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Dinosaur and Wildlife Park - Combe Martin
Wildlife and Dinosaur Park
In June 2010 we visited North Devon. With two small boys who love dinosaurs, the must see attraction on our list was the Combe Martin Dinosaur and Wildlife Park. As well as dinosaurs, the park has wolves, lions, birds of prey and lots of other animals.
We didn't get our hopes up too much as the reviews we'd read were pretty poor. We're so glad we didn't let poor reviews put us off, we had an amazing time.
(The picture: We had fun when we got home making a tableaux of the some of the dinosaurs and animals we saw.)
The Animatronic Dinosaurs
The big dinosaur attraction is an outdoor display of animatronic dinosaurs in a cage. There's a giant T-Rex, a Dilophosaurus (spitting dinosaur) and some smaller Velociraptors. The dinosaurs put on their show hourly which adds a nice bit of anticipation.
We arrived at opening time and by the time we got into the park the first show of the day was running so we got to see part of it straight away. We were really impressed, having the dinosaurs outside really adds to the effect and we got caught out by the Dilophosaurus - you might be able to guess what he does!
As we carried on round the park we could hear the dinosaurs doing their thing every hour, but there was so much else to do that it was 4pm before we managed to watch the whole show complete with Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The animatronic dinosaurs aren't the only dinosaur attraction at Combe Martin. There are large model dinosaurs set into a beautifully landscaped walkway. The paths are carved into the North Devon hillside which has been planted with foliage evoking a prehistoric feel. The sun was shining and it looked amazing. The whole park was really well designed, lots of nice features like molded and painted borders, someone is really paying attention to detail. (And yes, the paths are a bit steep, but it's North Devon, what were you expecting! Nothing our three-year-old couldn't cope with.)
There's also a small Dinosaur Museum. This was great when we wanted to get out of the sun and slow down for a bit. The museum is one large room full of exhibits plus a small cinema showing a dinosaur film. We spent quite a while in there with DS1 (3) talking about the exhibits. One of the things that would make the park worth a visit on a wet day.
We also found dinosaurs in the Brass Rubbing Emporium. The boys chose a dinosaur each (T-Rex for DS1 and Triceratops for DS2) and set to work. There was a charge for this and we chose to have the finished result laminated so we'd have a nice souvenir to take home with us. The collection of brasses was amazing with lots of subjects the boys found interesting including animals and knights, worth a quick look even if you don't plan to do a rubbing.
DS1 is a big fan of carnivores and wolves are one of his favourites.
The park is home to Shaun Ellis, the Wolf Man and we went along to his talk. Amazing. Shaun explained a lot about the behaviour of the wolves and then brought everyone in close for the main event. He encouraged the small children to the front. Then brought out the carcass of a baby cow and tied it to the front of the enclosure. Then they let the wolves at it. It was a real experience to be so close up, the boys were mesmerized. We stayed and watched until there was pretty much nothing left of the calf.
We also went to the Lion display - three male lions. The keeper got them to stand up full height against the enclosure which was pretty impressive. The boys really enjoyed it. Afterwards DS1 declared that he wanted to be a 'Dinosaur and Wolf and Lion keeper' when he grows up ;-).
Animals Close Up
The park is home to a huge variety of animals and had sessions running throughout the day. A fairly unusual feature is that some of the sessions allowed us into the animal enclosures. We got to enter the meerkat enclosure to listen to the talk and the meerkat ran freely in-between us. DS2 (nearly 2) really enjoyed this.
We also watched the sealion show which was informative and entertaining. We liked the frisbee throwing and catching best!
The penguins had a beautiful enclosure cut into the hillside with a waterfall. Really nicely done.
Pharoah's Tomb, Lightshow ...
There were a number of smaller attractions at the park which were all nicely done.
The Pharoah's tomb was just a little too scary for DS1 (3.5), well it was fine until his Dad got him to press a button ...
The lightshow was enjoyable too, you get taken on a space ship in an experience filled with light and sound. DS2 was so exhausted by this point that he actually fell asleep!
We didn't manage to fit in a ride on the train. And we avoided the set of coin-operated rides and attractions. This was the one thing we didn't like about the park - the first thing we came too (after paying quite a bit to get in) required additional money. The boys were disappointed not to be allowed on these rides, but we wanted to see what we had already paid for first. As it turned out there was so much to see that we really didn't need to pay for these extras. A minor gripe, and that isn't the only way in to the park so you could avoid seeing that area first.
Map of Combe Martin Dinosaur and Wildlife Park
Prices, Tickets and Vouchers
At time of writing, tickets are Â£14 for adults and Â£8.50 for children. There's plenty to keep you occupied for a whole day so we think this is good value.
We managed to get DS1 in for free with a free child discount voucher. And under-3's are free so we didn't have to pay for DS2.
Inside the park you could get a discount ticket for a return visit, which we would have done if we were local to the area. We'll definitely be going back next year.
Don't listen to the critical reviews, Combe Martin Dinosaur and Wildlife Park is a fantastic day out.
Feedback welcome, we'd love to hear from you.