A TROPICAL PARADISE IN A TROPICAL WORLD
For many of us, travelling to the far flung regions of the world to see and hear free roaming monkeys, lizards, parakeets, snakes and other exotic animals; would be a dream come true, but unfortunately, it’s also a dream that many people may never fulfil. The closest many of us ever get to an exotic animal is in a zoo or a pet shop. Every now and again you find a special place tucked far away from the normality of our busy lives; and one such special place is Alcorn’s Tropical World in the stunning county of Donegal, Ireland.
MAKING A MARK IN DONEGAL
Alcorn’s Tropical World is a fantastic mini-zoo with a moving story behind it’s birth; a man’s vision, a family conversation, a starter cheque slid across a dining table, and the passing of a wonderful man, Thomas Alcorn (1939-2011). The outcome; one man’s ambition to bring a Tropical Butterfly House to the beautiful county of Donegal, fulfilled and then some.
A GARDENER’S PARADISE
Alcorn’s Flower and Garden Centre is stocked with a huge assortment of bedding plants, flowers, shrubs, hedging and so on; the vast majority of which are cultivated and grown on site in enormous greenhouses. There’s a garden gift shop for purchasing ornaments, lighting and accessories. Beside the garden shop is the ThymeOut Cafe and Tearooms which offers visitors the chance to enjoy tea, coffee, sweet treats and home cooked food. Inside the garden centre is a very friendly bear to greet you.
FOREST’S, FLUTTERBY’S AND FEATHERS
Mummy had business to attend to today so it’s just Daddy, Lily-Belle, Matilda and one of their friends, Angus. There shouldn’t be problem parking at Alcorn’s Tropical World as there is ample space on site. We head through Alcorn’s Garden Centre and down a sheltered walkway with flowers and shrubs each side. Hidden among the shrubs is an assortment of animals including Meerkats, a Zebra and an Elephant squirting water into a Crocodile infested pool. The crocodiles mouth is full of coins; one can only assume the coins had fallen out of the pockets of those he’d eaten. BEWARE!
THE PRAIRIE POSSE ARE IN TOWN
Before we reach Alcorn’s Tropical World reception area we come across the Prairie Dog’s, they are in an enclosure set up to look like the Old Wild West; they even have little wooden houses, really cute. Directly opposite is the beautiful Black and White Ruffed Lemur; it has huge brown eyes that follow your every move.
CHARITY BEGINS AT ALCORN’S TROPICAL WORLD
At the reception we are greeted warmly and with a smile by the lady behind the desk, Georgina, she takes our payment and asks if we would like to purchase a map of the venue. All proceeds from the map sales go to the LauraLynn Children’s Hospice. I feel very embarrassed, unfortunately I had to politely decline as I only had cards and GBP in my wallet, no Euros! When I explained this, Georgina kindly gave us a map for free; next time we attend we will surely bring Euros and pay a little extra as compensation for my ‘lack of Euros’ oversight!
FEEDING TIME AT THE ZOO
It was just before 12 so we decided to have a spot of lunch before exploring Alcorn’s Tropical World. We took a picnic with us, kindly prepared by Mummy, so we took advantage of the fantastic outside picnic area right beside the reception. It was nice and sunny at the picnic benches, and as we sat eating our lunch, we watched the chipmunks scamper about in their cage. They were very active and every now and then would stop and gaze out at the public, a case of who is watching whom?
LOTS OF CREEPING AND CRAWLING IN THIS ROOM
Lunch over, we head inside to Bug World, a room with a variety of bugs and critters. Many of the creepy crawlies, including the Tarantula, Rhinoceros Beetle, Tree Frog and the Scorpion, were active and visible, with only the odd tank hiding it’s occupants, you know they are there, but they are elusive to the eye. The kids loved peering into each window to see who or what was inside.
FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY STING LIKE A BEE
Nest stop, the Tropical Butterfly Forest. Immediately upon entering this area, my glasses fog over, the heat and humidity was incredible. Matilda found it amusing as I stumbled along almost blind. The same happened to the camera, fog, wipe, fog, wipe over and over, in the end I gave up so we only got a few snaps in this area. The butterflies are everywhere, floating effortlessly through the air, sitting on the plants, eating fruit on the feeding platforms, and there is every colour, shape and size imaginable. Within the forest there’s also a small pond with terrapins the size of dinner plates.
WAY TOO MUCH CUTENESS
We exit into the Aviary and it’s like being dropped into the centre of the Amazon Rainforest, the chorus of different bird calls echoing all around. There are many exotic species of birds here but the children get bored quite quick and so we move swiftly on to the world’s smallest monkey, the Pygmy Marmoset. The little marmoset sat perched on the edge of his feeding bowl, every now and then picking out a piece of fruit and nibble it with a delicate precision. So tiny and seriously cute. From Lily-Belle there’s an immediate reaction of ‘Daddy, can we get one?’…..err, no!
interesting fact: the pygmy marmoset weighs in at around 100 grams, that’s the equivalent of a medium sized orange.
HERO IN A HALF SHELL…OH WAIT, THAT’S TURTLES
In the centre of the large Aviary is the Handling Zone. The next handling session wasn’t until 15:30 so we had a little over two hours to view the rest of the mini-zoo, I set an alarm on my phone as a time reminder. There are two giant Sulcata tortoises, Kofi (male) and Numsa (female) just behind the handling area, they each weigh around 25kg at present but I am reliably informed that they can reach a whopping 100kg as an adult. Just beside the Sulcata tortoises is an area with smaller tortoises. The top section of the Aviary is taken up by tanks of varying sizes, each contains a snake, a lizard or an amphibian, some of whom are used during the twice-daily handling sessions.
