Living Coasts

We happened to be in Torquay for a long weekend and my partner discovered Living Coasts whilst on an early morning stroll with Arlo, and purchased entrance tickets to go in and see the penguin feed, with no idea what to expect.

I finally managed to catch up with them for lunch a few hours later in Torquay and then we went back to Living Coasts as Arlo spent the entire meal excitedly chatting to me all about penguins.

We went back and because storm Hannah was expected the entire attraction probably had about twenty guests including us, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It’s hard to describe this experience as around every corner is a new surprise.

As soon as you get past the entrance the route takes you along a winding underground path, past a huge window behind which there are puffins diving which is delightful to watch. It’s quite overwhelming to see this first of all as it’s so unexpected so it’s great to take the time to watch these birds enjoy themselves.

The bulk of the attraction is outdoors, you follow the route up to the coastal surface, and you’re in an environment created to not only protect the animals inside but also give you amazing views across the coastline. This is very exposed to the elements but we were happy wrapped up in layers and obviously the penguins were even happier. We happened to arrive just in time for their feeding time.

The staff arrived with huge buckets of fish and delivered an excellent talk, describing the unique personalities of some of the penguins and pointing out differences between some of the species. We met a penguin as old as me in her thirties – I didn’t know they could live this long!

As the talk drew to a close we walked through to meet the puffins again, this time above the surface and what a contrast to the view we had from underground. Lots of different species of birds live here, all seem to be thriving in this environment. Such a clever way to have built these attractions to showcase these animals, and give them the platform they all deserve to be appreciated.

The winding path took us along to see otters splashing about enjoying the blustery weather, with views again from above and underground and then we spotted a huge furry seal basking and another seal bobbing up and down in the water pool.

As arlo had already been around the venue earlier, he quickly ran around and hurriedly took me back underground to show me one of the best things I’ve seen.

The seal pool underground has a huge viewing bubble so you can sit inside this space and feel as though you’re in the water and watch these beautiful creatures perform a gymnastics display in the water. We sat for half an hour watching and interacting with them as they liked to play. Seals are certainly one of Arlo’s favourite animals after having the opportunity to meet some at the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham recently too.

The aquariums were also in this section, it’s magical watching sea horses and all of the different fish – Arlo’s favourite was a huge tank which you could crawl underneath. Sporadically it released a rush of water which is obviously good for the fish but made him giggle too.

Around another corner we came across an underwater view of the seals diving and zooming around, which again we spent a lot of time watching. In amongst all of the animal displays there’s some fabulous interactive things to play with – sand pits, rock climbing walls and a colouring in station – lots of different things for Arlo to get involved with, and which older kids would also enjoy.

There’s a fabulous art work exhibition made from material found on the beach with a clear focus on the environmental issues facing the planet at the moment – it’s a strong but important message delivered throughout and I feel as though everyone visiting will be impacted by this.

After having the opportunity to encounter animals such as this and interact so closely it’s impossible to leave without thinking about how we can make some changes too. We really enjoyed our time here. If you’re visiting Torquay then you can combine a ticket at Living Coasts with Paignton Zoo and you can also validate your tickets for re-entry for up to seven days.

Click Here to read about our experience at the zoo

Zoo-mazing – Paignton Zoo

Paignton Zoo is without doubt one of the best zoo’s in the UK and I’m not just saying this. We’ve been to many zoos, conservation centres and safari parks and there are several different things which make Paignton Zoo a must visit.

First of all I have to commend the beauty of the grounds. Set in the beautiful county of Devon the expansive grounds took us the best part of a Saturday to explore. We didn’t get to see everything because Arlo at 22m old was insistent on walking and this meant going at his pace and stopping to absorb everything, so we will definitely come back again.

The view from the far end of the zoo, past elephant house and across the camel enclosure gives you an incredible view of the sea and it’s well worth the hilly hike just for this.

En route the grounds are stunning, with botanical landscaping throughout. We visited at just the right time of year to see the bluebells making an appearance, and I was delighted to see wildflowers planted and “bee hotels” throughout – there’s no aspect of conservation untouched.

We always take the time to read the information around the enclosures about all of the animals, and being a passionate animal lover we visit zoos in an attempt to teach Arlo about all of the animals which exist, in the hope that when he is old enough to travel the world there will still be wild Rhino’s and tigers.

Their extinction is a very alarming and real threat and pausing to read about the work the zoo and the trust is involved in is fascinating.

We spent a long time in the giraffe and elephant house, I had read some online reviews about the solitary elephant, however having stayed for the keeper talk and learn about Duchess, and the obvious passion the team have for her, I am entirely satisfied that she is living out her golden years in the best place.

I couldn’t possibly give details about every animal we encountered, but there were many species which we hadn’t come across before. So many varieties of birds, but Arlo spent a while following peacocks around as they roam the grounds freely, and was delighted to be surrounded fed by hens as we stopped at one of the many play parks dotted around grounds.

There were lots of picnic stops, benches and refreshment stores all clearly sign posted for our regular snack stops, even on a busy Saturday during school holidays we never felt crowded.

A couple of stand out experiences include the desert walk through – this vast indoor space was full of birds flying around us, which gave us a chance for some really close encounters, and was a truly unique experience.

My personal favourite was the monkey area – I’m no an expert but the enclosures looked well laid out, lots of enrichment, very clean and the whole area was full of information, educational and interactive displays about issues such as palm oil deforestation, difficult for anyone to miss.

There’s also other environments to explore – we spent a lot of time with the crocodiles, the reptiles, the lemurs and then also wandering through an outdoor wetlands trail/aviary.

It’s certainly worth keeping track of time to follow the animal feeds and talks – the keepers are extremely knowledgable and happy to answer any questions you may have, and all extremely patient with children.

I think aside from meeting all of the new animals – the highlight of Arlo’s day was the little train ride which took us around the lake across to the big cat enclosures for a view you wouldn’t get from the pathways. After a chat with the driver we learned about the local steam railway which we squeezed in time to visit on the last day of our holiday.

We also learned about another site run by the trust in Torquay – “Living Coasts” and manages to visit whilst on this mini break. There are opportunities to receive discounted entry tickets between these attractions if you speak with the teams at reception.

Thank you Paignton Zoo, we will be back again very soon and highly recommend as a must visit to holiday makers in the area.