Advantages An Excellent place to visit, Happy Animals
|Is it worth visiting?|
Whilst on our recent holiday to Tunisia we decided to take an excursion out of the site and as we have a 4 year old daughter that excursion had to be to the Friguia Animal Park. There was only one problem, the excursion organised by Thomson involved a few hours at the park followed by shopping in a local shopping centre. In the last few years we have experienced shopping in North African countries (Egypt and Turkey) and shopping with a young child is not a nice experience. North Africans especially shopkeepers love children and have a very good way of getting parents into their shops by offering the child a Chubba lolly, once they have the family in the shop it can be very difficult to extract yourself from the shop without buying something, so we would rather avoid this situation.We asked the rep if we could visit the park without the shopping, she made a telephone call and told us that a German tour visited the park only and if we wanted she would book us onto this excursion, like she said, you don't need a guide to tell you what animal you are looking at, so we duly accepted this offer.
About the ParkThe Friguia Animal Park is situated between Hammamet and Sousse, we were stopping in Hammamet and it took us, once we had stopped at every hotel to pickup, about 1/2 an hour to reach the Park.
Friguia is a private animal park open to the public since November 11th, 2000. The purpose of the park is to preserve the species by looking after the development of the most threatened ones. In cooperation with the General direction of Forests and the zoo of Paris their task is to reconstitute the decimated species and to reintroduce them in their natural environment. (Taken from their website)The park is set in 36 hectares and currently has over 400 animals covering over 60 species. Some of these animals are rare because of over-hunting. The park has been adapted to the real life living conditions of the animals allowing them to live in an environment more suited to their needs.
Over the last 10 years they have played an effective role in the conservation of a number of animal species. They have an established breeding programme of the Serval, a wild cat that has completely disappeared from Tunisia.The animals at the park include Lions, Tigers, Cheetahs, Giraffes, African Elephants, Zebras, Antelopes, Lemurs, Baboons, and a few different species of birds, Sea lions and Dolphins.
Our Morning outWe were picked up in an air conditioned bus at 8.30 in the morning and arrived at the park at 9.30. The park has ample parking and plenty of space for coaches. The outside of the park is painted in a bright yellow with drawings of animals dotted all about. Our German guide didn't speak very much English, however the Tunisian coach driver told us where the coach would be and at what time we were to be back for collection. He also told us what time the Sea lion show would be. At the entrance we were given a small leaflet giving basic information about the park this also included a map should you need it.
Once inside the park, you will find the resident photographer taking your photo as you walk in. These can be purchased for 5 Tunisian Dinar, (about £2.50). A booth selling ice creams and drinks can also be found along with toilets. The toilets are fairly clean; I have seen better and I have seen worse. The first section you come to is the birds, including swans, flamingos and ducks. Further up are the sea lions with viewing windows so you can see them in the pool; just across is the seating area for the show. As you walk further around you come across the rest of the animals. All the these animals are in very large field type enclosures, all with food, water and more importantly shade from the hot sun.The park has a couple of places to eat and a couple of places to buy snacks and ice cream although as we stopped all inclusive and went out just after breakfast and was being collected just before lunch we never had anything to eat other than a large family sized bag of crisps which were a reasonable price of 2 Dinar (£1.00). The prices looked fairly reasonable in the restaurants with pizzas and sandwiches served.
The park has two gift areas. One seemed the official gift shop selling animal related gifts along with a guide book. The second was a normal Tunisian gift shop selling fake sunglasses for 5 Dinar (£2.50) and other knickknacks you may want to buy, my 4 year old had a great time in here buying little cats in baskets and small colourful bracelets for her friends at preschool, they also managed to talk us into buying Holly a pink belly dancing outfit, at least all the prices were very cheap.Outside the main gift shop an African band can be found dancing and singing and playing African Drums. Seats are available for you to sit and watch them. Next to this you can find an amusement room and the main office.
Walking around the park is very easy on a concrete path and wooden pathways over some of the enclosures. Seats are available should you need a rest however there was not much in the way of shelter from the hot sun. Every enclosure had a brief description of the animal you are looking at and this is written in English and Arabic.If you fancy a camel ride, then the park offer them at 5 Dinar where you get the chance to ride through the antelope's 8 hectares enclosure. Children's donkey rides are available for 2 Dinar however I heard my Hubby mumble something like "she can do that at Blackpool", so Holly never got the chance to go on. If we had got longer at the park I may well have had a camel ride.
