I'm not sure if the school parties or the geese make the biggest racket at Seaview Wildlife Encounter which we visited for the first time recently. The park gets very good reviews on Trip Advisor so I thought I should give it a go, as it is featured in our guides to days out for children and our guide to animal attractions.
Entrance is about £10 for adults or free for two and under although there are offers to get in a bit cheaper on our guide to discounts to Isle of Wight days out.
Our two year old was about old enough to point her little finger at the decent selection of animals, of which about 50% are feathery and winged. There are pigs, meerkat, a couple of sheep, goats, wallabies and a few other animals but you get the feeling that the birds consider it their home and the others are merely gatecrashers (our perhaps goatcrashers).
Many years ago the park was Flamingo Land, which was presumably re branded as the owners realised that there are more children's cartoons about penguins and pigs than there are about big pink birds which stand on one leg.
The park feels clean (besides the vast amounts of bird poo) the animals seem content and the staff seem like proper trained zoo keepers rather than sulky teenagers who are there for the summer before they head back to their degree in Postmodernity and Surf Management at the University of East Rutland.
One section, which is a nicely designed artificial stream is like walking through a flapping gauntlet with dozens of ducks, geese and other squawkers screeching at you if they suspect you might be carrying the gift shop bird food. I can't say I enjoyed this bit too much, half expecting one of the ducks to ask for 50p so he could get a bus or offering me a pair of fake Raybans.
I rather suspect that the park was nicely laid out for the more unusual birdy things and then the ducks heard about all the tourists handing out food all day long and just turned up one day. Ducks are renowned for outstaying their welcome.
At one point a duck flew past my daughter and clobbered her with a wing, although she didn't seem too bothered thankfully.
Throughout the day there were talks and feeding times. My in-laws informed me that they were thoughtfully laid out so that you could walk round in a route and hear them all but we somehow ended up taking our own route.
One of the talks that we did catch was the penguin feeding, which was probably the highlight, unless you particularly like car insurance adverts or hopping wallabies. The little penguins swim around in their pool excitedly before us onlookers chucked in loads of fish for them, only slightly put off by the warning that they will also tuck in to your finger if they get half a chance.
We also discovered a decent size kids play area for the under fives which had a couple of playhouses, baby toys, colouring things and so on.
We finished off at the cafe which was nice enough, combined with a gift shop selling the usual holiday tat. Slight warning - if you've got kids with allergies, the Seaview Wildlife Encounter cafe is not good. They were very friendly and I'm sure would happily advise but there is a lazy sign up saying something along the lines of "all food may contain nuts, dairy, fish, wheat, eggs, soy..." etc. For anyone with a serious allergy that's the equivalent of writing "all food may contain rat poison - good luck guys!"
Apart from that, it was very good. You could make it last for a few hours if you went to all the talks and had more interest in birds than me. We went round pretty quickly and it still lasted about two hours.
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