In recent weeks, we visited numerous wildlife parks and petting zoos by Lake Balaton, and now we would like to show you our pick of the crop. These places are all open in the autumn, so the deadly crocodiles in Balatonszárszó, the meek deer in Keszthely, the elephants freshly imported from Asia to Veszprém, and Balaton's huge aquarium in Balatonfüred might just prove to be the perfect addition to your calendar of upcoming entertainment.
Koloska-völgyi Wildlife Park, Balatonfüred
Koloska-völgy on the edge of Balatonfüred has numerous undeniably charming attractions. There is, for example, the Koloska-csárda, with its mouth-watering Jókai bean soup. Following the appropriate trail blaze, you can also visit the stone fountain head of the Koloska-forrás. And once you're there, a deer-watching session is in order at the Koloska-völgyi Wildlife Park, where you can examine the four-legged creatures from the safety of a deer-stand.
Salföld Conservationist Manor, Salföld
There is one thing we've definitely learnt for good in Salföld: we'll never confuse the Hungarian dog breeds pumi and puli again. In addition to seeing indigenous Hungarian species like Racka sheep, grey cattle, and various shepherd dog breeds, most kids love to visit for the pony rides, while the passengers of tourist buses usually prefer carriage rides. There are plenty of horses, as the manor has a herd of 40. The spice and herb garden here has rare plants for curing a multitude of illnesses. Vegetarians and vegans had better steer clear of the buffet, where the large bovine of the manor reappear in the form of buffalo and grey cattle salami sandwiches. On the other hand, the home-made syrups are highly recommended to everyone.
Festetics Imre Zoo, Keszthely
The Festetics Imre Zoo between Keszthely and Gyenesdiás is void of huge surprises, that is to say if you have already met goats, geese, hens or racka sheep. It is always a pleasure to pet a donkey, of course, and the Zoo also allows you to meet deer, which might elude you in the forest, but stand at an arm's length here.
This park was designed for today's kids in mind, whom are believed to know domestic animals only from picture books. We visited the Zoo on World Animal Day, when enthusiastic pre-school children kept lovingly assaulting the donkey and petting the goats.
Kis-Balaton Buffalo Reserve, Kápolnapuszta
A 10-minute drive away from Fenékpuszta we were welcomed by buffaloville itself, but we still had a long trail and a few goats to leave behind to see the buffaloes. Then the sight of a huge, grazing buffalo herd greeted us in the distance. Although the animals looked pretty harmless fro the stand, this notion quickly evaporated upon closer inspection: an adult buffalo's weight (700 kg) is close to the total weight of a men's handball team. We saw a few males settling a minor disagreement, otherwise, the buffaloes were pretty calm, grazing peacefully. As the 1.5-kilometre buffalo study trail revealed, buffaloes are pretty similar to Balaton's holidayers: if they see water, it is impossible to get them to work, and in the summertime they can spend 4-5 hours a day wallowing without showing a hint of remorse.
The buffalo reserve in Kápolnapuszta play an important role in preserving the gene pool of this species indigenous to Hungary. In addition to the study trail that introduces buffaloes, there is also an interactive exhibition about the flora and fauna of Kis-Balaton. You can watch the buffaloes from several observation points: from high stands, up close or through binoculars from afar.
Bodorka Balaton Aquarium, Balatonfüred
All the fish of Lake Balaton in one house and several spectacular aquariums - this is the concept of the Bodorka Balaton Aquarium summed up. The place opened this summer on the Tagore Promenade of Balatonfüred. In the 17 tanks, each and every Balaton fish species are represented from the few-centimetre common bleak to sizeable bream to the huge catfish, including the bodorka (common roach), the species the place was named after. There are touch screens next to each tank, introducing the inhabitants.
Under the sign of brotherhood, three guest species from the Adriatic Sea have also been accommodated here, since the Croatian town of Opatija is twin town to Balatonfüred. If you are lucky, you might catch sight of Béla, the European pond turtle in one of the outdoor pools. In the interactive show room at the centre of the centre, you can also watch an educational movie about the flora and fauna of Lake Balaton - according to the first impressions, this captivates adults more than children, who, in turn, love to stick close to the aquariums. This new place in Füred attracted over 30 000 visitors since its summer opening and the arrival of the cold days might also increase the charm of the (heated) centre.
Napfényudvar Minifarm and Petting Zoo, Balatonszárszó
The ever-meddling goat, the shy bunnies, the charming sheep, and the pig rooting close to the hens - this minfarm in Balatonszárszó brings the world of farm animals to an arm's length. In addition to petting the animals, kids can also glimpse into the work behind keeping poultry. The wide range of winged creatures here includes doves and pigeons.
Teknős Park, Balatonszárszó
Let's linger a bit more in Balatonszárszó! Teknős Park (Tortoise Park), formerly known as Krokodil Zoo, features exceptional reptiles, among them lots of different tortoise species. Visitors can see specimens of the world’s biggest tortoise species, the African spurred tortoise and the Aldabra giant tortoise, and there are numerous Hermann's tortoises as well. The zoo also serves as a reptile shelter, taking in lost turtles, snakes and other species. In clement weather, the playground is a great alternative to the terrariums for the little ones.
Veszprém Zoo - Kittenberger Kálmán Botanical and Zoological Garden
We visited the Veszprém Zoo recently, on occasion of the opening of the new Elephant Park and the arrival of three new Asian elephants.
Once there, we also checked out the clashing rhinos, the chimps with human-like mimics, and the unbelievably synchronized choreography of the macaques. You can also pet the latter on the monkey trail - to our surprise they did not only inspect our camera, but also welcomed us with meows that could put a cat to shame. There is also a 5-metre-tall giraffe with a 46-cm tongue, zebras, llamas and of course the lions and tigers indispensable to a proper zoo. It is worthwhile to check back to the Veszprém Zoo in the close future, as it undergoes renewal in several stages by spring 2015,