PICS: Skeletons and scares at Portugal's dino park

2018-07-18 22:00
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portugal dino park

Explore the thrills and chills of this Portugal dinosaur park that will take you on a journey to the Jurassic era. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

Eyes popping in astonishment, his mouth hanging mutely open, seven-year-old Joel approaches the four-metre-high monster and stands nose-to-nose with one of the deadliest killing machines the world has ever known.

The full-scale Tyrannosaurus rex is just one of the prehistoric highlights on display at Portugal's self-proclaimed "dinosaur capital", a new theme park in one of the most fossil-rich regions in Europe.

"We have 120 large-scale reproductions of 70 different species, spread over 10 hectares (24.7 acres)," Simao Mateus, Dino Park's scientific director told AFP.

READ: Holograms become 'Jurassic Park' dinosaur expert's next big thing

Although only recently opened, the park sits in a part of Portugal long famous among palaeontologists for its extraordinary array of fossilised remains.

The nearby town of Lourinhã, an hour's drive north of Lisbon, has been dinosaur-mad ever since the remains of a dozen of the creatures were discovered in the late 19th century.

It already has a dinosaur museum and dinosaur statues in metal or resin can be seen on its roundabouts, while pavements are decorated with paintings of dinosaur footprints.

"Lourinhã is quite particular about its dinosaurs, so we should all enjoy" the new facility, Mateus said.

SEE THIS PIC: Dinosaur tracks at US park dislodged by visitors, thrown into lake

Visitors to the park are greeted by the rearing neck of a giant model Supersaurus - one of the largest dinosaur genera - announcing a collection as impressive as anything else to be found in Europe.

portugal dino park

People visit the Dino Park, an outdoor museum with more than 120 models of dinosaurs, in Lourinhã. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

Imported from Germany, the resin statues are dotted throughout a forest route guiding budding palaeontologists through the eons when dinosaurs stalked the Earth.

Pride of place goes to two models of dinosaurs actually discovered in the town.

Lourinhãsaurus was a sauropod - an immense, four-legged herbivore similar to Brachiosaurus or Diplodocus - that roamed the rainforests of western Laurasia around 150 million years ago.

That gentle giant is not to be confused with Lourinhãnosaurus, a sharp-fanged and crafty hunter the size of a crocodile that lived in roughly the same era as Lourinhaãsaurus.

portugal dino park

People visit the Dino Park, an outdoor museum with more than 120 models of dinosaurs, in Lourinhã. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

WATCH: The Real Jurassic Park? 'Unparalleled' number of dinosaur tracks found in Australia

'Creatures from their dreams'

Mateus says interest in the park has started strong, with 175 000 visitors through the gates in the six months since opening, despite a prolonged period of poor weather.

On this visit, to the backdrop of the roars and squawks of dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes, a gaggle of young schoolchildren gape up in awe at the T-rex, its huge jaws capable of gobbling each one in a single gulp.

portugal dino park

Children play with a dinosaurs' skull at the Dino Park in Lourinhã. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

Other little ones cluster around a model Iguanodon - a Cretaceous-era grazer - though one boy keeps his distance from the reptile's giant spiky thumb.

For park employee Filipa Pedro, who has been handing out stone blocks, hammers, chisels and other tools to this next generation of geologists, the experience offers children a glance of a long-lost part of the planet's past.

portugal dino park

People visit the Dino Park, an outdoor museum with more than 120 models of dinosaurs, in Lourinhã. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

"Children love dinosaurs, they are like these mysterious creatures that come from their dreams," she says.

"Thanks to lots of cartoons and films on the subject, their knowledge is impressive. So this park is bound to please them."

See more pics of the park below:

portugal dino park

People visit the Dino Park, an outdoor museum with more than 120 models of dinosaurs, in Lourinhã. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

portugal dino park

People visit the Dino Park, an outdoor museum with more than 120 models of dinosaurs, in Lourinhã. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

portugal dino park

People visit the Dino Park, an outdoor museum with more than 120 models of dinosaurs, in Lourinhã. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

portugal dino park

People visit the Dino Park, an outdoor museum with more than 120 models of dinosaurs, in Lourinhã. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

portugal dino park

People visit the Dino Park, an outdoor museum with more than 120 models of dinosaurs, in Lourinhã. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

portugal dino park

People visit the Dino Park, an outdoor museum with more than 120 models of dinosaurs, in Lourinhã. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

portugal dino park

A woman visits the Dino Park in Lourinhã. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

portugal dino park

People visit the Dino Park, an outdoor museum with more than 120 models of dinosaurs, in Lourinhã. (Photo: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP)

Plan Your Trip to Lourinhã, Portugal: 

  • Do SA residents need a visa: Yes, a Schengen visa is required - C visa for short stay. For more information go here. It costs about R950 and takes about 15 working days to process
  • Currency & exchange rate: Euro (€) - €1 = R15.49
  • Main Airport: Lisbon Portela Airport
  • Airlines that travel there: Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, KLM, Air France, Lufthansa etc. Search for flights here.