Top 12 at Living Coasts

Torquay's coastal zoo, Living Coasts has some exciting new developments - from the Penguin Academy to the Mangrove Forest...


Ever-popular penguins

Everyone's favourite, these cheeky, inquisitive birds happily mingle with visitors. There are two species here - African and macaroni. Find out about their characters, their relationships and their love of fresh local fish at the keeper talks and feeds. For a closer encounter, try the Living Coasts Keeper Experience - you could end up on the beach, feeding the penguins yourself.

2 The rare bank cormorants

Don't mistake them for ordinary cormorants - these are the rarest birds at Living Coasts. The only ones of their kind to be found anywhere in the northern hemisphere, they were rescued by the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds. It's hoped there will be a breeding group in the not-too-distant future.

3 Views to inspire

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The view from Living Coasts is probably the best in the Bay. In winter you can sit in the caf and watch the waves crash over the sea wall. In summer, relax on the terrace with a drink as the sun sets. The new conference and meetings suite is the place to come to impress your business clients or re-energise your staff with a day at the seaside.

4 Shop in the colonial bazaar

The Tradewinds gift shop at Living Coasts is open to the public all year round. With a colonial bazaar theme and stock from around the world, it's a pleasure to browse. You'll find books, gifts, homeware and, of course, cuddly penguins! Tradewinds has one of Devon's largest ranges of Fairtrade products, as well as toys for young explorers, fashion and jewellery. Every purchase made from Tradewinds (or the online gift shop) helps Living Coasts and its conservation projects.

5 Peace and quiet

The waders' estuary is a little pool of calm in the middle of Torquay's bustling waterfront. You'll find almost 150 wading birds searching for food, building nests and raising chicks among the running streams, mudflats, beach areas and estuary plants. The lapping of the water is restful and the calling of the birds is therapeutic.

6 Presenter talks

A programme of informal talks runs throughout the day. Staff chat about the animals and answer questions - so it's the ideal time to find out about the penguins, diving birds, fur seals and waders. Living Coasts is a popular place for school groups, as students can explore global coastal habitats and wildlife in a safe and friendly environment. The education team welcomes more than 300 school groups every year and offers a wide range of education packages with curriculum links and activities designed for specific age groups.

7 Close encounters with stingrays

These poisonous rays live in a walk-through tank - but don't worry, you won't even get your feet wet. Watch these extraordinary creatures as they drift along on either side of you. Look out for the blue-spotted ribbontail ray, Taeniura lymma, a colourful species with large bright-blue spots and blue longitudinal stripes on the tail. There is usually one medium-sized sting on the tail. They move over shallow sandy areas in the rising tide to feed on molluscs, worms, shrimps and crabs, dispersing on the falling tide to seek shelter in caves and under ledges.

8 Crabs that fiddle

This busy colony of fiddler crabs makes compulsive viewing. Named after the large, fiddle-shaped claw of the male, fiddler crabs are found on sea beaches and in brackish tidal mudflats, lagoons and swamps. These crabs shed their shells as they grow - and can also regenerate lost legs and claws! At Living Coasts they can be found in a tall round tank with a central island of mud and sand into which the crabs can burrow.

9 Join the Penguin Academy

Penguin Academy offers free hi-tech computer gaming online and on site - a combination thought to be a world first. Three touch-screen games consoles in the new Discovery Zone are aimed at 8-14-year-olds, but are fun for all ages. It means that you can play at home before you visit, play at Living Coasts and then play again afterwards. Get your own virtual penguin, challenge your friends and compete to get on the leader board. Brilliant fun!

10 Mangrove Forest

Venture into an underground forest, listen to the sounds of the swamp - and look out for a few surprises. When Britain's first major mangrove exhibit - 'Mangroves: The Roots of the Sea' - opens at Living Coasts in July, it will feature atmospheric dcor and lighting and giant aquarium tanks with more than 20 new species. Leaving the outside area, you descend through the canopy into an underworld of roots and foliage. Immersed in the mangroves, you explore the life of the swamp, discovering exotic species as

you go.

11 Key events

This summer the enthusiastic education team at Living Coasts is putting on a dazzling range of new shows and imaginative special events. Themes include the science of slime, pirates, sea monsters and survival at sea, so whether it's engaging, enlightening or thought-provoking, there's something for everyone. Then there's the seaweed festival and the brand new comedy theatre show - and don't forget the fundraising on behalf of frog conservation. It's all go this summer!

12 The magic floor

The Cyber Seaside interactive floor uses projections and movement-detection technology; children of all ages compete by jumping, running and stamping on images that change as they go. There are four games - clearing seaweed from rock pools, dispersing an oil spill, collecting litter from a beach and freeing sea creatures caught in nets. When a section is completed, a big wave comes in and reveals the next scene. The Cyber Seaside is a fantastic mix of learning and play - and it's great exercise!

Living Coasts is the first UK zoo to have a magic floor and only the second attraction to do so in the UK.


For more information go to or ring (01803 202470.

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