A Journey into the Tropics: The Eden Project

The Malaysian House inside the Rainforest Biome, Eden Project

The air is thick with tropical humidity.  I take a deep breath; it tastes of earth; green and warm.  The Cub scampers ahead of us through the jungle, past great towering plants, her hair curling in the damp air.  I can hear a waterfall nearby somewhere, but the lush foliage is too dense to see it.

In the Rainforest Biome, Eden Project, Cornwall
The Cub in the Rainforest Biome

But this is no ordinary jungle, though it looks and smells just like one.  The paths are paved and the sky is like nothing else on Earth.  A honeycomb web of steel stretches across the sky above us, enclosing the jungle in a giant bubble.

We are inside the Rainforest Biome, at the Eden Project, Cornwall.

The Eden Project

Eden Project, Cornwall
Looking down onto the Biomes from the Visitor Centre

The Eden Project is the brainchild of Sir Tim Smit, the same man behind the restoration of the Lost Gardens of Heligan, just along the road.  (Incidentally, these gardens are also an absolute must-see on a holiday in Cornwall).

The Biomes are built into a hillside, in a disused quarry.  The bubble design was chosen as it is flexible and could cover the uneven ground, as well as looking pretty spectacular and futuristic.  It took 230 miles of scaffolding to build the Biome frames.

The Eden Project is now an educational charity committed to creating sustainable ways of life and supporting locals as well as people further afield.

The Biomes

The Rainforest Biome

The Malaysian House inside the Rainforest Biome, Eden Project
The Malaysian House inside the Rainforest Biome

The Rainforest Biome is always our first stop.  As someone who’s had very itchy feet since having children it’s fun to step into a tropical jungle for a little while and pretend I’m on holiday!  Novelty factor aside, there is some great stuff to be discovered.

The Biome is set out in separate sections for different tropical habitats around the world, with example of both fauna and human habitats found in each rainforest environment.  The Cub adored the traditional Malaysian house that you can walk through.

The titan arum: the largest flowering structure in the world, at the Eden Project
The titan arum: the largest flowering structure in the world

Some unusual and rare species are cultivated here.  We saw the titan arum, the largest flowering structure in the world.  I’m not sure how much bigger they were going to get when we saw them but the flower only opens for about 12- 48 hours after spending years growing.  A bit like the giant rafflesia that the husband and I saw when we visited Borneo, the titan arum smells of rotting meat when it blooms.

 on the walkway at the top of the Rainforest Biome, Eden Project
The Cub on the walkway at the top of the Rainforest Biome

The paths winding through the jungle lead slowly upwards until you reach the jungle walkway.  It can get pretty hot in the Rainforest Biome and so there are some cooling-off points for you to rest in if you get too warm.  There’s a great view from the top of the walkway.  A new section, the Weather Maker, including a rope bridge, has just opened.

At the waterfall, Eden Project
At the waterfall

We continued on to the waterfall and then towards the plantation area where crops including bananas and coffee are growing.  Make sure you stop for a smoothie at the Baobab bar!

The Mediterranean Biome

Spring flowers in the Mediterranean Biome
Spring flowers in the Mediterranean Biome

Cooler and more open than the Rainforest Biome, the Mediterranean Biome is just as interesting.  Spring is a wonderful time to visit with vast swathes of tulips and wildflowers in bloom.  Instead of thick tropical scents, the lighter air here is filled with the fresh aroma of herbs and citrus fruits.

Sculpture of Dionysus, Mediterranean Biome, Eden Project
Sculpture of Dionysus

Wine buffs will appreciate the vineyard area and the sculpture of Dionysus (Bacchus) cavorting in the centre. As well as the Mediterranean you can journey through South Africa’s fynbos, a Californian garden and a new Western Australian exhibit.  All of these areas are carefully maintained and the horticulturalists will happily answer any questions you might have.

The Cub enjoyed tiptoeing through the winding mosaic paths, looking for cork sculptures and tiny birds flitting through the shrubs.  We walked past silvery olive groves and spiky aloe plants before taking the opportunity to relax with a meal and an ice cream in the restaurant.

Educational Aspect

The Eden Project places a huge emphasis on education and sustainability.  In each of the Biomes you will find a wealth of information about the plants and their uses.  The gardens outside and the path down to the Biomes also have plenty to interest adults and children alike.

Inside the Core, a building adjacent to the Biomes, you will find an interactive educational experience for learning about plants, ecosystems, evolution and more.  Most of this was beyond the Cub, but she burned off the rest of her energy in the soft play area hidden in a corner.

