Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Apenheul

Small primates roam free in the park.
Let me start by saying some things in Europe are just MORE FUN.

I attribute this directly to a general lack of litigation lawyers and judges sympathetic to whining. The legal burden is directly on each individual to look out for his or her own personal safety. Like winners of the “Darwin Awards”, if you get hurt or killed doing something stupid in a public place, the Dutch legal system assumes you were not smart enough to stay in the gene pool.

This in mind, the owners of public attractions are not at the mercy of liability insurance policies or fear of litigation when they design their facilities. Things are allowed to be fun.

The Apenheul is a very special primate park. It was the first such park in the world to allow the animals to live in a forest-like setting and walk among the visitors. As an American, it was truly shocking to see these little guys in the bushes or trees right next to me.

I asked one of the zoo attendants if people ever get bitten. His response was, “Yes, of course, especially if they try to touch or pick-up the monkeys.” How long do you think this place would stay open back in the States?

Interacting with the animals was absolutely stunning. Walt and I had never ever experienced anything like it. The trees were alive with animals! We could hear troops of monkeys calling to one another as they watched us walk past. If we were very still, they might come down to see who we were.

The children were mesmerized. They stood in awe of these little creatures: fascinated by their speed, enamored by their play, terrified by their fights. Everything happened all around them, right where they could see it, sometimes even at their feet.

The designers of the park included many playgrounds for children. These lovely wooden and rope structures were not all that different than the habitats for the monkeys. Made for human primates, these playscapes towered two stories or more from the ground. Huge rope net tunnels ascended to long spiraling steel slides. Complicated rope jungle gyms, sometimes requiring the child to travel hand-over-hand with feet dangling three meters in the air, lured my kids ever upward. The children were reluctant to leave one area to see what might be in the next.

Did we get bitten? Yes, twice. Walt and I were both nipped when we let the squirrel monkeys get a little too close. (Walt would like me to place a disclaimer here that he was innocently repacking our bag when a monkey came up behind him and nipped him and was not being foolish in any way). I should also add that none of the children were nipped. This is most likely because they had enough sense to step back when the monkeys came in for a closer look, not shove a camera in their little faces like their mommy. I also had a ring-tailed lemur use my head as a springboard on his way to another location. Was it all worth it? You bet!

This is the little stinker who nipped me.
The whole day was magical. Upon leaving, our son (who had received a punishment for a poor attitude during the Great Alkmaar Disaster, 2010) hugged us both and thanked us spontaneously for a “perfect day”. This is high praise from a 10 year old. Exhausted and happy, the children slept the whole drive home.

If you would like to plan a trip, more information can be found at Since the park is set up in a circle, we avoided the large crowd by visiting the exhibits in reverse order. This worked out perfectly. We had the park to ourselves for half of our visit. We brought a picnic lunch which we carried through the park in a special "monkey proof bag" provided for free by the entry staff.  There were many nice picnic areas along the way to choose for a lunch location.  The day was not cheap. Tickets for the five of us were 88.00 euros. It was money well spent. Our time there was priceless.

More photos, taken by a fellow blogger with a wonderful eye, can be found at


  1. Great post! I haven't yet visited the Apenheul, but we've driven past it more times than I can count. It certainly seems like a great place for a family to visit. Have you also visited Koningin Juliana Toren {nearby Apenheul} in Apeldoorn?

  2. Hi, I came here from your comment on my blog.. funny that we were at Apenheul on the same day! :) Great post, I enjoyed the read and your photos and then the surprise at the end with a link back to my post ;-) Thanks so much for the compliments.

  3. Oh, if we went there, we'd all be too scared.....And you had me laughing with your comparisons with the US. Sometimes though I think the Dutch are too 'relaxed'.....

  4. I love Apenheul and I got nipped too. I got to close to one of them with my camera and he let me know it. Maybe it was even the same one, he has that same 'eyes close together' look.

  5. Love love love it there! I need to go back now that I have a decent camera.