The park has signposts around the site pointing you in various directions of the animals, toilets and restaurants. The park do also request that you place any rubbish you have in the bins placed every few meters around the park and I have to say the park seemed spotlessly clean of rubbish and cigarette butts so people do take notice which is a good thing in such a beautiful place.We only came across one animal attendant and he was working in the elephant enclosure but he did offer to take photo close ups of the elephants for you at a nominal charge.
Living ConditionsYou may have noticed I have not yet covered the living conditions of the animals. This is something I was dreading when we decided to visit the park as you never know what to expect. I needn't have worried. The animals looked in very good condition; they had plenty of room to move about living in semi freedom in very large enclosures and I am talking of up to a good few acres of living area per breed. They all looked very relaxed and happy and not one animal was pacing backward and forwards as you can find in some of the zoos around the world. Each area seemed to have the same amount of shelter they get in their natural environment, some of the shelter was man made and some natural from the trees. In fact you wouldn't actually think you are in a park you could possible mistake it for the plains of Tunisia with mountains in the distance. One Ostrich was walking around the site free however he seemed completely oblivious to the general public and seemed very relaxed just pottering about. And as for the big cats I don't think I have ever seen cats as relaxed as they are here.
ShowsThe park do a few shows to keep you occupied through your visit. One is the sea lion show, however this happened more or less as we entered the park and decided not to watch it as we had no idea how big the park was and if we watched it would we get around the rest of the animals.
Another show was the African show which I mentioned earlier. They also conduct an evening show which includes a walk around the park before settling down in the Shaka restaurant for a traditional Tunisian meal served with drinks and entertained by Zulu's dancing, singing and story telling. We didn't go on this excursion but it is available through Thomson at the cost of 65.00 Dinar (£32.50) per Adult and 32.50 Dinar (£16.25) per child. I have no idea how good this show is as we never actually came across anybody who had been on this excursion within our hotel.New for May 2010 is the Dolphinarium Dolphin Shows. Entrance is an extra charge and once again we never got to see this show as the times didn't suit our trip. You can also take swim wear and swim with the Dolphins; this is book-able the day before your visit. I'm sure it will not be long before Thomson offer an excursion including the swim as I would have certainly taken up the chance if we had known about it.
Extra InformationI did enquire with our reception how much a cab would cost so we could visit the park on our own however they told me it would be 80 Dinar (£40.00) however I have since found out that you can agree a price direct with the taxi drivers and some charge as little as 35.00 Dinar return (£17.50) and will sit and wait for you outside the park whilst you amuse yourself within the park. Our excursion with the Germans cost us 50 Dinar (25.00) for the 3 of us, Thomson charge 69.00 Dinar per Adult and 35.00 Dinar per Child for visit to the park, lunch and shopping.
If you are brave enough there is a train station at Friguia about 200 metres from the entrance with trains starting at Tunis, Hammamet, Sousse and Sfax. There is also a reduction in park entrance if you present your train ticket.I have emailed the park to find out how much they charge for entrance into the park and how much the dolphin show etc cost however as yet they have not come back to me. I have heard entrance into the park costs just a few Dinar.
The park is open from 9am till 7pm in the summer and 9am till 4pm in the winter. The park is closed Mondays.The park is wheelchair and pushchair friendly all though you will have to negotiate some hills around the park.
We visited on a Saturday morning and when we arrived the park was quiet however when we left it started to get a bit busier with locals taking their families on visits.Overall
It is certainly an excellent place to visit and I would recommend a visit, unfortunately we only had 2 1/2 hours there which was not really enough time and we could have done with an extra hour or so to see the sea lion and dolphin show.If you do want to visit, I would advise you to take plenty of water with your however drinks are available to buy at the park. Also take sunscreen and maybe a hat as once you are there it can be difficult to find shelter out of the sun. We managed to see most of the animals apart from the Baboons who seemed to be hiding. My daughter was very pleased with her day out, she got to see Alex the Lion, Melman the Giraffe, Marty the Zebra and the Lemurs and she actually believed they had all starred in the film Madagascar although she was a little disappointed that Gloria the Hippo and the Penguins were on holiday (we had to make up something as to why they were not there!)
Further information can be found on www.friguiapark.comMany thanks for reading. Anna
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