It’s Not a Zoo: Visiting Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey
It’s been over three months since I wrote any content about Britain and the United Kingdom, which feels weird and wrong, after writing bucket loads about the place for over two years. So, here we are, six months after I originally visited the largest of the Channel Islands in August of 2016 – with a follow up from my massive Jersey Guide, that I meant to write eons ago.
Half the reason I wanted to visit Jersey, was to see Durrell Wildlife Park for myself. If you’re been reading this blog for awhile, you may have cottoned on to the fact that I like animals. And I’ve pretty much made it my mission to get to any zoo, nature reserve or wildlife park that has a foot in the conservation world. Durrell stresses that it is not a zoo (although it was originally known as “Jersey Zoo”) and it may be one of those wonderful wildlife parks in the world, although I can’t say for sure until I visit them all, which is now my new life’s mission.
Related: The other Jersey Shore – Visiting the Biggest of the Channel Islands
The park was founded by author and conservationist Gerald Durrell on the 26th of March, 1959, followed by the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust on the 6th July 1963. Durrell was an avid animal lover, due to an unconventional childhood in Corfu, Greece (which he wrote about in many of his books.) He believed that zoos should primarily act as reserves and regenerators of endangered species. So, not a place where people go just to ogle at animals.
After Durrell’s death in 1995, the Trust changed its name to honour its founder and continued on with his mission – to save species from extinction. One of their success stories includes the Pink Pigeon, which hails from the island nation of Mauritius (also where the Dodo once walked, which now serves as the park’s symbol). In 1991, there was only 10 left in the world. The population now numbers almost 500, thanks to the park’s efforts.
One of the ways in which you can support their work, is to visit Durrell Wildlife Park. I think it’s unique among many parks, for a few reasons, apart all those mentioned above about do-gooding and the like.
The canteen food actually tastes nice
I try to bring a packed lunch to places like wildlife parks and zoos, or eat elsewhere. The food is usually one of two things (or both): expensive and not very good.
So, I was pleasantly surprised by the food at Café Firefly in Durrell Park. It was really, really tasty and didn’t break the bank (I purchased the Leek and Mushroom Tart for £5.95). The only downside was having to share the eating space with wasps, who wouldn’t get the hint and buzz off.
It doesn’t cost an arm and leg to enter
An adult ticket to Durrell is £16.00 and a child is £11.50 (kids under the age of 3 are free). To put that into perspective, a ticket for a day at the park is essentially the price of seeing a movie at Leicester Square.
Compare that to other zoos in the world, such as Sydney Taronga Zoo in Australia. Now, I do love both Sydney and that zoo, but the entry price is $46 (AUD). Steep, or what?
Something else to keep in mind – Jersey’s currency is the British pound, which has been doing abysmally since the Brexit referendum of 2016. This is extremely depressing for those who are living and travelling on the pound, but also poses a great opportunity for foreigners who have always considered travel to Britain to be just a little bit too expensive – particularly in places like Jersey, which are not exactly cheap to visit.
You can stay on site, relatively inexpensively!
If I ever go back to Jersey, I would want to try glamping at Durrell for sure. Although that is a little more on the exy side! But glamping! I love it.
You can also stay onsite at the local hostel, which is £43 a night. Keep in mind that this includes a Continental breakfast and a single entry to Wildlife Park. Continue to keep in mind that even the scabbiest of hostels in the UK cost at least 20 quid a night, when this one is set in a beautiful building that is close to coastal cliff walks and a short bus trip to the capital of Jersey, St. Helier.
Related: Waking up in the wild at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Australia
Making the most of a day at the park
I’d say get there early, but to be honest I preferred the park in the afternoon. Visiting during the school holidays meant that there were lots of people racing around with their children early on. The kids all had tantrums around lunchtime and the parents, fed up, left with them. So, come two pm, we essentially had the park to ourselves!
The park isn’t too big. You can take your time with it, but it can be seen quite easily in around three hours. I meandered, making sure I saw all the animals listed and giving myself the odd break here and there!
One of the highlights of the park, for me at least, was the Gerald Durrell Museum – littered with information and artefacts about the park’s founder. He had an interesting life, Durrell, and should be held as an example for all wannabe (or actual) conservationists. His work was… is still of paramount importance and it warms my heart that there are people involved with the park and the trust who are intent on continuing what he started.
It’s something we should all care about. As Durrell himself said:
When man continues to destroy nature, he saws the very branch on which he sits, since the rational protection of nature is at the same time the protection of mankind.
And no wonder he picked Jersey as the place to house his park. The island is one of those places that is so beautiful, you can’t help but stop and think: “Yes. This is worth preserving. This is worth taking care of.”
Have you been to Jersey or Durrell Wildlife Park?
So happy to find a kindred spirit!! 🙂 I’m a lover of animals and have also visited zoos around the world on my travels, including my dream “zoo”, Durrell Wildlife Park! I had the good fortune to stay on site and go behind the scenes, meeting many of the fabulous folk who devote their lives to these animals. That visit to Durrell changed my life!!
Sounds like you had an amazing time there and agreed, it’s a life-changing experience. Cheers for the comment, Stephanie.