We lived in France for 14 years. Our son was born in France and spent the first 16 months of his life there. For most of our time in France, we were lucky to live just a short drive from, in our opinion, the best Zoo in France. We have visited quite a few zoos and this is by far our favourite. Please read on to find out more about the Bioparc Zoo de Doué la Fontaine. I wish I had more photos from our time over there as there is plenty I could write about and I really should find a way to write about it all. Luckily I have many photos from our zoo visits.
So where is this zoo I hear you ask? It’s situated in Department 49 in the Doué-en-Anjou area of France. Doué-la-Fontaine is the closest town. However, if you are wondering where it is in relation to major cities it is not far from the Poitou-Charentes and Loire border so it’s about 1hr30 from Poitiers, Nantes, Le Mans and Tours. It is situated right in the middle of all of these cities which are in the mid west region of France. It’s also not too far from a Centre Parcs the Bois Aux Daims, in the Vienne.
Bioparc – Zoo de Doué la Fontaine –
The Best Zoo in France
First of all, I must start by saying that we need to go back! They have since added a new Himalayan section to the park with tiered sections for you to sit and watch the vultures and markhor goats, on the lower level. On the upper level, they have snow leopards. This does mean that they no longer have one of our favourite parts of the park which was a walk through amongst their vultures. It was fabulous as they were right there on the pathways. However, it looks like this new section also allows you to get really close to them.
Our Highlight – Our Favourite Part of Doue Zoo
The giraffe enclosure is our absolute highlight of Doue Zoo. Once you’ve paid to enter or shown your tickets purchased online you start your journey through the park via the giraffes. Why do we love it so much? Well because you can eat your lunch, or dinner, while sat right next to them.
They have a large space with no wire fence/cage as they are down in a large quarry. You can pretty much expect to be able to sit and eat outside during your visit. The food is usually a set menu which includes a BBQ. We have eaten there every time and the food has been slightly on the expensive side but always tasty and you can eat as much as you like from the BBQ. It’s all very natural as you eat off plates made of natural materials while gazing out at the giraffes and zebras.
The rest of the park is on two levels. There is so much to see, you can easily spend a full day here. We love this zoo because it looks and feels so natural. Instead of putting the animals in small cages or unnatural environments they have gone out of their way to give them somewhere to live that is as true to where they come from as possible. Instead of cages for monkeys, they are on islands surrounded by water. The exotic birds are in the biggest aviary I’ve ever seen with plenty more natural enclosures and attention to detail. I will talk more about everything below.
On the Lower Level
Needless to say, I would be here all day writing about the park if I mentioned every enclosure so I will guide you around our highlights. It is a unique troglodyte site and you have to walk through troglodyte caves to get to most of the enclosures, the best cave being the one to the South American great aviary.
When you walk down to the lower level, from the giraffes, you can pass through a Vivarium of tropical creatures such as tortoises, crocodiles, snakes and other reptiles. You then enter into a large aviary type enclosure where you are amongst essentially free birds.
This is the Okapi Sanctuary (a cross between a zebra and a giraffe that was only discovered in the 20th Century). We rarely spot an Okapi and to be honest, some of the birds are also hard to spot. But if you take your time in this African enclosure your eyes will become trained and you will start to spot not only the Okapi but brightly coloured birds, Hamlyn’s monkey and the forest antelope, the Natal red duiker. In the wild, they live in dense vegetation and this is what they’ve created for them at the zoo.
Sometimes it is incredibly hard to spot the leopards. They are so well camouflaged and there’s plenty of vegetation for them to hide in. Like most of the other animals at the zoo, they make each visit different. On our last visit, we were blessed with such a good view of the Leopards. I have never seen a leopard pacing about here, unlike many other zoos that I have visited.
South American Great Aviary
This is my husbands favourite part of the zoo, especially as we own two macaws ourselves. I have to admit that it is incredibly impressive and it comes a close second to the giraffes. This aviary is so big you don’t even realise it’s an aviary. The birds are not behind a fence they are all free and flying over you or resting on posts or nooks and crannies. It is more than worth it to time your visit to this part of the zoo with their feeding time. The macaws and parrots all flock down to eat and you can stand right next to them as they do so.
There are other birds in here such as flamingos, penguins, scarlet ibis, Inca terns, Chilean pelicans and many many more bird species. You will be able to get closer to the macaws and vultures more than any of the birds in there. We have seen some hilarious spectacles from the vultures. Including one nibbling the wheel of a wheelchair and another trying to undo our shoelaces.
The European aviary is a lot smaller than the great South American aviary. We never spend anywhere near the length of time in here as we do the one mentioned above. The birds in here have a lovely enclosure and although you aren’t quite as close to them they are able to fly around amongst you. We found one of the birds from the Okapi sanctuary in here once and helped to rescue him. Another time one of the birds was trying to make a breakout and wouldn’t let anyone out the gate.
The Upper Level
Fun places to pose for photos
There’s plenty of photo opportunities around the zoo. Not just from the real animals but with many of their beautiful carved animals. We have some great photos of us all sat on some of them. Here are a few of our photos.
The lions at this zoo are usually pretty impressive. We’ve never been when they’ve been asleep. They’ve always been awake and roaming about. Again they have never been pacing. They always look relaxed and at home in their environment. The male can be very noisy at times and Jamie loved to stand at the window and listen to him. He provides quite a haunting sound that can be heard right around the zoo.
There is also a South American, Asian and Madagascan area within the zoo with monkeys. They all live on islands (monkeys can’t/won’t swim) and have a lovely environment to live and play in. There are spider monkeys and Tamarins in the South-American area. Madagascar, of course, has Lemurs (my favourite animals). With Gibbons in the Asian area.
Giant Otters and Pygmy Hippos
It can be a challenge being there at the right time to spot a Giant otter or a pygmy hippo. They each have large enclosures and if they’re not out or if they’re hiding it can be difficult to see them. But if you do it usually more than worth the wait.
The Rhinos have a vast enclosure. They are always there so they are easy to spot. There are other animals in there with them but let’s face it people only have eyes for the rhinos. Their enclosure covers a very impressive 200 acres.
Opposite the Rhino enclosure, you will find the African farm. Here you can enter a goat enclosure and walk amongst them. This is especially lovely when there are some kid goats in residence.
Again the bears can be hard to spot at times but when they are out they are very inquisitive and enjoy looking up at the people passing by.
There are quite a few other animals to be found in Doue Zoo which I haven’t mentioned above such as Cheetahs, mongooses, giant tortoises, wolves and more.
I hope this has inspired you to pay a visit to our favourite zoo. Photos and words just can’t do it justice enough.
It is cheaper to purchase your tickets online in advance. You can visit from February until November and exact dates can be found on their website. Currently, an adult ticket purchased online costs 20,50euros for an adult and 15,50euros for a child aged 3-10 years old. Under 3’s are free. It is free to park at the zoo and there are plenty of parking spaces across the road from the zoo.
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