La Réserve Africaine de Sigean near Narbonne is the kind of zoo that puts animals first. The park’s layout is spacious and spreads over 300 ha for the animals to move around freely. There is even a safari part where you can drive around in your car to get the real wildlife experience. Since 1974, the zoological park has been built on four pillars: conservation, education, research and leisure. An estimated 900 mammals, 600 reptiles and 2000 birds live in the park, as an accurate number can’t be given with so many animals living in complete freedom.
In order to appreciate the Réserve Africaine de Sigean to the fullest, here are a few tips. First, buy your tickets online, as there are limited places. Secondly, come early. Especially in summer when the weather is hot, you want to enjoy the cooler morning temperatures. The next tip is to bring your picnic as there are numerous shaded areas where you can enjoy your lunch. Also, don’t forget your water bottles, sun protection and comfortable walking shoes because of the kilometres you’re going to walk. And the last tip: because most people start with the safari and then go to the pedestrian area, it can get very crowded at the safari. My family and I usually start the other way around, beginning with the park on foot. And by the time we had lunch and the temperatures begin to rise, we head to our air-conditioned car.
While arriving at the parking lot to enter the park, my family and I first visited the ‘Territoire des Carnivores’, which is at one end of the parking lots between numbers 1 and 4. The rest of the park on foot is at the other end of parking lot number 3. Because the set-up of the Réserve Africaine de Sigean is so spacious, the animals can move around as they like. This means that you will have to take your time to spot the animals if you can see them at all. Sometimes you’re unlucky and won’t see anything, but that’s part of giving the animals space. There will be enough fauna to see, though. And you will definitely see peacocks, as many of them walk around freely! The last time my family and I were at the zoo, we were lucky to spot some running leopards.
Once inside, it’s easy to explore the zoo. The family and I just started walking, and the path naturally guided us to all the animals. Via the accessible enclosure of the goats to give them a little pet, we went to the chimpanzee island. About halfway, we arrived at the ‘plaine Africaine’ to gaze at the gazelles, springboks, gnus, ostriches, and much more fauna. If you can wait to have lunch, I suggest spreading your tablecloth in the African plain picnic area. There are plenty of tables in the shade, and there are even some extensions that bring you closer to the animals. You can also buy food and drinks at the kiosk and climb its roof for a 360-degree panorama. Although there are five restaurants and snack bars in the zoo, this one gives you the best view.
Variety of animals
After a lovely lunch, we headed to the Vivarium, the house of the reptiles. It had been a while since the family and I had visited the Réserve Africaine. And to our surprise, they have made quite some improvements since our last visit. One big hit were the walk-throughs with included water diffusers just in front of the Vivarium. We went to the zoo in June when the weather was already around 30 degrees, and this was a welcome refreshment. On our way out, we crossed some flamingoes, pelicans and giraffes, amongst others. And before heading to the safari, we were treated to a beautiful view over the Étangs de l’Oeil de Ca and Bages. After all this walking, we were happy to sit in our car to see a variety of animals wandering around in the secured part of the zoo.