The story of a girl whose dream came true…
I’ve always been passionate about animals and have been inspired over time by a select few naturalists, conservationist and forward thinkers. The list includes the likes of icons in the field like Dian Fossey, George and Joy Adamson, as well as the man with the voice and spirit behind my favourite BBC nature shows – David Attenborough. But there has only been one that has spanned all of my passions, from reading to writing, and zoos to conservation and that is the beloved Gerald Durrell. After reading many of Durrell’s travel and conservation inspiring books, full of wit and astounding journeys around the globe and hearing of all the amazing work he was doing with his zoo and with various organizations around the world to protect species I knew I had to visit the now Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey.
As I finished working at my local zoo and began Lady of the Zoos and started traveling to zoos around the world the Durrell Wildlife Park became my dream “zoo” destination. The be all, end all. The top “zoological” park in my opinion. After a few failed attempts to visit while on my various visits to the UK I was determined to some how get there. So when I began planing my Epic Solo Adventure to the UK & Europe for spring/summer of 2015 back in the summer of 2014 I said to my self this is the time! So I reached out to Durrell Wildlife Park and their hostel – much like I always do when planning on visiting a zoo to see if they would be interested in sponsoring my visit with comped entry tickets and because they have an on site hostel I inquired about staying there. Then the magic happened and the animal choir sang out – a gentlemen from their PR department got back to me right away and said they would love to have me! My dream was becoming tangible.
When my time came to arrive in Jersey I asked my contact with Durrell about the best way to get from the airport to the Park. Queue the howler monkeys – he offered to pick me up! This dream “zoo” destination was becoming more and more magical with some royal treatment. After a drive down some winding, narrow roads towards to other side of the island we arrived at Durrell Wildlife Park, shrouded in a dim light as night was upon us. As gentlemen do he took my bag and we headed into the hostel and up the varying stairs to the top floor to my room – Torty ( each room at the hostel is named for a different endangered species, making it that much more charming). After a quick tour of the hostel and the outside of the park (as it was after closing hours) we said our good nights.
We met the next morning where he gave me a fabulous and extensive tour of the Park, including background information on various exhibits, and animals at the park. He knew all their names and spoke of them as dear friends. We also went behind the scenes at the reptile house, the medical centre and I was thrilled to see the real guts of the Park where all the real work goes on. We spoke of the many conservation programs that Durrell Wildlife Park deals with including many endangered island species from Madagascar and Mauritius.
After my tour I took off to wander slowly back through the park, amazed by how few visitors there were, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘don’t they know how important this place is?!’ At some parts it felt as though I had the park and its awesome creatures to myself, my menagerie for the day. (Don’t you worry I’ll be going into depth as usual for my visit around the Park.)
6 thoughts on “My Durrell Dream Come True”
Yes!!! I’ve had my own pilgrimage to Gerald Durrell’s zoo. I read my first of his books when I was a young teenager, when a conservation-minded aunt gave me a copy of ‘A Zoo in My Luggage’. From then on Gerald Durrell was my hero and I thought saving endangered animal species was the most worthy cause in the world. I visited his zoo with a female friend who had no particular interest in animals but understood that it was a lifelong dream for me to be there.
During that four-month holiday I visited about 25 zoos, wildlife parks and aquariums in the UK and Europe. I also went to Singapore Zoo on the way home. It was one of the best – happy healthy animals, beautiful lush surrounds and incredibly clean – even the water in the crocodile pond was clean! Other favourite zoos from that trip were London, Whipsnade, Chester, Antwerp, Berlin and Basel. On my last overseas holiday I went to Woodland Park, Oregon, San Francisco and San Diego zoos in the US. I’d love to visit zoos in Canada.
I just came across your blog after I did a Google Images search for Gerald Durrell. I’m compiling pictures to display while I teach Ethics at a college here in Canberra (capital of Australia). I want to impress on the students that morality is not just about people but is also about (other) animals and the rest of nature. I have pictures of George and Joy Adamson with Elsa the lioness, Diane Fossey – and David Attenborough – with gorillas, Jane Goodall with chimpanzees, and other people with normally-wild animals (including me with a cheetah at our local zoo). I think one way people can change so that they care about animals is by having personal experiences with them – or even vicariously through people like Gerald Durrell.
Best wishes for more of your dreams to come true,
Thanks for stopping by and if you head to Canada be sure to visit the Toronto Zoo!
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