SWIMMING IN IRELAND – A GUIDE FOR FOREIGNERS
In terms of having a day out, well, this is certainly different. This is a “zoo” full of everything you’d avoid and probably hit with a stick if you saw it in real life. And worse, you get to touch and hold these animals.
If you are looking for a day out in the middle of nowhere, but strangely, close to everything (only an hour’s drive from Dublin and just ten minutes from Kilkenny) then this is your gaff. This small zoo gives people that outdated experience of being able to hold animals they would never see in real life (unless they lived in a canyon in Indonesia). Over the years, zoos have phased out animal interactions, mostly because it was causing stress to the animals. So I have to say I was worried that I’d see anxious animals here, biting off their own scales in displeasure, and seeking Valium from every visitor.
But actually that isn’t the case. While the animals are being handled by people, they don’t seem upset by it at all. In fact they seem to quite enjoy being held by warm little hands. And that is the zoo’s most awesome selling point…that you can hold a snake or a lizard and look the cute little dude in the eye and have a chat with him. The experience made the kids in the gaff insane with pleasure.
After paying the €30 fee in for the family and then realising how small the gaff was, I thought I’d been totally fleeced. I couldn’t see how I was going to get my money’s worth. But I was wrong completely. While the zoo is small, it is not the size that matters; it is how you use it that counts. The keepers bring animals out and tell you all about them, there is a talk or demonstration worth seeing every few minutes. There is a walk-in room, full of things like tortoises, lizards, iguanas and other creature that you can spend as much time in as you like. You can touch them and pick them up, and it is so so cool. At the demonstration area, you can feel up a boa constrictor, a bearded dragon or, horrifyingly, a tarantula.
And then when you have flogged that horse, there is a play area and ball pit just to drag out your daytrip.
This place opened on March 17th, 2006 (can you imagine what St Patrick would have to say about that.) While the Reptile Village Zoo can give you your fill of snakes, lizards, crocodiles, frogs and spiders, one thing I would have loved to have seen is the only Irish land reptile, the common lizard (Zootoca vivipara).
But other than that the gaff is worth a visit. You can see huge shed skins hanging from the roof, and you can hold an iguana and not have the urge to make him into a bag and shoes.
This is a typical demonstration with a reptile. Look at the size of this beast. AND visitors were allowed to gently stroke this creature.
Children get handed a snake to hold and make friends with.
Yes that is a shedded snake skin hanging off the roof!
Please don’t make me into a belt!
The best part about this zoo was that the kids could touch the creatures.
The repiltes are very used to human contact and act like we have all been friends forever.
Worryingly, this was hanging on the wall…
The Reptile zoo is in Gowran. For more info, click here.
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