A Great Afternoon in Normandy at Biotropica
It was on a sunny Sunday afternoon, August 24, 2014 when my friend Ludovic who lives in Normandy suggested that we have a picnic by a lake and then visit Biotropica, the largest non-specialized zoo in France. He told me it would be like walking in the woods and seeing animals. The animals are not in cages but behind wired fences or enclosed in glass for the fish.
La Serre Zoologic Biotropica, the largest greenhouse (serre in French), which opened two years ago, is located near the city of Rouen in a small city called Val de Reuil. There are three lakes near the greenhouse and one was just perfect for our picnic. Eating French cheese from Normandy and cold cuts with a little French wine, we enjoyed seeing the people water ski on the lake and others in peddle boats. Also sailboats are available for rent.
After lunch we went to Biotropica. It takes about 2 to 3 hours for a good visit. On this Sunday we saw only French visitors – children and adults but everyone was with someone to share the experience; People do not visit alone. Each year 250,000 visitors enjoy the greenhouse: 85% from France, 5% from Holland and the others primarily from Great Britain and Belgium. It is helpful that all the explanations are posted in English and French. The booklet we received was also in both languages. Upon entering the greenhouse, we read plaques about the evolution of the animal kingdom that began about 15 billion years ago.
First we noticed two happy parakeets and then saw a scarlet ibis. The explanation said that its bright red/orange color is due to its diet mainly of shrimp. Then we saw very tiny insects that live on leaves. I could hardly find them since they blended in so well.
Some unusual fish such as the Arapaima and Giant Pacu fish from the Amazon, Redtail Catfish and Tiger Shovelnose catfish were swimming in tanks.
Entering the tropical forest section, we saw some Arabica coffee plants. Two different kinds of alligators live in Biotropica – the African slender snouted crocodile and the Mississippi Alligator. They appeared to be sleeping.
We noticed the restaurant ”La Canopee” open for lunch which has a choice of seating either in the interior in a tropical setting or outside on the terrace with a panoramic view of the lake.
We headed to the outside section for an interesting outdoor experience. We admired the beautiful pelicans in the lake. Explanations of the functions of the staff- director, veterinarian, and animal keepers are presented with interactive activities. I laughed when I saw a model of a crocodile with a mock computer and the sign stating that the zoo has dating services to mate animals!
Visiting the mini farm where the animals run free was interesting. Children enjoyed having their photos taken with the goats. The mini farm is fun for the whole family. Goats, little pigs and some small turkeys were on the farm. Imagine seeing kangaroos with little ones in pouches running around in the open in the Australian section. The two species present at Biotropica are the Bennet Wallaby and Parma Wallaby. We also enjoyed seeing the red pandas, otters, and cranes.
Next we visited the the Asian Garden to see the tropical plants.
Biotropica has many different educational and social activities. There are guides offering explanations such as “Fun at feeding time” to inform visitors about the animals. There are thematic activities and seminars. There are opportunities to schedule cocktail receptions and private dinners.
For visitors to Normandy, seeking unique special greenery that is accessible year ‘round Biotropica is great. While it is possible to go in all kinds of weather it is best when it is possible to visit the external areas.