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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.