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Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz is billed as the ‘must see’ of Tenerife and after our December visit, it came as no surprise to find out that a high percentage of visitors come the island specifically to visit this theme park.
- Accompanied by neighbour’s children Adriana and Sergio, photographer hubby and game but elderly visiting parent, we formed a typical group of sightseers. Mum needed a wheelchair which was available free of charge with a small deposit and was easy to manage over the well signposted paths. The kids insisted on doing the whole bit, “we’ve never been on a train” and it certainly made a great start to the trip as they waved with glee at the pedestrians along the route. Despite the gloomy weather, there was still lots to see and do.
The Thai village at the entrance to the park, covered in parts with 24 carat gold leaf intrigued the adults and overawed the children, but the presence of the Three Kings just inside the gate (after all it was Christmas) soon loosened tiny tongues. A delight for the plant lover as well as the animal fanatic, there are over 8,000 palm trees in the park blending with the rest of the exuberant tropical landscape which includes the giant white strelitzia, the bird of paradise flower, which grows up to six metres high as well as an orchid garden, a cactus garden and a jungle filled with budgerigars.
The teeming masses of the huge Koi carp swam under and around the wooden bridge as we headed for the official photograph with the beautifully plumaged parrots. The bachelor-boy gorilla group was the first of its kind in the world. They form part of the European Gorilla Conservation programme and wait in their extraordinary 3,500 square metres pen until their turn comes to form a family group. Heavy with their winter coats, they look close enough to touch.
The largest penguinarium in the world came next, the Pacific pen with the Chilean penguins and Planet Penguin, where 12 tons of snow falls daily on the chilly guests. The glass walls allow full visibility above and below the water line and the moving walkway means that everybody gets the chance to see every aspect of each of the specially designed areas. It’s especially great for the children as even the smallest get an uninterrupted view of the balletic skills of the chubby water-dynamically shaped bodies. Don’t miss the puffins - the Loro Parque is one of very few zoos to show this species of bird. The glass cylinder in the centre of the circular ramp on the way out of this stunning new exhibition holds almost 6,000 boque fish in 100 cubic metres of sea water. We were lucky to catch the morning feeding time at 10 am, well worth it – afternoon feeding at 4.30 pm.
A personal favourite, the Californian sea lion show, was next on the list for one of the five half hour shows that are presented every day. Over a million litres of sea water are pumped into the pool every day and the graceful beasts were already busily swimming around in the glass sided pool as the audience took their seats. The skill and intelligence of these animals is amazing and I defy anyone to say they have no sense of humour and are not laughing and applauding themselves all the way through. Foot-tapping music gets the public clapping along to a number of routines, but 19 year old Sinbad is the definite star of the show, cocky, cheeky and a real personality.
The range of the exhibitions is astounding. A superb nature film which was created for the Expo in Seville in 1992 and now belongs to the Loro Parque is shown nine times a day in the special dome theatre. There are tiny Titi monkeys and chimps, pelicans, flamencos and cranes, jaguars and tigers, iguanas, tortoises and alligators. And of course the largest collection of parrots in the world with a fascinating newborn hand-rearing facility.
The children adored the parrot show, especially in-house comic talking parrot Paco and the lovely Luna, a very intelligent cockatoo and the free flight show was a kaleidoscope of glowing colours with tropical birds swooping inches over the audience’s heads. The Gambian market just outside offered an interesting selection of souvenir items, including tee-shirts, trick photos and toffees which were inexpensive and the sales staff were helpful and very unpushy.
With nine animals now included in the performance the dolphin show continues to change, evolve and improve. You are shown to your seat by a Chaplin look-alike and the largest dolphin facility in Europe, seating 1,800 people soon fills up. The show flows well, with one set of dolphins entertaining the public whilst the next are preparing for their entrance. Like all intelligent animals, dolphins need to continue learning new things which means that the show is always fresh. Adriana, along with every other little girl in the audience, was desperate to be the one the trainer chose to be towed in the boat by the dolphins and then give them a kiss, but it was not to be and both children still had a fabulous time staring open-mouthed at the spectacular leaps and clever tricks.
Even the entrance to the aquarium is fascinating as you head down hill into the green translucent world. Huge tanks with an enormous variety of fishes enjoy the best of attention but the top draw has to be the shark tunnel. The public walks through a long glass tunnel whilst sharks swim alongside and overhead and the smallest sound echoes as nerves are stretched to the limit as you come face to face with the relatives of Jaws.
The path leads back to the Thai village and a chance to buy the photograph taken earlier at a very reasonable six euros before a visit to the parrot porcelain museum with examples of over three hundred years of master porcelain creators skill. All in all, we had a very full day which was thoroughly enjoyed by all despite the rain which totally failed to put the damper on anyone’s pleasure. Highly recommended, the Loro Parque is well worth visiting because everyone, young or old, singles, couples or families will learn something new and find something to interest them in this fascinating and very complete theme park.
The park offer a behind the scenes Discovery tour at a tiny additional cost. As well as giving special information about the animals and the history of the park, the tour in Spanish, English or German takes in areas not generally open to the public such as the dolphin quarantine tanks and animals bedrooms. To book ring 922 376901 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Throughout the park there are stalls offering goods for sale in favour of the Loro Parque foundation which protects parrots in danger either in their natural habitat or through controlled breeding programmes. 100 per cent of donations received goes directly to the charity.
Baby buggies are available for hire at five euros and electric wheelchairs at just 12 - it’s advisable to book. There are loads of public toilets, all impeccably clean and provided with nappy changing facilities.
There are five different restaurants and cafes in the park offering something for all tastes and pockets, in addition to a well sited and clean picnic area. Casa Pepe, offering tapas, steaks, roast lamb etc. has an additional plus in that it has a children’s park next-door so adults can eat in peace whilst the kids play.
The train runs from the corner of the Avenida Generalisimo and the Avenida de Venezuela, just south of the Lago Martiánez pool complex from 9 am to 6.45 pm every 20 minutes and the park is open from 8.30 am to 6.45 pm – 5 pm last entry. Residents pay just 13 euros with a reduction to 8.50 for children and can also buy a yearly season ticket for just 33 euros – 19 for children, great if you tend to have a lot of visitors as the Loro Parque really is a ‘must see’ visit. Non resident’s tickets are 22 euros and 14.50 for children.