Almost as soon as you arrive at La Vallée des Singes you are handed a zippable bag, advised to place all your belongings in it and hang on to it tightly – because you never know when a pesky monkey might swing down and grab something! La Vallée des Singes or Valley of the Monkeys, is a large 15 hectare monkey and ape park where many of the 350 primates who live here travel freely through the trees and along ropes strung between them, or are enclosed on large islands which allows them to move as they please.
One of the top attractions in the Poitou-Charentes, there are 30 species of primate to see, from the gorillas – the park has the largest gorilla group in France and a number of young have been born there - to the tiny pygmy marmoset which weights just 125 grams. Other animals you will see are squirrel monkeys, woolly monkeys, Titi monkeys, white-faced saki monkeys, Gelada baboons, Barbary macaques, lemurs, siamangs (the largest species of gibbon), white-cheeked gibbons, colobus monkeys, white-nosed and roloway guenons, mandrills, capuchins, marmosets, golden lion and emperor tamarins and the white-bellied spider monkeys, which are rarely seen in zoos.
The monkey park also has a group of chimpanzees that were rescued from a Danish laboratory. They live on an island and are a temperamental bunch - the last time I was there, I had to duck out of the way of a bit of flying carrot thrown at me by one of the gang!
In 2011 the park became home to a group of bonobos - similar to chimps but of a slightly different build and very different temperement, being more gentle and tactile. In the wild they are found in the Congo but are now one of the most endangered species in the world.
La Vallée des Singes is a great day out for families but also for adults of any age. It's lovely to be able to get close to the animals without bars in the way and have them scampering around you as you walk along the paths. And as they're primates, they're full of personality so they're very entertaining to watch. You mustn't touch them, though, and park staff are around to make sure everyone stays safe.
A small leaflet in English, which comes with the main guide, explains which monkeys you're seeing and a little bit about them. Some of the information in the French guide is easy to understand even if you don't have a great grasp of the language.
When you need sustenance at la Vallée des Singes, choose from two picnic and restaurant areas, both of which come with a children's playground - one is near the gorillas, the other at the far end of the park by the chimpanzees. The restaurant by the chimps is larger, with a bigger menu and an indoor sit-down area. The children's playground here is also more developed with climbing frames, wooden towers and a flying squirrel – perfect for own your little monkeys!
* BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MONKEY PARK....
The best way to see the monkeys at La Vallée des Singes is to follow the feeding schedule which is given to you when you buy your tickets. This way you get to see them in large numbers and often, very close to you.
March, April, May, June and September : 10am-6pm
July and August: 10am-7pm
October and November: 10am-5pm
The park is closed December to February inclusive
Last entry is 1 ½ hours before closing.
Pets are not allowed.
There is plenty of parking
Children (5-12 years): €10
Children under 5 are free.
You can buy tickets online at the park's website (see below)
Where is it?
86700 Romagne, Vienne
Tel: 05 49 87 20 20
WORDS: Rachel Loos
PHOTO: courtesy of Vallée des Singes