Last year, a new mayor was elected in Dunkirk and one of his election promises was to make public transport free. I will admit, I was sceptical, but this weekend, the first stage went into action - all the buses are free all day Saturday and Sunday (and the whole bus network should be completely free in 2018). This is great news for us as it means we can go further afield for our adventures without worrying about the kids being too tired to walk home so we celebrated by heading off to Fort Mardyck zoo. It's a small zoo that focuses on native European species - they have about 250 animals covering 50 different species.
We arrived just in time for the beavers' feeding time which was a great chance to see them. They usually keep pretty much out of the way so you can only see them in the gloom of their darkened shelter but this time, they all came out.
They're bigger than I thought and they're quite comical, stuffing their mouths with three or four carrots before heading off through the water to munch them in peace in their hut !
Straight after the beavers, it was the seals' turn. The zoo has three seals and they don't go in for tricks so they show you the "medical training".
The seals have been taught to come out of the water and touch their nose to their designated symbol, open their mouths, roll over or be stroked, so they can be given medical examinations or treatments as needed without anaesthetic.
After the two feeding times, we wandered around the rest of the animals and birds at our own pace. There were some very sleepy owls.
Some vain flamingos !
A very cute baby goat that I'd have happily taken home - he could be the new Madhouse kid !
The tortoises are starting to bury themselves in the ground, which is a sure sign that the summer is over and they're getting ready to hibernate. Boo !
Pierre and Juliette were delighted to discover that a play area has been added since our last visit.
Two cheeky monkeys ! They could join the marmosets in their enclosure !
Pierre was fascinated by the reindeer, especially the male with his big antlers. They kept walking round in a line so I said they were practising for pulling Santa's sleigh ... which Pierre believed 100% !
The lynx came out with the sunshine.
The bears basked in the sunshine too.
Last time we visited, I thought the male bear looked a bit depressed because he kept pacing up and down along the wall but Juliette, who came on a guided visit with her class last year, informed me that he is leaving his scent. They go in the water then rub themselves along the wall to mark their territory, which is why you can see brown marks all along the wall. I love it when the Madhouse kids teach me things I didn't know !
There was a "are you as big as a bear?" cutout - the Madhouse kids have still got some growing to do before they catch him up !
There was just time for a quick look at the storks in their walk-through aviary and it was time to head for home. On the bus on the way home, we came up with a list of places to visit next Sunday, weather permitting, so I'm sure we'll have more adventures to share with you very soon !