A zoo with a difference in the heart of Provence
TEXT: EDDI FIEGEL | PHOTOS © ZOO BARBEN
The Mediterranean landscape of Provence may not be the first place you’d expect to find safari animals such as lions, rhinos and elephants, but the Zoo de la Barben is home to all these and many more.
Set amidst 750 acres of lush Provençal countryside, high on a plateau midway between Marseilles and Avignon, the Zoo de la Barben features some 650 animals and 130 different species. It is also one of the only zoos in Southern France to include ‘the big five’ as they are known in Africa – namely lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos. Other animals include bears, meerkats, panthers, primates, crocodiles, vultures and reptiles, the last of whom are housed in what was originally a sheep pen dating back to the 12th century.
With its vast parklands filled with the scent of Mediterranean flora, the Zoo de la Barben has much more to see and do than merely visit the animals. An extensive playground is guaranteed to keep children happy, as is the ‘petit train’ or ‘little train’, which can save weary limbs from trekking too far across the grounds. The train is also ideal for tired parents or older visitors.
With stretches of rolling parkland alongside a chateau, and over five and a half miles of footpaths through woods, visitors can enjoy a leisurely day out, either savouring a picnic in the park, or alternatively the Zoo also has its own bistro for lunch. There is also an open-air amphitheatre for bird displays including birds of prey.
The zoo is family-run and keenly aware of protecting its animals. The management are committed to preserving endangered species and also similarly aware of protecting the environment with a zero plastic policy on site. The Zoo also offers electric scooters for visitors with impaired mobility.