s you might've seen in yesterday's post, we spent the majority of last weekend exploring the Isle of Wight, an English island off the southern coast. We arrived late on Saturday morning and spent most of Saturday driving around and exploring scenic areas of the island.
On Sunday—after a delicious full English breakfast at our hotel—we headed to the #1 activity on my list. Whilst not something I had ever considered before, this was a destination that came up again and again in my IOW research. The Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary is located between Shanklin (home of the Shanklin Chine) and Ventnor. Both of these towns are popular destinations within the Isle, so your chances of being in close proximity to the sanctuary are pretty high! The sanctuary is also open seven days a week year-round, so you can visit anytime!
When we drove up to the Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary, there were welcoming signs and a gate that opened onto a group of grassy paddocks chock-full of donkeys of all sizes and colors. I had no idea that donkeys even came in different sizes or different colors. Turns out, they do and they're super cute.
A few extra nice things about the sanctuary. Firstly, it's free! The sanctuary is a charity so it depends on donations and volunteers. You can park your car in the car park and then, when you walk up to the front of the sanctuary, you can talk to a friendly volunteer. They appreciate a small donation for entry, but they make it incredibly easy. Donations can even be made by Contactless payment using your phone!
The volunteer kindly explained to us that Spark was allowed everywhere on the premises, which was so nice! She really enjoyed peeking at the donkeys and ponies and even met some fellow canine visitors. The sanctuary even had bowls of water set out throughout the property for dogs. The Isle of Wight is, in general, incredibly dog-friendly so I'd definitely recommend bringing your four-legged friend with you and, unless they don't like large animals, you can bring them to the sanctuary too!
Then came a whole new level of cuteness. The volunteer handed us a piece of paper with pictures of all 94 donkey residents along with their names, saying "go donkey-spotting!" Every donkey has a name (printed on his or her collar) and even a written bio about their personality, where they were rescued from, and what fellow donkeys they like to hang out with. It was really enjoyable to read all of their different stories and very touching that the sanctuary had taken them all in.
Same goes for the pony and horse residents at the sanctuary. Basically, in most of their cases, they were abandoned or their owners passed away. Rather than see them euthanized, the Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary took them in to live the rest of their days in a beautiful grassy setting. If you're feeling sad because you want to read their bios, don't worry! You can check out all of the donkeys (and their bios) here. You can even adopt one of them for just £25.00 per year.
In addition to hosting visitors, the sanctuary also hosts various events for kids and families. They also work in the community where they offer donkey therapy—yes, that's a thing! Volunteers take some of the donkeys (those that enjoy human interaction and have calm temperaments) to nursing homes, hospices, and other facilities for elderly people. According to the sanctuary, donkeys stimulate calmness and comfort in patients who have suffered strokes, Parkinson's disease, dementia, and more. As a proud rescue mom, I think it's amazing to see these donkeys not only getting a second chance at life but also being able to lift people's spirits as well.
The Different Herds
The resident donkeys are extremely well cared for and their individual needs are clearly taken into account. There are several herds including one for each gender as well as one for donkeys on diets, elderly donkeys, donkeys with health issues, and miniature donkeys. The Old and Proud donkeys are given a special diet since their teeth begin to fall out while the Diet Donkeys are on the donkey-equivalent of Weight Watchers.
You can visit each herd in their paddock or barn and you can pet any of the donkeys that come up to you if you so choose. They're very sweet and social guys and gals and we had a lot of fun visiting them—even those in our group who didn't originally understand the appeal of a donkey sanctuary!
Stop and go "donkey-spotting" with your directory then you can head to the onsite café or have a chat with the knowledgable volunteers. This is truly a wonderful free and uplifting activity for people and dogs of all ages!