Monday, September 5, 2011


Yesterday we took the two eldest grandsons for their promised trip to Tropical World in Letterkenny.  Tropical World opened to great acclaim earlier this year and was the idea of Clive Alcorn, one of the sons of the late Tommy Alcorn of Alcorns' Garden Centre in Letterkenny.

Not only had our grandsons wanted to get there, I too had really wanted to get there attracted as I was by the thought of seeing lots of pretty butterflies flying around freely in their Butterfly Garden. 

It was pouring down when we arrived and I was a bit concerned that much of Tropical World would be outdoors.  What made me think the world "tropical" and "outdoors Donegal in the autumn" would be an idea anyone, much less a man operating an attraction here would have is a little beyond me.  I was glad to hear that only one small part of Tropical World is outside.  And later, as we went for a wander around there it was great to see they had provided lots of large umbrellas for those of us brave enough, or interested enough to wander into the rain.

So, Tropical World. 

Inside we paid our very reasonable fee of €20 for two adults and two children and began our trip around Tropical World.  I have to point out here that in such a hurry were we to get into Tropical World proper that we completely missed the rackoon compound just outside the front door!  Leaving much later, we noticed it but Carlos and Minguel, the Coatimundi Rackoons were hiding inside their house.

One of the meercats at Tropical World
In the reception area you can see the every popular meercats which the boys just loved seeing and I defy anyone familar with the television adverts not to say, albeit to themselves, compare the meercat dot come, compare the market dot com. 

Off the reception area is a visitors information centre with a seats and a film running giving the visitor information on the exhibits in Tropical World.  But more eyecatching are the huge toy polar bears which offer a great photo spot for parents to take photos of their children beside them. 

Passion flower thriving in the Butterfly Garden
The tour of Tropical World begins with the Butterfly Garden and it was amazing.  Warm and humid for the butterflies to survive and the plants to grow it takes a moment for both people and cameras to adjust to the humidity ~ my lens being cold from outside was fogged up for the first few minutes.  There is a path running through the garden with plants such as passion flower and lemon trees growing all along the sides of it.  I pointed out the lemon trees to the youngest grandson, who at four is probably too young to realise lemons don't grow here usually.  He took a look and said "I don't like lemons".  Oh well.

Some of the beautiful butterflies in the butterfly garden of Tropical World
And, then like magic, through the warm air we started to notice beautiful butterflies gliding all around us, landing momentarily on plants and then moving on again.  I was in heaven!  They are so delicate and beautiful and to think that we can have this kind of magic on a cold, wet afternoon in Donegal is a credit to Clive.  Luckily our oldest grandson, now all of eight years of age, has the photography bug too and so we got to spend lots of time taking photographs of these beautiful creatures.  I would add here that those wishing to take photographs are asked to switch off their flash whilst inside tropical world so as not to upset or hurt the living creatures therein but it is not a problem as it is filled with light. 

The delicate beauty of the Glasswing Butterfly
The stunning beauty of some of the wing markings on the butterflies there is entrancing but for me one butterfly type took my eye above all others.  The fragile beauty of this little butterfly almost stole my heart.  I have never seen such a creature with it's see-through wings, delicately trimmed with coloured patterns.  Later, I learned that this is called a Glasswing Butterfly and truly the wings are like the most prettily painted glass.  When I commented on how beautiful it was, Breda, Clive's wife said that many people don't even see the Glasswings and I am not at all surprised as their see through wings allow the colour of whatever they land on to show through thereby offering them great camouflage.

Take time to find some of the better camouflaged species in the Butterfly Garden
I would advise visitors to spend some time in the Butterfly Garden.  Perhaps sit quietly on the bench there and just allow time to take in the vast variety of butterflies there that otherwise they would miss if they just rushed through.  Some of the species you might see along with the Glasswing are: Tree Nymph, Clipper, Scarlet Swallowtail, Great Eggfly, Blue Morpho, Blue Grecian, India Leaf, Zebra Longwing, Ismenius Longwing and Postman.

