The town of Royan, France, is located north of Bordeaux, near La Rochelle, on the west coast of the country. It is known as a seaside resort town, with beaches stretching in both directions, and is centrally located for touring vineyards, shopping, cultural activities, and the many surrounding communities. There are many accommodation options in the area, including a Club Med Resort.
We traveled on the shoulder season, so most of the tourist stops were just opening, and the ‘resort feeling’ of the town was not in full swing. A stop at the tourist information centre in town was our first stop, where we were told that the highlight of the area was Zoo De La Palmyre, home to over 1600 animals.
Entry fees were reasonable in comparison to other large zoos – 17 Euros for an adult, and 13 Euros for children aged 3 through 12.
Unlike other zoos in North America, the animals at La Palmyre were far more free to roam. The pens were large and natural-looking, and there was a notable lack of glass walls, high fences, and warning signs. European attractions in general are less concerned with warning visitors about their safety, and more reliant on the common sense of tourists.
Because of the lack of high walls and fencing, the giraffes are able to get up close and personal with visitors!
While some zoo-goers like to think of feeding hour as prime visiting time, we (completely accidentally) arrived during… mating season. Elephants and ostriches and rhinos – oh my! Not for the faint of heart.
When we visited, we got hand stamps at the entry, and were permitted to exit the zoo throughout the day for coffee breaks, or to have lunch in the town, and then to return without charge to the zoo. This was one of the best arrangements for this; in most zoos, museums and other attractions, the food is over-priced and less than delicious. Allowing visitors to leave and return solved this, as there are many cafes in Royan which offer a better meal and greater cultural experience.
As Canadians, French is not a complete foreign language, but for those non-French speaking travellers, the zoo is relatively bilingual, and you shouldn’t have any trouble with entry, or learning about the animals and their habitats.
The zoo is a 6 minute drive from the Club Med Resort, and a 5-10 minute drive from camping parks for tents and trailers.
Opening hours and entry prices for Zoo De La Palmyre are listed (in English) on their website here, along with times for the sea lion and parrot shows.