of the ocean off the coast of west Cork with expert Colin Barnes. Cork Whale Watch say they typically produce whale and/or dolphin sightings on about 96% of their trips. All trips depart from Reen Pier, a short drive from Union Hall. Adults, €50, students, €40, children under 18 years: €40 first child, €30 (second child and all others in family). corkwhalewatch.com

Aillwee Birds of Prey Centre, Co Clare Situated at the popular Ailwee Caves attraction, this birds of prey centre entertains visitors with flying displays from eagles, falcons, hawks and owls in the dramatic Burren landscape.

Adult, €15, child €7, family (2+2), €34.

Kennedy’s Pet Farm, Glenflesk, Killarney, Co Kerry

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Max Kennedy 😍😍

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Five miles from Killarney, this family-run venture features a range of animals from lambs and kid goats piglets to fluffy chicks. And keep an eye out for ‘Prince’ the peacock strutting his stuff.

€9 per person; two adults, three children, €40; two-year-olds, €5; under twos, free.

Blueberry Hill Pet Farm, Killarney Road, Sneem, Co Kerry.

This hidden gem on the Ring of Kerry gets rave reviews from visitors. It offers age-appropriate hands-on tours, allowing visitors to experience hand-milking and feeding as well as collecting eggs, and making butter and scones.

Tours at 10am and 3pm, and need to be booked ahead, €20 per person, families, €15 per person.

The National Reptile Zoo Demesne Road, Gowran, Co. Kilkenny

If animals of the more slithery and slimy nature are your thing, then Ireland’s only reptile zoo is the place for you. The zoo holds animal encounter sessions every hour during busier times, giving visitors the chance to hold or touch some of the residents, including iguanas and snakes. Maybe not the alligator though.

Adults, €11, children three and up, €8.50, family (2+2) €35.

Dublin Zoo Phoenix Park, Dublin.

A trip to the ‘azoo’ never loses it magic. Visit the latest arrival, the as yet unnamed baby female gorilla who was born on April 1, the first offspring of Bangui and Kafi and a significant addition for this critically endangered species. Fota conservation pass also gives you free admission at Dublin Zoo.

Adult, €19.50, child, €14, under-threes, free, family (2+2) €53. These are gate prices, discounts for online booking.

Fota Wildlife park

Fota Wildlife Park near Cobh, Co Cork, is one of the country’s most visited family attractions, getting on average 460,000 visitors annually, with the aim to hit half a million visits by the end of this year. We spoke to director Sean McKeown.

Sean McKeown.
Sean McKeown.

What are the most popular animals with visitors?

We did a poll at the end of 2017 and the big four are giraffes, cheetahs, tigers and lions. Then you are into rhinos, zebras, meerkats. Penguins are way up there as well. Meerkats get a lot of attention from kids, through natural history programmes and from films like the Lion King.

The big one in the Ice Age movies is the sloth, and we recently got one of those. We had to wait five years for him. We hope to have a female as well in a year or two.

Any plans in store for Fota this year?

We are working on a Madagascar village which will hopefully be completed by the end of July, beginning of August.

Our ring-tailed lemurs and black and white ruffed lemurs will be in that area. We have two new species, red-bellied lemurs and blue-eyed black lemurs.

The idea with the Madagascar village is not just about the breeding of animals but also to make people aware of the huge conversation threats there. Basically everything that can walk or crawl is vulnerable to extinction.

Do any animals ever make a break for it?

We had a ring-tailed lemur that went missing for about six or seven days. It reappeared and we never found out what happened. We have the odd monkey that escapes.

After two to three days, they tend to get hungry and miss their interaction with the same species and they usually come back.

Years ago, when we were building our new entrance, a wallaby got out and was missing for a day. The next morning it was back, wanting to get back in again.

They know they get fed indoors so they want to get back in to get their food. It is a bit like domestic animals, they have a certain routine.

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