8 great animal attractions on the Isle of Wight
PUBLISHED: 10:44 02 January 2018 | UPDATED: 12:01 22 February 2018
From birds of prey to monkeys, the Isle of Wight is teeming with animal attractions, wildlife parks and zoos for lots of summer holiday fun. And don't forget to look out for the red squirrels, says Viv Micklefield
Tapnell Farm Park
Once home to the island’s biggest dairy herd, diversification now sees these barns just outside Yarmouth converted into one of the newest family attractions. Farmyard favourites like sheep, pigs and goats are waiting to be petted outside. For something a bit more exotic, there’s a chance to go for a wallaby walkabout and to meet a lovable meerkat. For added fun, younger visitors can become ‘explorers’ for the day. And, if the British summer lives up to its rainy reputation, then the farm returns to its roots with a straw bale adventure barn complete with pedal go-karts, whilst the indoor play barn features a climbing wall, soft play zone and mini tractors.
Swing by and say hello to whooping gibbons, cheeky capuchins and mischievous monkeys at this primate rescue centre near Newport, recently judged Visit England’s Best Small Visitor Attraction in the UK 2017. Some of those here might have been bullied within their original groups, rescued from the illegal pet trade or simply be unsuitable for breeding programmes. Find out more about these fascinating creatures at the daily talks given by keepers. Or, for a close-up encounter, anyone over 16 can get to know the marmosets, the Haven’s smallest residents. And if you really want to experience what it’s like to spend time with the animals at the centre, then there’s an opportunity to become a keeper for a day.
West Wight Alpacas
What began as a hobby for husband and wife Neil and Michelle Payne seven years ago, has turned into an alpaca and llama trekking and breeding attraction in Wellow, on the island’s north-west. Natural coloured Suri alpaca, like their bigger brother the llama, hail originally from South America and with their long lashes and naturally inquisitive nature are a big hit with visitors. And, if you’ve never taken these friendly camelids for a walk before, then the 23-acre farm is a great place in which to have a go, whilst the more adventurous can explore the local area on a llama trek.
Isle of Wight Zoo and Tiger Sanctuary
There can’t be many zoos inside the ruins of an historic Victorian fort, yet Sandown has one. It’s said that in years gone by, the zoo’s former owners used to take their tiger cubs for walks along the sandy beach across the road. Now, however, with a collection that focuses principally on older animals, the aim is to give them a happy retirement. Asia, Africa and The Americas are all represented, so expect to see Indian tigers, lions and jaguars. The rest of the zoo is given over to a large population of Madagascan species, including breeding lemurs, which are so cute it’s not surprising that many visitors can’t resist adopting one.
Haven Falconry Bird of Prey Centre
Tucked away at Havenstreet’s steam railway, near Ryde, the skilled falconers at this bird of prey centre have notched-up over 45 years of working with these amazing creatures. As well as falcons, amongst the 21 species of birds here, you can also expect to see vultures and hawks with a special focus on the conservation of the barn owl. Daily flying displays and talks, give everyone the chance to see the birds in all their splendour as they swoop and soar, with a pets’ corner to keep younger visitors amused. For individuals and small groups an accompanied hawk walk is a thrilling opportunity to fly these birds for yourself.
Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary
With up to 100 animals in its care at any one time, this sanctuary at Wroxall between Shanklin and Ventnor has been giving a loving home to unwanted donkeys (plus a few horses and ponies) for almost 30 years. Admission is free so if you visit (and they live in 60 acres of beautiful countryside) think about supporting the sanctuary, which is a registered charity, by buying a souvenir in the gift shop, adopting a donkey, or becoming a member. Donkeys from the sanctuary make appearances at local schools and can also be found out and about offering therapeutic assistance to those suffering from illnesses such as strokes and dementia, so they really are part of the island’s community.
Amazon World Zoo Park
Prepare to enjoy the sights and sounds of the rainforest which come alive with the largest collection of exotic animals on the island. Tickling a tapir is just one of the attractions at this Newchurch zoo park, which specialises in the unusual. In fact, with some 200 different species, including anteaters, penguins, sloth, flamingo, and toucans, there’s a chance to make plenty of new friends. And, in common with many such organisations, for owner Derek Curtis it’s all about the conservation of the endangered in their care and doing what they can do to save the precious South American ecosystem. Just don’t forget to look out for those crocs.
Butterfly and Fountain World
Alongside one of the island’s largest garden centres near Newport, hundreds of colourful butterflies can be found flying freely inside their own indoor tropical environment. With so many to see in one go, be sure to have a camera at the ready as you marvel at their beauty and study their fascinating life cycle first-hand. All ages, even toddlers, appear mesmerised. Alongside Butterfly World is Fountain World, Italian and Japanese gardens, and Koi carp ponds with hand feeding sessions and talks taking place.