We’re going to the zoo: sleeping with polar bears on a trip to southern Belgium

Immersive accommodation – with just a glass wall between you and a creature of your choice – is one of many thrills at this award-winning ethical zoo

Polar bears snore. Perhaps not all of them, but certainly the hulking beast that slept near me, my wife, Nicola, and our two young children. Deep, growly exhalations, not dissimilar to my own, I was cheerfully informed by George, nine, and Lottie, seven.

The nocturnal habits of the world’s largest land-living carnivore were revealed to us during a stay over at Pairi Daiza (Persian for paradise), a peculiarly beautiful zoo and botanical gardens in a most implausible location: deepest Wallonia, the Francophone and economically struggling region of southern Belgium.

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