I’ve decided that I am going to do a few posts over the next few months on family days out in Northern Ireland. I am born and bred Northern Irish and love it here. There are so many great places to visit, lots to see and do, great family days out as well as fabulous areas of natural beauty. I think its about time I share it with you! I am sure a lot of you who have never been here possibly think of Northern Ireland as a some what scary place, as we get such a negative image of our country and its citizens shown in the news both UK and worldwide. Don’t get me wrong those images of violence and rioting you have seen recently on your telly are from here, but its a very minor aspect of life one that often only involves a tiny miniority of the population and is often concentrated in particular areas. We adore it here and feel lucky to live in such a beautiful wee country. So here is the first post showcasing some of our days out in lovely little Northern Ireland.
Off to the ZOO
Our little one is 7 and a bit months now and adores animals, so hubby and I decided this week we’d pack ourselves a picnic and take the little lady for her first trip to Belfast Zoological gardens. The zoo is open during the summer months 10am-6pm mon-fri and 10am-7pm sat-sun, so since our little one has now decided that no matter how tired she is she cannot stay in bed past 6.30am each morning we decided we’d be early birds and head for the zoo at 10am. We were both excited about going but I was especially as the zoo has such great memories for me of being little and going with my mum, dad, sister and little brother and meeting our auntie, uncle and cousins who lived as we say at the other end of the country and having a family day out! picnic’s, prams and general panda-mon-e-um 😉 but great fun, and now I was taking my little one to start our little zoo tradition.
It’s been a few years since hubby or I had been to the zoo and we were pleasantly surprised at how modern everything looked. The entrance building is bright and inviting and the signage attractive.
We bought 2 tickets, one student ticket as my student card is still valid til sept costing £5.25 and a adult ticket costing £10.50. Under 4’s go free so entrance was a total of £15.25 which we thought was a bargain. We got a free map and an animal feeding time schedule and off we set.
The signage is brilliant, so well mapped out with easy to navigate route options displayed around the zoo enabling us to decide which animals we wanted to see in what order. We followed the recommended routes as we were in no hurry and wanted to take our time wandering round. Because we were in so early there were very few other people around to begin with just other families with tiny ones in prams like us, which was great as we could stand for ages at enclosures and “A” could see easily compared to a busier time when crowds can be large. It also meant we were able to get fabulous family shots of me or hubby holding “A” with the animals clearly in the background in the pictures with not another person in sight, it looks like we had the zoo to ourselves. I’d recommend going early if you don’t fancy crowds.
The weather was great luckily for us we only had a tiny 5 minutes of light rain then blue skies the rest of the trip. however the zoo has weather shelters located around and beside a number of enclosures as well as the fantastic indoor rainforest enclosure which is open air and you simply walk through. The animals roam freely and include wild birds, bats and two amazing sloths. The zoo simply asks you respect the animals and do not touch them not matter how close they are to you. The sloth was just at head height right beside us.
There are gorgeous wooden carvings of different animals dotted around the grounds on route to different enclosures which i’m sure would be a hit with little ones older than “A” but she didn’t really take much notice. They are fab though, I loved them especially the barn owl, I kept dropping hints like about how much id love a craving for our garden, lets just say the hubby was less enthusiastic about having a 5 foot barn owl in the garden, but hey think outside of the box and all that!
The zoo covers a 55 acre site and houses a huge number of animals. There are are far too many gorgeous animals to go through them all, as the zoo has everything from african wild dogs and andean bears to vicuna (small camels) and grants zebra. So I have singled out a few of our faves.
I have to begin with the giraffes because it is has been instilled into me to love them from a young age as my mum is a giraffe super fan to put it lightly. Lets just say if she could (and believe me she would no joke ) have a pet giraffe to live in her back garden she would. She loves them, I remember being about 10 years old on one of our family trips to this zoo and having to leave my mum standing at the giraffe pen and go off with my dad sister and brother and come back for mum about 45 minutes later as she could not prise herself away from watching a mother and baby giraffe sprinting around the enclosure.
“A” was amazed by them and did a double take when she first caught a glimpse of them. There is a fabulous viewing platform now built at the side of the enclosure which enabled us to get great view of them and they had a good old nose back at us!
The sea lion enclosure for us was one of the best as “A” could really see the sea lions clearly as the enclosure is a large deep open pool surrounded by a low wall with a glass panel for tiny tots to get an underwater view. The zoo runs a number of very sucessful conservation and breeding programme’s and these two lovelies on the rocks had tiny babies with them which were adorable. This is probably the most up close and personal experience available for visitors with larger animals as the sea lions literally swim a foot in front of you on the other side of the wall. There were a few other families at this enclosure at the same time as us and the sea lions seemed to be a hit with the toddlers and older kids, though a few panicky mums could be seen hoovering beside dads holding children on the wall feet from the water!
Now i’m not normally a bear fan, but these little guys malayan sun bears were so cute, they look like real life teddies. They were in a big open air enclosure with a wall topped with glass which stopped just above my head. “A” was back in the pram by this point and could see them up on the hill roaming around then all of a sudden they saw us and we were not expecting them to react as the elephants, wolves and lions all looked through us as if we were the most boring thing they had ever seen, but these bears came down the hill right to the wall below us and stood up on their hind legs. They keep sniffing and then my heart went in my mouth as it began to climb the wall! Ahh! Thank goodness for the slippery glass. “A” however thought this was the best thing she’d seen all day, We must have stood a good 15 mins and the bears took in turn to come over and have a good look at us! A tad bit scary but amazing also to be so close to such beautiful animals.
In total we spent about 2 and half hours going round, including a pit stop for lunch, which for us was perfect amount of time to spend with “A” being so small. We beat the crowds which were arriving as we left. We stopped at the little gift shop which is very reasonably priced, to get “A” a little momento. We got a baby giraffe £5.99 for her room and a cute retro style baby cup/beaker that is nearly identical to one I got as a child that has an elephant on it and its trunk is the handle. At £1.00 it was a must have bargain and a 40p postcard with the Malayan sun bear on it for her scrapbook.
I could go on and on but this post is already long so I wont. I highly recommend if you live in N.Ireland and have not visited or not been for a while go for sure its a great day out or if you are thinking of visiting N.I make sure to add the zoo to your sight seeing list.It was really pram friendly so easy to navigate about if like us you have a pram or wheelchair etc. It is open year round and we are hoping to wrap “A” up and take her near christmas again! Can’t wait!
thanks for reading
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