Pairi Daiza

Macsen turned 16 last month and we wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. What we came up with was a two-day trip to Pairi Daiza, a zoo and botanical garden located in Wallonia. For the first day, we signed Macsen up for the Keeper for a day experience, which allowed him to get a lot closer to the animals than the rest of us.

That said, the park is huge, so there were plenty of animals for the rest of us to see. Pairi Daiza is home to 7,000 animals, spread across 65 hectares of, often stunning, landscape. It’s big, and I’m glad we were all equipped with decent walking shoes.

The park itself is located on the grounds of the former Cistercian Cambron Abbey, and is divided into several Worlds, each emphasising a different environment. What makes the overnight stay so special is that the accommodation is in these worlds. In our case, we booked a room in The Land of the Cold, overlooking the Siberian Tigers, the biggest cat on earth.

As with many modern zoos, Pairi Daiza also serves environmental and educational functions, seeing to preserve threatened habitats, protect endangered species and introduce them into the wild if possible. It also seeks to educate visitors about the wider culture of the lands the animals originate from, and why this matters.

With the experience and the accommodation, it’s not cheap. But it did provide a fantastic couple of days, and I was surprised at just how difficulty it was, on the second day, to bring ourselves to leave. I would certainly recommend it and would very happily go again.