Go Behind the Scenes at Fota Wildlife Park

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Go behind the scenes at Fota Wildlife Park, County Cork, Ireland. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com

Fota Wildlife Park is a quick 10km from Cork City, but the 100 acres of parkland feel like they are miles from the bustling town. A zoological park with ‘open and natural' surroundings for animals, Fota Wildlife Park offers the feeling of a safari in a safe, family friendly environment.

Open and natural animal enclosure at Fota Wildlife Park. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com
This ostrich seems to have a few words for the giraffe….

Wandering around the spacious grounds can take the better part of a day. Ring-tail lemur, kangaroo, wallaby, and all manner of birds roam freely around the grounds while giraffe, ostrich, and zebra roam the large central field with 2 fence-lines to keep them corralled. Large cats laze in the shade of high-fenced, grassland enclosures while monkeys jump and play on their large island homes.

Don't pet the kangaroo while it's eating! Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com
Kangaroo roam loose but the park staff are always keeping an eye on them. These signs went up just moments after the little one began eating.

There's no doubt that a visit to Fota Wildlife Park is a great addition to your Ireland itinerary – but to make the visit extra special I highly recommend scheduling a Behind the Scenes or VIP Family Experience.

Stay near Fota Wildlife Park: Fota Island Resort Lodges are great for families.

A Behind the Scenes Tour at Fota Wildlife Park

After checking in at the front gate we were introduced to Willie Duffy, our guide for the 2 hour tour. Head Warden in charge of animals and staff, Willie has been at Fota for 28 years; to say he is an expert is an understatement. Willie knows the ins and outs of everything happening behind the scenes and answered every question my inquisitive girls asked.

Because the park is so large, and 2 hours can pass quickly, Willie loaded us into a golf cart for our park tour. First stop: giraffes.

Feeding giraffes at Fota Wildlife Park. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com
No raised platforms here! The giraffe are so very tall….

As the girls fed leaves to the giraffes, Willie rattled off their names, pointing out parents and children, and sharing fun stories of each.

And our tour only got better from there.

We met Leslie in food prep as she was cutting fruits and vegetables in monkey-hand sized chunks so they could be easily grabbed.

Preparing meals for the monkeys at Fota Wildlife Park. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com
All meals for the animals are hand prepped.

Then we zipped around the lake to feed fish to the greedy pelicans, before stepping into the feeding area of the spider monkey cage where the monkeys daintily took nuts from our hands.

Feeding pelicans at Fota Wildlife Park. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com
Do you see the fish?

Our stop to feed the ducks was a highlight for the girls as the birds would eat right out of their hands – very unlike the ducks at home. As the girls made sure each duck got its share, Willie told me that €10,000-€15,000 is raised annually from the 50¢ charge per cup of duck food, and that 100% of the funds go toward animal conservation.

Hand feeding the ducks at Fota Wildlife Park. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com
Purchased duck food funds conservation efforts around the globe.

Big cats and rhinoceros were next, then we were off to the star attraction: the Cheetah Run. Designed to keep the world's fastest land animal active, the run allows cheetah to maintain their wild instincts and catch their food. It's really incredible how fast they are- and how they have a tendency to play with their food (much like a house cat) before settling down to eat.

Cheetah Run at Fota Wildlife Park. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com
This is how you exercise a cheetah. Catch of the day: rabbit.

Our tour ended here, the time having passed quickly, but not feeling rushed. After thanking Willie for the tour and saying our goodbyes, we headed back into the park- on foot this time- to spend more time with some of our favorite animals.

Tiger at Fota Wildlife Park, County Cork. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com
I'm not sure what he sees… but he's intent on whatever it is!

A bit about the tours: Only two tours are scheduled per day, so you need to book this in advance. All tours are private (so no large groups) and are perfect for families.

With our guide Willie and Larry the Lemur after our behind the scenes tour of Fota Wildlife Park. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |IrelandFamilyVacations.com
With our guide Willie and Larry the Lemur after our behind the scenes tour.

Fun Fota Facts

Fota Wildlife Park is open 363 days a year; closed only on Christmas and St. Stephens Day (December 25 & 26)

Fota Wildlife Park is known and respected for their Cheetah breeding program, with over 200 cubs born at Fota since 1985.

There is a small fee to park near the wildlife park; funds help maintain Fota House & Gardens nearby.

A ‘fun train' is available for a ride around the park, and wheelchairs are available on loan.

Public restrooms, play areas, and snack areas are available throughout the park.

Jody Halsted
Follow Along


  1. […] to my daughters' sorrow, had to remain in Ireland. Another amazing place to adopt an animal is the Fota Wildlife Park in Cork. Adoption certificates and updates about your animal are wonderful […]

    For some reason I never expected to see kangaroos in Ireland! This looks like a really well conceived wildlife park and the kind of place my kids would love.

      Ireland is full of surprises!
      It’s a really great place- well worth a visit!

    Looks like a good time! Not exactly the creatures I picture in Ireland! 😀

      It really is a world-class park. So incredibly well thought-out.

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