At the end of the Butterfly Garden there is a little wooden bridge with water rippling below ~ an ideal place to stop to take a photo of the children and adults with you on your trip to Tropical World's Butterfly Garden. 

And then out from there and into the Reptile Area.  Of course this area was much more interesting to two little boys.  Curious eyes peered into the various glass enclosures to try to find the lizard or snake enclosed there.  I am not crazy about reptiles but that said, there were some fabulous small and slightly larger lizards to catch the eye and we ended up spending quite a while looking at and discussing them. 

Some of the lizards which can be seen at Tropical World
The vibrant green of the gecko with his amazing little suckered feet was very eye catching.  The tiny chameleon too was worth a while spent watching to see if he changed colour.  Of course as tapping the glass is, rightly, not allowed, he never got scared of us so had no need to change colour, but he was still so cute you just had to stand a while.

In the Reptile Area too there are various breeds of tortoise together with a small pond of terrapins.

Just some of the fabulously coloured species of bird at Tropical World
The next area we spent time in was the exotic birds.  Noisy and colourful they almost demanded attention, none more so that the beautiful Sun Conure parakeets (middle photograph, top row, in the montage above) who interact with visitors on a much higher level than any of the other birds.  Well, they did with me anyway!  Every time I put my lens up to the wire they immediately made their way rapidly across the wires to check out this large black glass so near them.  Although their squawk was ear piercing, I noticed that one of the pair when spoken to in the lower tones from me, started to change his squawk to a much lower tone, almost mimicking my tone.  These are very clever birds indeed but sadly now endangered.

Some of the other species include: Chinese Painted Quail, Rock Pebbler, Barraband Parakeet, Kakariki, Indian Ringneck Parakeet, Bourke's Parakeet, Red-Rumped Parakeet, and Crimson Rosella.

One of the cactus plants in the raised cacti garden
There are various small raised gardens throughout the Reptile and Bird area including a cacti garden showing lots of different cactus and probably more interesting to children, the garden of carnivorous plants.  I know that when our children were younger we often had carnivorous plants at home as kids just love to see how they trap and eat insects.

The Exotic Bird area concluded the inside tour of Tropical World and we exited back into Reception and then across the Reception Area to the doors to the Pet Area.  Taking three large umbrellas, the youngest child just choosing to skip for shelter between the three, we passed through the picnic area which has tables and benches where visitors, on a sunnier day, can enjoy a picnic and area allowed to take their own sandwiches if they wish or alternatively buy food and drinks from the cafe there.

One of the chipmunks in his house within a house

The boys loved watching the little chipmunks whizzing about their house and they loved too all the different coloured rabbits munching food and playing among the sawdust on the floors of their large wooden houses. 

At the end of the pet area sat a very wet, stoic looking snowy owl, called, well ... Snowy of course.  Despite having a covered area he had chosen to sit getting his feathers wet in the downpour.  Who said owls were wise?

Back inside, the boys enjoyed having a look around the gift area which has shelves of all manner of small animal and reptile keepsake toys to look at and there is absolutely no pressure to buy.

We then wandered back out to make our way along the entirely covered path, through the many beautiful plants on display in Alcorns Garden Centre and back out to our car, all happy with a pleasant afternoon spent at Tropical World.


Location: Just outside Letterkenny on the Ramelton Road

Open April - end of September

Opening Times: Monday - Saturday 10 - 5.30 (last admission 4.30), Sunday 1 - 5.30 (last admission 4.30)

Entry fees (2011) Adult €12.  Children under 14 €6.50.  Family (2 adults/2 children) €20.  Children under 3 years of age, free.  School/youth groups €6 per child and teacher/leader free.

Disabled Access: All ramped but inside there is bark chippings on the floor which may make wheelchair progress slow (but still possible).

Parking: Ample parking and no charge

Lavatories: Yes, beside Reception Area

Cafe: Yes (closed Sundays).  Also picnic area where visitors can bring their own food.

Contact Details: Tel: +353-74-21655

Website: Tropical World Letterkenny


  1. Looks like a lovely day out. I can't wait to go there.

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