Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo: An Ocean of Light

Judy Williams

Wild Lights, the award-winning night-time winter wonderland of light, colour and imagination, was back illuminating Dublin Zoo in the Phoenix Park for the Christmas and New Year period.

The theme for the 2018/2019 exhibition was Ocean of Light and featured large lanterns that had been cleverly themed into a range of aquatic creatures such as hammerhead sharks, crabs, frogs and seahorses.  A multitude of colourful jellyfish, each one made up of hundreds of lights, were suspended above the path, creating a magical look.

This was the second year for Wild Lights and three new areas were added to the experience this time.  The first section, ‘Celebrating China’ showcased an impressive selection of Chinese culture including large lanterns in the shape of Ming vases and crockery.  Next were brightly coloured lanterns for each animal of the Chinese Zodiac, with an explanation of the attributes of each sign.

Further along the exhibition, colourful and unusual characters from the Beijing Opera gave a fascinating insight into the world of Chinese theatre.  The Terracotta Warriors, each one with different facial features just like the originals, were standing to attention in front of a Chinese temple. These life-size lanterns, together with their horses and a chariot, created an impressive display.

This section was complemented by craft stalls featuring Chinese artists and craftspeople, and short displays of traditional performers and acrobats.

After leaving the China section, we arrived at the North Pole.  This area included Christmas favourites such Santa Claus, the North Pole Post Office, Rudolph and his team of reindeer pulling an exquisite red sleigh, and a magnificent 16-metre-high silk Christmas tree, all beautifully lighting the evening sky.

Walking through the magical tunnels of lights and lanterns which linked each section we then arrived at the Winter Wonderland.  There were numerous Arctic animals and birds featured in this section, such as polar bears and cute Emperor penguins, snow leopards, seals and gorgeous snowy owls perched on ice blocks.

The dramatic backdrop of Dublin Zoo gave glimpses of the real animals behind the displays.  We saw monkeys asleep in the trees and caught sight of bright pink flamingos through the darkness.  The sounds of the zoo were enhanced by the stillness of the night and the magical atmosphere created by the lanterns.

The Wild Lights experience appealed to young and old, and despite being busy, it never felt crowded.  Food and drinks were available at various outlets, but there was a disappointing lack of Asian food to match this year’s theme.  This reviewer was lucky that it was a crisp, dry evening, so it was well suited for sitting out under the stars enjoying the food and the ambience, as unfortunately there weren’t many covered eating areas provided.

The research into the different themes for the Wild Lights experience was obvious from the intricate detail of each piece.  The design and imagery were a sight to behold and will stay in the memory for a long time.

Judy Williams
Image Credit: Judy Williams