Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A Day Off: Highland Wildlife Park

Confession time: I didn't even know that the Highland Wildlife Park existed until the story of Hamish, the UK's first baby polar bear in 25 years, appeared on the BBC News. Today, my dad, brother and I took a wee trip (and by "wee trip", I mean "a two-hour-long drive during which I had to pee once and felt like I was going to throw up about ten separate times") up to the park to pay the little ball of white fuzz a visit.

And boy, this place did not disappoint!

It certainly helped that it was a gloriously sunny day, although I am now paying the price and nursing sunburns on my forearms and chest exclusively. The above photo, taken from a viewpoint overlooking what is labelled as potentially "the best view in Scotland", is damn good proof of that. No clouds in the sky, no chilly breeze, no nasty wasps ready to chase innocent visitors away from the animals. Just stunning sights and plenty of photo opportunities, which we naturally took full advantage of.

Photo cred: my brother

Photo cred: also my brother

Hamish and his mother Victoria were two of the first animals we saw, aside from a disgruntled crane and a swarm of black-headed gulls that my dad insisted were terns until I shut him down with the knowledge that I gained from my bird-watching phase all those years ago. There's something very special and also so sombre about seeing a real life polar bear in a conservation park; it's an emotion somewhere between relief and grief. 

But there's no getting around the fact that Hamish the polar bear cub is too cute for his own good. Watching him playing with his mum and ambling along after her was such a joy to see.

Aside from the park's star attraction, the animal that I enjoyed seeing the most was the elusive red panda, which I learned on the car ride up to the mountains is not actually related to the giant panda, but is more closely related to raccoons and skunks. You learn something new every day, I guess. My folks and I went back for a second visit, and it was lucky that we did, because we got to see the critter sitting on a platform high up in the enclosure, pretty much asking to be photographed. And so, we took far too many photos. However, my best photos turned out like this...

...and my brother's best photos turned out like this, thanks to a zoom lens and a determination to get the best shot possible:

It's actually unfair how great this shot is.

Anyway, here are some of the photos taken on my own Lumix G10 (sans zoom lens), each with a wee bit of a caption as opposed to long blocks of text. Enjoy!

One of two majestic Amur tigers

The enclosure housing the Japanese snow monkeys

Genuinely could have sat and watched these guys all day

Himalayan prayer flags strung up along the path to the red panda enclosure

Nice to know that my favourite city was only 58 miles away

There's a reason that Scotland is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world...
European bison blissfully unaware of my brother and I snapping some pics

The statue that greeted us at the entrance. They're clearly very proud of their polar bears.


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