Monkey around at La Montagne des Singes
A dreamy ribbon of mist left behind by an early morning rain shower wrapped around the tip of the mountain as we made our way through the beautiful French-German village of Kintzheim, France. It set a mysterious tone for our trek into the woods — an adventure we were intrigued by already.
We’d spent a few days wandering through the alluring cobblestone streets of Strasbourg, but I’d been looking forward to our excursion to La Montagne des Singes — or Mountain of the Apes — all weekend. Primates have always fascinated me, and I was excited about the opportunity to visit the 60-acre forest where a family of 200 Barbary macaques roam as they please.
After making our way up the narrow, winding mountain road, we found a spot in the free parking area and located the entrance, which is just past the café, playground and picnic areas. Before we headed into the forest, the guides gave us popcorn to feed the monkeys from the palm of our hands. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about this prospect, especially with two little ones in tow, but it ended up being an unforgettable experience for us all!
The path through the forest is half a mile long. Pets are not allowed for obvious reasons, and park guides are there to ensure your visit is safe and enjoyable. Also, knowledgeable educators host fascinating feeding talks at locations along the path every 45 minutes.
We took our time walking through the forest, stopping every few meters to enjoy the beautiful views and watch the monkeys at work and play. Some were busy digging in the dirt, looking for nuts and pieces of fruit that had been hidden throughout the woods for them. Others were playing, snuggling or helping out their friends with apparent flea infestations.
Many, though, had staked out spots on the benches along the trail to wait for visitors who might have handfuls of popcorn to share.
Our boys giggled with wonder as the monkeys slowly walked up to their outstretched hands to snatch a piece at a time.
Planning a trip to La Montagne des Singes soon?
Here are five tips to help make your visit an enjoyable experience for your family.
Pack snacks or a picnic lunch… but leave them in the car.
There is a small café just outside the forest where you can purchase a selection of sandwiches, salads, ice cream and beverages, but the items are a little pricey. I recommend bringing your own snacks or packing a lunch to eat at the picnic tables throughout the park. If you plan to dine after your visit, leave your food in the car. Curious monkeys will not hesitate to help themselves into your bags to sneak a snack of their own.
Encourage the little ones to burn off energy at the playground before you head into the forest.
Even though the monkeys appear to be mild-mannered and friendly, their behavior can be unpredictable, especially when they become startled or feel threatened. The park guides recommend keeping a safe distance from the monkeys and doing your best to remain still and calm when they approach you. Young children are easily excitable and may frighten the monkeys if they run down the paths or get too close for comfort. Fortunately, there is a small playground area next to the café where little ones can run around and play to get a little bit of energy out of their systems before entering the monkeys’ habitat.
Read up on Barbary macaques before you go.
There is a small video and information center just outside the park entrance. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the on-going preservation efforts to protect the endangered Barbary macaques, as well as their habits and behaviors, so you know a little bit more about what to expect once you set foot inside the forest.
Speaking of monkey behaviors, you will want to watch out for this facial expression:
It may seem cute and funny at first glance, but it is actually the face Barabary macaques use to warn others they are feeling invaded.
If you have time, be sure visit the other sights in the area.
Just two kilometers from La Montagnes des Singes, you can catch a thrilling bird show at La Volerie des Aigles. The first of its kind in France, the Eagle Park gives visitors the opportunity to learn more about and get up close to the largest birds of prey.
For more fun and adventure, just five kilometers away, you’ll find one of France’s most visited fortresses, Haut Königsbourg Castle. Sitting high on a hill overlooking the scenic Alsace region, this fairy-tale castle offers a panoramic view of the cascading vineyards and villages below.
Our visit to La Montagne des Singes was incredible. I will never forget the look of pure joy and amazement on my boys’ faces. It is important to me to teach my children about nature and the value of its conservation, and I am thankful that beautiful places of refuge and restoration like Montagne des Singes exist.
To plan your day of monkeying around at Mountain of the Apes, visit www.montagnedessinges.com.