Mini-safaris for little game hunters

Children are fascinated by all creatures great and small – in fact, the creepier and crawlier the better. So here are some ideas on where to go on miniature safari in Wales, to discover some of our smaller (if not always cuter) residents.

  • Welsh Wildlife Centre
    Welsh Wildlife Centre

    The Welsh Wildlife Centre goes out of its way to make kids welcome. In fact, its slogan is ‘Discover nature through play, adventure, creativity & reflection.’ It’s simply a lovely place to walk around and spot birds, otters and dragonflies, but the pleasure is enhanced by hiring an Explorer Backpack, or joining one of the regular Minibeast Safaris and pond-dipping sessions. The Glasshouse Café is great, too.

  • Willow woven badger at Cilgerran Welsh Wildlife Centre

    Cilgerran Welsh Wildlife Centre, Pembrokeshire

     by Susan Dilworth

    You’re never far from a nature reserve in Wales. The local Wildlife Trusts manage 216 nature reserves covering more than 8,000 hectares. Each local group runs its own programme of events, on which you could find yourself tracking down anything from bugs to bees to bats to barn owls, as well as many other creatures not beginning with the letter B.

  • Llyn Brenig

    Llyn Brenig

     by Wales on View

    World-class fly-fishing is what put this vast reservoir on the map, set high in the heart of an area called Hiraethog:  ‘The Hills of Longing’. But its 23km shoreline is also great for picnics, walking, cycling, watersports… and of course wildlife. The visitor centre has an adventure playground and runs regular pond dipping and minibeast safaris.

  • A pair of butterflies at the Great Orme, Llandudno
    Butterflies, Great Orme in Llandudno by Andy Ingham

    Walking in clouds of butterflies is a magical experience. For a quick fix, try anywhere on the Wales Coast Path in May, or maybe Great Orme at Llandudno, which has its unique species, or either of the Butterfly Conservation Trust's Welsh reserves in Carmarthenshire and Ruthin. If you want to walk among exotic tropical species in an indoor jungle setting, head for Pili Palas on Anglesey or the Magic of Life Butterfly Centre  at Aberystwyth.

  • Pembrokeshire Coast Path sign at Pwllderi, Pembrokeshire

    Walking at Pwllderi, Pembrokeshire Coast Path

    National Parks are as much about fun and education as they are natural beauty, especially in Pembrokeshire. The Park’s wardens run a terrific array of child-friendly activities that explore the area’s magnificent marine wildlife, whether it’s crab-catching and rock-pooling, or exploring a river bed at St Davids.

  • Two children rolling down the hill at Chirk Castle, North Wales Borderlands
    Rolling down the hill at Chirk Castle, North Wales Borderlands by National Trust

    We love the National Trust’s brilliant “50 Things to do before you’re 11 ¾” campaign. Instead of saying ‘Shhh’ in stately homes, it’s now encouraging kids to run riot in the great outdoors, getting as filthy (and having as much fun) as possible in the process. All of our National Trust sites have joined in with gusto, so your children can build a bug hotel, go looking for micromonsters, and generally have a blast at some of our poshest properties and loveliest landscapes.

  • Exterior view of National Botanic Garden, Carmarthenshire
    National Botanic Garden, Carmarthenshire

    The giant glasshouse here looks like a crashed spaceship, which is just part of the National Botanic Garden's child-appeal. There are lots of activity trails, pond-dipping safaris, plants that smell of toffee, chocolate and curry – and some that smell of rotting flesh to attract pollinating flies. One, an arum, stinks out the Tropical House so much in the summer that people have to leave. Kids love it, of course. We also always play Pooh Sticks in the water feature along the main path, and nobody seems to mind.

  • Duck and ducklings at Parc Slip

    Parc Slip, Glamorgan Heritage Coast

     by christopher james

    Parc Slip is the Wildlife Trust’s flagship reserve in South Wales, a 300-acre wildlife haven that was (not that you’d know it today) restored from an opencast coal mine. They do regular dragonfly discovery and butterfly walks, but it’s the reptile rambles that appeal most to kids: adders, grass snakes, slow worms and newts are among the species you’ll likely see.

  • View over Monmouth from the Kymin

    View over Monmouth from the Kymin

     by Wonderful Wales

    Kymin was built high on the hill so that Georgian gentlemen could hold meetings and banquets, and survey the Wye Valley far below. We visited for the views - which are indeed truly wondrous – but our children were truly hooked when the guides told them about the huge colonies of red wood ants which live here. Britain’s largest ants are also the canniest: they ‘farm’ aphids for their honeydew.

  • Tropical pond at Plantasia in Swansea
    Plantasia, Swansea by swanseamarketing

    This tropical haven is set in a giant glass pyramid in the heart of Swansea. The startling jungle vegetation is home to several exotic species of bird and beast, and they do ‘Beastly Bugs & Blowpipes’ sessions for children, where they can learn about tarantulas and stick insects as well as tribal customs of Amazonians (oh, and sniff the world’s stinkiest fruit, the durian).