EUROPARADISE PARQUE ZOOLÓGICO
Hubby decided to take me on a mystery tour which included a trip to Europaradise Zoological Park then onto Serra da Boa Viagem (Forest) and a final stop at Figueira da Foz (beach). Europaradise is a forest zoo and is located in Montemor-o-Velho which is 1 hours drive from our casa and about 3KM from Figueira da Foz. It’s very unique as it’s set in a beautiful Mediterranean forest. There are many animals to view in this protected area and plenty of flora and fauna. To be honest, I have never been a fan of zoo’s. I personally feel that animals should be living in their natural habitat in the wild but this zoo was very different to traditional zoos. The animals have huge spaces to roam and looked very relaxed in their environment. I am really surprised at the mixed bag of reviews for this place especially some of the negative reviews. I’m quite a critical person when reviewing places and this zoo rocked!
The entry price is only €5 for an adult and €2.50 for a child ticket but make sure you take cash as there is no cashpoint and they do not take card. There are strict rules: You must NOT feed the animals, touch the animals or make loud noises by calling them. I had a little quiet chat with a few of the lemurs which was fine. Signs are provided to give you more info on the species. There is no on site cafe or restaurant and the park closes at 6PM so you must arrive at least 1 1/2 hours prior to closing time. The park is very well signposted and you follow a 2KM walkable route around the park via a forest dirt track which may be a bit tricky for disabled visitors and pushchairs. We viewed so many animals including: Lemurs, Racoons, lots of birds including Peacocks, Ostrich, Emu and more, Zebra, Tigers, Kangaroos, Llama, many varieties of Monkeys, Porcupines, Deer and Pigs. You even get to experience some animals roaming freely like Peacocks and Lemurs, not tigers (ha ha). My favourite were the Lemurs with their excessively long tails and the Zebra. The Zebra’s pattern, just wow, hubby was fascinated with the pattern on it’s ass, maybe I need to get a Zebra ass tattoo (ha ha).
The park was so tranquil and empty, we were the only ones there along with one other family which meant we could easily social distance and we had as much time as we wanted to view the animals and take photos. It almost felt like we hired out the place just to ourselves which was fabulous. It was very clean and did not smell which is important for me. From what I have read, it is a family run business and a couple own the zoo. They have no financial input from the state and have invested all their own money into living their dream. They also suffered from the recent hurricane and I have heard rumours that they may have to close in the near future which is a huge shame. One thing I particularly like here in Portugal is that ticket prices are not inflated like the U.K. Also nothing is overly commercialised so no having to walk through a tacky gift shop on way in and out like at Bristol Zoo.
I do feel that they have missed an opportunity in not having a cafe. They do have a bar but I think it might be closed due to Covid but I’m not actually sure. There are a couple of vending machines selling snacks and drinks. Toilets are situated at the start near entrance and half way around the route. I didn’t see hardly any staff on our trek around the zoo. I’m no marketing expert but I feel that I could help promote this place and make it even more epic. Firstly it’s not advertised that well as I have never come across it on Google searches. I also feel that it would benefit from offering private tours (experience being a ranger for the day) and advertising the feeding of the animals at certain timings throughout the day. They could sell bags of bird seed too. Offering Workaway placements for travellers to work in exchange for accommodation (tent/camping) would be a great opportunity and volunteering placements would be rewarding.
I found a bank debit card on the floor and handed it in so that’s my good deed for the day. Luis – if you retrieve your cash card from the zoo, you have me to thank, you owe me a beer (ha ha). Hopefully karma will go full circle and reward me back one day. I really loved this zoo and we spent a couple of hours exploring. It felt like our personal mini safari. It is one of the zoological parks with the most natural conditions that can be given to animals and the fantastic owners have tried their very best to recreate their natural habitat. It has a great diversity of animals too.
On the way to the zoo we passed a huge castle (Montemor-o-Velho) nestled on a hill. I love how we often just stumble across such astonishing attractions by accident. We need to go back to visit this castle next time. After the zoo we visited Serra da Boa Viagem (forest) to explore and eat our picnic next to a little chapel. This was a little awkward as there was an elderly lady knelt down on the floor outside of the church praying and we are sat on a nearby picnic table scoffing our faces. She knelt there for ages whilst her hubby sat in the car and left her to it. She then struggled to get up and I wanted to offer some help but didn’t want to intrude. I said to hubby that will be us in 30 years! There was another family on the next picnic table and they had a full blown Portuguese picnic experience with a tablecloth! Gotta love a Portuguese picnic, we just have a Decathlon cooling backpack with a roll, cake and drink.
We encountered a funny experience in the forest. Stumbled across an elderly couple looking very suspicious with a garden rake. They saw us and ran as fast as they could towards their car. I am really hoping they were burying Pedro the family pet dog and not an actual human! Welcome to weird and wonderful Portugal! There are some beautiful viewpoints in Serra da Boa Viagem which give splendid panoramic views. We visited the viewpoint of Cabo Mondego close to the lighthouse. The view has a facing view of the sea and to the South, the view reaches Buarcos, Figueira and the mouth of the Mondego. The viewpoints from the forest are magical. I love the fact that the horizon is a beautiful merging of blue and green colours of the sky, sea and trees with a lingering aroma of pine, pure heaven. We made a final stop at Figueira da Foz (beach) for ice cream and a stroll along the sands.