The Island is naturally home to an array of fascinating species from red squirrels to white-tailed eagles, but within the four corners of the diamond isle there are a host of animal attractions to appeal to your wild side. Whether you want a big cat encounter, to become a climbing frame for a lemur or take a relaxing walk with alpacas, our vibrant island will get you closer to wildlife than you could have ever imagined.
Known formerly as the Isle of Wight Zoo, The Wildheart Animal Sanctuary in Sandown is a safe haven for tigers, lions, primates and lemurs to name a few. When visiting you can feel a sense of pride that you are doing your bit for conservation projects as The Wildheart Trust provides funding for programmes in India, Madagascar and even towards projects in the UK.
During Spring 2022 the team are planning to open their pioneering Primate Rescue Centre, a new sustainably built walk-through that will be the first design of its kind in Europe. Want to get involved and support this Island institution? You can volunteer, become a member or donate to one of the many projects.
With the majority of the site being undercover, Amazon World, near Arreton, is great for escaping the rain. Wander through the rainforest with birds flying overhead or scampering through the undergrowth. As you make your way to the nocturnal section, catch a glimpse of armadillos, loris and sloths – it’s a unique look into the life of animals at night. There’s more outside to discover including an elusive ocelot and the ever-popular wallaby walk and lemur encounter. The zoo takes its role within conservation seriously, contributing to breeding programmes to safeguard species for the future. Sign up for an animal experience where you can tickle a tapir or meet the meerkats. Your little monkeys will also love the huge indoor play area, giving you five minutes to enjoy a cuppa.
The Isle of Wight is a safe home for many of us and Monkey Haven primate rescue centre has extended that generosity to a barrel full of monkeys. All the primates there have been rescued for reasons including; ostracized by their peers, saved from the illegal pet trade or unsuitable for breeding programmes – everyone is loved here. As you wander around the centre the air is filled with monkey chatter and the unmistakable song of the gibbons can be heard all around. Feel like you’re taking a piece of the Haven home and leave your mark by adopting an animal.
If you’re looking for a less exotic critter close up try Tapnell Farm. Not only the Island’s hottest childrens play area (with bouncy pillows, go-karts, indoor soft play and more) they are home to a bevy of beautiful beasties. Undercover in the relative warmth of the barn is ‘pet’s corner’. Little ones will love the bouncy bunnies, giggly guinea pigs and the acrobatic stylings of the harvest mice, you’ll have nothing but a smile on your face as they jump around their enclosure. Take a stroll around the outside paddock where you’ll find pigs, goats, sheep, donkeys, alpacas and even wallabies.
If you want to go walking with alpacas (or llamas) head to West Wight Alpacas. Home to around 60 alpacas and 13 llamas the attraction allows you to book a slot where you, or a family group, can each lead one of these magnificent mammals around the fields. While away an afternoon and visit the other residents such as goats, sheep, chickens and ducks. Take timeout at the onsite restaurant with either a light lunch or one of the renowned stone-baked pizzas. You can literally take a piece of alpaca home with you by visiting the shop where many of the items are made using alpaca wool, the feel and quality is like nothing else.
With the recent reintroduction of white-tailed sea eagles, birds of prey are a hot topic on the Isle of Wight. We have two excellent falconry centres on the Island, Haven Falconry which is located at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and hold daily flying displays when the Railway is open. Robin Hill also has its own falconer, Charlie who again runs daily displays when the park is open. Be in awe of harris hawks and falcons alongside the newest addition, Chief, a white-tailed sea eagle. Robin Hill is working hard to develop its educational offering within the park alongside an ongoing dedication to help preserve the art of falconry within the UK and have announced plans to open a brand-new Falconry Centre in 2022.
The Donkey Sanctuary is home to 113 donkeys, one mule and 22 ponies, all have either been rescued or abandoned. Set in 55 acres, you can explore the paddocks and stables at your leisure.
Admission is free but because the centre relies on donations they hope you’ll enjoy a bite in their café, or buy a souvenir from their shop – as well as enjoy being close to their beautiful residents.
Quarr Abbey, a working monastery and home to Benedictine Monks, is known island-wide for its pigs. As you enter the Abbey from the car park, the various pig pens are usually full of perfectly pink piglets with their mothers. The monks farm the pigs as well as grow their very own fruit and vegetables and any surplus can be purchased at the farm shop alongside other local favourites including the Abbey’s very own beer.
When planning your visit to the Isle of Wight, makes sure you include a trip to one of the Island’s animal attractions. Go wild and your entry fee may even go towards helping the conservation of a species.