Are we nearly there? Places for the wild child

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The Independent Travel
Dartmoor Wildlife Park and Conservation Centre, Sparkwell, Plymouth, Devon (01752 837 209). More than 1,000 species of animals roam 30 acres of enclosures - not cages. Even though the nearby Dartmoor ponies pack a vicious nuzzle, they pale beside the Wildlife Park's impressive collection of lions, tigers, jaguars and pumas. The main attraction may still be big cat feeding time (3.30pm every day), but the centre prides itself on the emphasis given to education and conservation. Other attractions include the South American Collection of animals and "Close Encounters of the Animal Kind", which stars puma cubs. Daily 10am-6pm. Adults pounds 5.95, four to 14 years pounds 3.95, OAPs pounds 4.95.

Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Gweek, Cornwall (01326 221 874). Almost all the seal pups which the sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates have been released back into the wild, but kids will still get to learn about the seal hospital both from a series of videos and giant puzzles and the 10 adult seals and five remaining pups. Most of the sanctuary's resident seals have retired from theme parks and they make for an emotional day out. The sanctuary also offers stunning walks along the Helford River through ancient oak woodland. Daily 9am-5pm. Adults pounds 5.50, four to 14 years pounds 3.50, concessions pounds 3.95.

Yorkshire Dales Falconry and Conservation Centre, near Settle (01729 825 164). Star attractions Jack and Vera are on show every day. But the two ugliest vultures in Yorkshire have to see off the rival attractions of a wide range of birds of prey - barn owls, eagle owls, hawks, falcons, tawny eagles, bald eagles and two Andean condors. At four afternoon shows, children are treated to dramatic falconry displays in which falcons or hawks fly to lures in imitation of their natural hunting techniques. An owl named Spot, on the other hand, chooses to reveal a more laid-back approach to life .... Daily (February to October) 10am-5pm. Adults pounds 4.50, four to 14 years pounds 2.95, concessions pounds 2.95.

Bristol Zoo Gardens, Clifton Down (0117 970 6176). The zoo recognises that environmentally clued-up children are their most demanding customers, so they strive to make a fun day out educational, too. In the Zoo Olympics, for instance, kids are invited to pit themselves against the feats of the super-athletes of the natural world: can you out-jump a kangaroo or run as fast as a cheetah? Any chance for kids to handle a range of small animals - snakes, spiders, cockroaches - or undergo wild animal face painting is also used as an opportunity by the zoo's educational officers to broaden their knowledge. And if a close encounter in "Bug World" fails to raise the hairs on your neck, then a trip into the walk-through bat enclosure will test even the most fearless animal lovers. Daily 9am-6pm. Adults pounds 6.50, three to 13 years pounds 3.50, concessions pounds 5.50.

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