Educational courses run at Eden; take a gardening or botanical art course, or even a degree.

Special seasonal events happen throughout the year; check online before you go to see what’s happening.  There’s also a concert arena which has hosted many big names over the years.

Know Before You Go

We have visited the Eden Project twice in the last couple of years.  Both times we went were really quiet: we went just either side of the May half term.  Try to visit outside of school holidays if you possibly can; I’ve heard that the Eden Project can get super busy in the holidays.

The Eden Project is easily reached by car and is signposted well on the roads from Exeter and Plymouth.  We visited when we were staying in nearby Fowey.  In the future you may be able to find accommodation onsite; plans are underway for an eco-hotel nearby.

The Eden Project is suitable for buggies and wheelchairs.  There are plenty of baby-change facilities.

Make sure you’re wearing layers as the Rainforest Biome in particular can get very warm even if it’s a cold day outside.  If it’s sunny you should also make sure you take sun cream as you can burn inside the Biomes.

The food on site is good; we have eaten in the restaurant in the Mediterranean Biome and in the cafe between the Biomes.  We haven’t tried the terrace restaurant in the Core.   It’s a little on the pricey side though.

You can usually validate your tickets for a year so if you want to come back don’t forget to do this!

The car parks are huge and quite far away from the buildings but you can take the bus from the car park to the visitor entrance rather than walk.

Of course, if you are more adventurous, you can always zipline over the site or take a ride in a giant swing!  Tickets and further details can be found on the Eden Project website.

28 thoughts on “A Journey into the Tropics: The Eden Project

  1. Sparkyjen says:

    Oh my oh my doesn’t this look interesting. Talk about having an adventure. I could see trying this one on for size. I’m not even close to this location, so thanks for the images [which are lovely by the way]. I can certainly dream can’t I??? The guy that came up with this concept was certainly using the right side of his brain. Cool beans!

  2. Punita Malhotra says:

    This is so interesting. I have recommended this to friends who are going to London next week. Should be just perfect for them since they are travelling with two kids. Your section on UK destinations is very useful.

  3. Clare says:

    I have been wanting to go here since it opened, unfortunately I haven’t been down south in years though. It looks an amazing place though, I never really knew what was inside the domes. I would love to explore and hopefully I can get there one day soon 🙂

    • Emily Cole says:

      It’s pretty close to a jungle feel; I’ve been to jungles in Borneo and Thailand before. It’s not quite as humid and hot, the paths are paved, and you won’t hear any jungle bugs, but it definitely took me back to my trips to the jungle!

  4. Brianna says:

    This sounds like a place I would definitely want to explore. How much are tickets to get in? How long does it take to see the whole place? I love that there are different cafes/restaurants that go along with each biome. Super cool.

    • Emily Cole says:

      The entrance is £25 if you buy online. You could spend all day there or go around in a couple of hours – depends if you go slow and if you eat there or not. The food we’ve had has always been good. I think we spent a good 3 to 4 hours there.

    • Emily Cole says:

      Hi Rebecca, if you buy tickets in advance online it’s £25. I will update the post with ticket prices! It’s fairly straightforward to reach from London. You’d need to get a train from Paddington to St Austell (which takes 4 to 5 hours) and then a bus from St Austell to the Eden Project. These run almost hourly. It’s not something you can do as a day trip from London so you’d need to plan on spending a few days in Cornwall, which I’d recommend.

  5. Sandy N Vyjay says:

    Okay so this is super fascinating. A biome? This is a ridiculously brilliant concept. Moreover, giving an experience of different forests is the best idea ever. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Lindsay says:

    I was so excited to see this post!! I visited the Eden Project with my family several years ago and absolutely loved it! I definitely preferred the tropical dome to the more temperate one – and the food was fantastic 🙂 Thanks so much for taking me on a trip down memory lane!

  7. Juliette | Snorkels to Snow says:

    I love the description in your first paragraph – I could imagine exactly how it would have felt! I love the smell of the rainforest. This sounds like such a great initiative and also a great learning opportunity – for both adults & kids. Awesome!

    • Emily Cole says:

      Yes, although the jungle biome is bigger and more spectacular, there’s a lot of variety in the Mediterranean one. We’re trying to explore as much of the UK as we can at the weekends, before we can travel longer term. Places like this can really help to stave off the wanderlust for a bit!

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