On Fathers Day we were kindly gifted tickets to visit Ventura Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire.
As Dominic absolutely loves zoos and wildlife parks, visiting one on Fathers Day has become something of a little tradition!
The park itself is situated by the Van Hague Garden Centre (which is absolutely amazing come Christmas time).
We arrived just a little before 11am and met the very lovely Emma at the Welcome Centre. She explained the different areas of the park such as Madagascar, Heart of Africa and the Australian Outback and provided us with a map. Emma was so friendly and even offered to mind Ita’s balloon. She really is the perfect person to have front of house as she made us feel so welcome.
To enter into the park you have to walk through the Welcome Centre and the small gift shop. Once we were inside I had overheard someone complaining that there were no cafes but actually there are snacks and hot drinks in the Tiki Traders Gift Shop.
One of the main animals we were eager to see was the Fossa, Madagascar’s largest carnivore.
Ita really enjoyed Explorers Lodge. This is where the animal encounters took place. Glen was absolutely fantastic at providing information to us and importantly, explaining it in a child friendly way. Ita keeps telling me that the spikey hedgehog ( that’s the tenric) is related to an elephant! His approach was fun but informative. He took his time with each of the children to ensure that they were able to see the animals up close and touch the insects… if they were brave enough! At one point Ita went into a little babble to Glen that she had an African land snail and rather than speak over her, he patiently listened. I thought this was not only so kind but it really showed an understanding of how to keep a child engaged. Everyone has a voice. Children are there to get as much out of the experiences as the adults.
Also in the Explorers Lodge were related games and colouring pencils etc. This was so handy because it was a relatively rainy day and it was clear that they had considered ways to keep children entertained.
What we particularly enjoyed about Ventura was just how hands on you can be. It is far more interactive than any other Wildlife Park or Zoo that we have visited, and the staff are far more personal. There are free daily encounters, talks and interactive feeds that visitors are encouraged to be a part of. I believe this is specifically because it is a smaller park than others. Dominic felt that because the park was smaller, you felt more time looking at the animals and learning about them. In zoos you often feel pushed along.
So whilst it is a small place, you cant fault how much you get out of it.
Ventura currently care for 45 types of animals, including exotic invertebrates, reptiles, zebra, emu, wallaby, red kangaroo, and lorikeets. Not all of these animals are used for encounters and many are used for captive breeding programmes to ensure survival of their species.
Money from the park has helped with conservation projects. (The Ventura Wildlife Conservation Fund is an independent charitable fund but it is supported by Ventura Wildlife).
Toilets are situated within the Van Hage garden centre and this is worth knowing so you can plan in advance!
We had a brilliant visit and the animals look well cared for. The park itself is clean and nicely put together. Ashley, Emma and Glen were all so friendly, warm and knowledgeable. We would really recommend a visit!
My only grumble…we were gutted that we didn’t get to meet Sidley the skunk! What a meet and greet that would have been!! Definitely next time!