The Meerkats are next on our Alcorn’s Tropical World detailed map. There is a single meerkat on lookout, he/she seems rather relaxed and quite happy to sit there as I took photos. The camera clicking must have triggered curiosity from the other meerkats as they all appeared out of nowhere and made their way over to the ‘lookout’ post. Again, all happy to sit as I took photos. The kids loved them; we spent a good ten minutes or more watching the meerkats before moving on to the Fennec Fox, fast asleep so one photo and we move on.
THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT
Alcorn’s Tropical World is 80% under cover with 20% being outside and uncovered. We head outside and along the walkway past the Cotton Top Tamarins, just a few feet away are the Geoffrey’s Marmosets, cute little monkeys with a nervous curiosity. At the top of the walkway there’s a fantastic new area called Jurassic Land, and as it’s name suggests, here you’ll find dinosaurs, hippo’s and prehistoric creatures that you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, or as I like to call them, in-laws. Angus loved this area the most, he has an intriguing fascination with dinosaurs and all things historic, and his ability to provide off the cuff data, in my opinion, is unprecedented, amazing! There is an education room where the children can see different butterfly species preserved in cases.
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF EGGS
It is still dry outside but the clouds are rolling in. Time to see the wallabies and ring tailed Lemurs, but sadly, they had no interest in seeing us, we waited for a minute or two but nothing, maybe next time. The pond had quite a few ducklings resting on the grassy area. Alcorn’s Tropical World plays a huge part in conservation and has a proven breeding programme. The Snowy Owls had laid a clutch of eggs in the long grass; a protective bamboo screen placed directly in front to give the owls complete privacy, it’s starting to rain so we move inside to the large play area.
PLAY TIME FOR THREE LITTLE MONKEYS
Lily-Belle, Matilda and Angus don’t hang about, gone in 60 seconds doesn’t come close. The play area has climbing frames, tunnels, balance beams, climbing ropes, monkey bars, slides, an assault course, tables with board games and an area for parents to sit and watch; it’s a fantastic area where the children can burn off energy. Despite persistent requests to join the three wise monkey’s in play, I polite decline and remain in the seating area.
CAN YOU HANDLE IT
My phone beeped, 15:20 so we make our way to the Handling Zone. The area is relatively quiet and two of the zoo keepers arrive. Leela is holding a Royal Python named Hercules and Laura is holding a Bearded Dragon named Sandy. Both animals are happy and appear to be very content at being ‘child-handled’. The Keepers are asked question after question by children (and parents); and every question is answered, I am impressed at the keepers extensive knowledge. After a while the python is returned back to its vivarium and a brightly coloured orange corn snake named Sasha is brought out. The corn snake had recently shed (ecdysis) and the skin was passed out for the children to hold, the skin was around 4-5ft in length and in one complete piece, this shows just how healthy and well cared for the snakes are, as are all of the animals at Alcorn’s Tropical World. The children handled and posed for photos with Hercules, Sasha and Sandy.
UNTIL THE NEXT TIME
Time flew by and it’s a little after 4, we call it a day and head out to the gift shop situated next to the main reception. Toys and ice lollies selected, we pay and Georgina (at reception) introduces us to Clive. Clive Alcorn is one of the owners of Alcorn’s Tropical World. It was a real pleasure listening to Clive as he chatted about the history and the ongoing work at Alcorn’s Tropical World, this is a man with a mission. Clive explained with glowing pride how the project first began and where it was being taken in the coming years, and (drum roll please)…I got an exclusive. When Alcorn’s Tropical World closes for the season at the end of September 2017, work will commence on a brand new nocturnal enclosure, the completion date will be early 2019, exciting times for the continued expansion of Tropical World.
Alcorn’s Tropical World is absolutely amazing, and it is completely self-funded. I highly recommend visiting this fantastic attraction which is situated right in the heart of beautiful Donegal. Pay them a visit and help support the great conservation work Alcorn’s Tropical World is involved in.
This is my third time at Tropical World and it gets better each time. Last time I came with Nana and Granda the dinosaurs were inside but it’s better that they are in a bigger area, there’s more to see. I really love the pygmy marmoset and would love to have one. I liked the handling session best and held a royal python, a corn snake and a bearded dragon. The corn snake had shed it’s skin and we held that, it was quite long. Matilda was really brave and held the Bearded Dragon.
MATILDA (age 3) SAYS
Maybe I get a snake, can I have cash. I like play park and parrots.
Tropical World is seasonal, please phone prior to visiting to ensure your journey isn’t a wasted one
note: season opens around Easter and closes at the end of September
Tel: (00353) 074 9121541 / 9121655
Send a message: using the contact page
Opening hours: Mon – Sat from 10:00 until 17:30 with last admission at 16:30
Pricing: Adult €8.50 / children under 14 €7.00 / children under 3 are free (full pricing link)
Handling sessions: 12:30 TO 13:00 and 15:30 to 16:00
Loyalty scheme: pay for 3 visits and get 1 free
information, currency and prices are correct at time of post
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All views, opinions and experiences are that of The Callaghan Possy and are correct at time of publication. Photos taken by Andrew Callaghan for use and distribution by Around The World In 18 Years.