A family day trip out to wildlife park in North Devon
“I don’t believe it – the wallabies are so cute!” pretty much set the tone for the day. If you’re looking for cute, amazing, quirky and fantastic, then Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park is well worth a family visit.
Our visit was part of a summer holiday day out in North Devon, with the park set among the gorgeous countryside that helps to make the region such a popular place for tourists. As soon as we were in, it was straight on the Dino-express railway for a quick visit up the tracks, past the admittedly gorgeous wallabies and the wolves in the distance – more on them later – just in time to watch thousands of gallons of water tumbling towards the carriages! Were we soaked! Actually, no, but it was a very close thing…
Back off the train it was time to explore, including taking the 1,000-1,020th photos of those wallabies that day along, before following the track to the gorgeous great while pelican and the African penguins next door. It is really important to note that the park is set over a hillside, meaning the tracks can be steep and challenging for prams and wheelchairs.
As the path winds around, look out for the dinosaurs – not the real things, unfortunately (apparently they’re kept elsewhere and are just too dangerous to be close to the public) but excellent models – one of which even houses a family of bats. The gardens are gorgeous, with a stream meandering through the lush plants and making for a great place for littlies to charge around and explore.
We managed to time our visit perfectly to enjoy the Sea Lion Experience, one a series of talks and displays that are part of the entry cost and a great way to learn about the animals on show. Joining other visitors around the pool side, we learned about the lives of the sea lions at the park and the conservation work the team undertakes, including caring for endangered species and contributing to international breeding programs.
Similar talks take place throughout the day, including a super-popular one at 11.30am with the Hudson Bay Wolves.
Next it was on to the main primate area, with its mix of outdoor spaces, climbing frames and houses being home to ring-tailed lemurs, goeldi monkeys, macaques, tamarins and gibbons. Close by, the coati and capybara just sent the cute-ometer through the roof – suddenly the guinea pigs at home might have to try just that bit harder…
Throughout, the keepers were so friendly and helpful, happy to answer our questions and pass on their seemingly endless knowledge.
On we walked, the children rushing ahead, excited by each new area, with the wolves proving to be a massive favourite. Sitting together in a group and looking like very big pets, while they might appear docile, the information boards comparing them to a domestic German Shepherds quickly shows why you don’t really want to take one of these on daily walk.
Add in the Tomb of the Pharaohs and the Dinosaur Museum, plus a cafe and plenty of snack and picnic areas, and Combe Martin Dinosaur and Wildlife Park makes a wonderful venue for a family day out.
Finally, one top tip – afterwards call into Combe Martin and treat yourself to a steak ciabatta and one of the superb cakes at Bobbies Bakes on the coastal path. Seriously, it was delicious!