A little while ago I stumbled upon the website for Pari Daiza, a zoo and botanical garden near Brugelette in Belgium. A quick scroll turned into a bit of an obsession.
Billed as ‘The Enchanted Kingdom of Animals’ and winner of awards for Best Zoo in Europe , Pairi Daiza is also easily accessible being just a couple of hours drive from Calais. The perfect Autumn family break.
A moment of appreciation here for Mr THL. I’m forever dragging him on an ‘adventure’ or roping him into one of my good ideas ( like that self build camper that’s going at a glacial pace) He’s always good for it.
Anyhoo, back to Belgium…
Arriving at Pairi Daiza, Cambron- Casteau
You know the old saying about never getting a second chance to make a first impression? Pairi Daiza got the memo. This place is spectacular and it starts the moment you arrive. Beautiful landscaping and an enchanting water feature set the tone for the worlds you are about to step into.
A fast and friendly check in at guest services and then the adventure begins. Stepping into the park is stepping into a different world; several different worlds, actually.
The park is divided into different zones- ‘worlds’- each inspired by different parts of the world. The architecture, planting and landscaping has all been designed to create an immersive visitor experience.
As a quick overview, the worlds look like this:
- The Kingdom of Ganesha: inspired by Indonesian adventures and the countries of SE Asia.
- The Middle Kingdom : All the Chinese and Oriental vibes. Think temples, gardens, wellness.
- Land of the Cold : Arctic inspired, ice and tundra. Home to creatures of the cold.
- Cambron Abbey: Home to the birds, from the tiniest humming birds to a huge Griffon Vulture.
- Cambron-by-the-Sea: Nautically themed. An aquarium in an old Chateau and a huge tank of playful seas.
- The Land of Origins: African inspired, home to the big cats, gorillas and rhinos.
- The Southern Cape: Antipodean adventures with wildlife and flora from Tasmania, New Zealand, Australia and New Guinea.
- The Last Frontier: The Alaskan and Canadian wilderness. Wolves, bears and landscaping inspired by age old beliefs.
Never mind Round the World in 80 Days, this is a global adventure in 8 worlds in the Belgian countryside.
Pairi Daiza: The Highlights
Pairi Daiza is vast, both is scale and in the number of things to see; over 7000 animals on a 65-hectare site. Even in two days, I know we didn’t cover everything. But we did see a lot and loved every minute. Best bits included…
Exploring The Middle Kingdom
Pretty gardens, colourful temples and a pool of koi karp. All lovely, but the real stars of the show here? No question. The bears. Giant panda, red panda and black bears.
The Middle Kingdom also introduced me to the magnificent Golden Takin. I found a lot of love for goats earlier in the year and the Takin hails from the goat family. Just a bit bigger and with that charmingly characterful face.
I officially love them.
Vintage Adventure in The Land of the Cold
Home to the polar bears, Siberian tigers, walrus and reindeer. This world is one of vintage adventures, with features including an old sea plane flown in from Canada and a collection of vintage trains.
If you aren’t walking round imagining you’re a pioneer or plucky explorer of some sort, you aren’t throwing yourself into the spirit of things.
We were definitely starring in our own ‘Choose-your-own-adventure’ style story exploring this one. Does anyone else remember those books? let me know in the comments.
Meeting the White Tigers
Finding them was top of my teenage daughters list. Her face as she saw them made my day. The brown striped, blue eyed beauties might be the result of a genetic hiccup, but they are truly magnificent.
Coffee with Company in The Oasis
The Oasis, a giant tropical greenhouse. Full of pretty plants, water features and home to a variety of monkeys and birds. With a self service cafe, also the perfect place to stop for lunch or coffee.
If you’ve been round here for a while you’ll know I love wolves ( also bears, deer, boar and any other mountain or forest creature. But especially wolves) So, it was an absolute joy to see the Grey Wolves being fed and watch them interacting as a pack.
Free Roaming Friends
Not all of the animals at Pairi Daiza are securely contained. In the Last Frontier, a herd of fallow deer roam freely. Not exactly tame, but definitely curious. And adorable.
I made a special little friend. No i-deer what her name was so I’ve named her Babycham. I like to think
if when we return, we’ll know each other.
Elsewhere in the park, peacocks both blue and white wander freely.
We had a white peacock meet us at the entrance. A charming welcome, the perfect start to our short break at Pairi Daiza.
Pairi Daiza: Day Trip or Short Break?
Pairi Daiza would make a great day out. The park is accessible by rail, with a pedestrian path linking the park to nearby Cambron-Casteau train station. It is possible to buy a discounted rail ticket by purchasing a Discovery ticket.
However, it is possible to stay overnight on the park and indulge in an immersion experience stay. I’ll be blogging all the details of that in my next post, I’d love you to come back for it.