The name doesn’t do it justice because it is much more than a passive environmentally sensitive eco-tourism park. The Tralee Bay Wetlands and Nature Preserve focuses on its core mission, preserving habitat, but family fun, unique activities, a visitor’s center and a nature zone help the Tralee Bay Wetlands Preserve to stake its claim as one of Ireland’s most unique attractions for visitors.
The nearly new $6 million nature park, which opened only last year, encompasses 22 of the 8,000 acres of the Tralee Bay preserve. It is located three hours and 15 minutes from Dublin in Ballyard, Tralee, County Kerry.
Whether you are a bird watcher, someone looking for a peaceful boat ride to view wildlife, flowers and vegetation or a parent seeking a day on the water with the family, the Tralee Bay Nature Preserve has activities for everyone.
The Preserve consists of two distinct zones – a nature zone and an activity zone – as well as a (first class) visitor’s center. The visitor’s center includes a restaurant (Tralee Bay Lakeside Cafe) that overlooks a lake that sells prepared meals, cakes, snacks and gifts. It also offers wi-fi access and restrooms.
In the nature zone portion of the preserve is where many will find the highlight of their visit – the small boat tour. The boats, which are equipped with low horsepower, ultra quiet engines, hold approximately 20 people. Freshwater swamps, reed-beds, salt marshes and mud flats have been preserved to give the visitor a view and a feeling of what the entire 8,000 acre Tralee Bay estuary is like.
The boats ply the marshes at a very slow speed to reduce the impact on the environment and to provide maximum wildlife viewing opportunities. Ducks, geese and swan, as well as the area’s history, heritage and folklore, are pointed out and thoroughly explained by each boat’s captain.
The nature zone also is the home to a 65-foot high viewing tower, which equates to about a six story high building. The viewing platform at the top provides for great views of the entire Tralee Bay, the gateway to the Dingle Peninsula. Steps or an elevator are available to take you to the top of the viewing tower. Viewing highlights from the top of the platform include the Slieve Mish Mountains, a nearby windmill and the beginning of Tralee Bay.
The third portion of the Tralee Bay Wetlands and Nature Preserve is the activity area. Small two-person row boats and five-person pedalo boats, which are small boats that are powered by foot pedals, are available for rental in 30 minute increments. The final water activity is the very popular water zorbing. Visitors over the age of four years old are placed in a transparent plastic ball – think hampster in a wheel – and are then let loose on the water as they try to stay upright and move the device across the water. It you don’t have the courage or the inclination to give it a try, watching others attempt to stay upright while moving forward is worth the price of admission.
Admission fees to the Tralee Bay Wetlands and Nature Preserve: $7.50 for adults; $5 for children. Boat rentals at 30 minute increments per boat: $13 for pedalo boats, $10 for row boats. Zorbing: $9 for 10 minutes. (Fees are estimated based upon today’s exchange rates.)
For more information visit www.traleebaywetlands.org.
Anthony Conboy visited the Tralee Bay Wetlands and Nature Preserve as a guest of the Ireland Tourism Board.