Rich's Roving Reports #5: Breakfast with the Monkeys
For my latest adventure I made a trip to the Trentham Monkey Forest, home of 140 Barbary macaque monkeys in 60 acres of Staffordshire countryside, for the Breakfast with the Monkeys experience.
The Monkey Forest is the only attraction of its type in the UK, as the monkeys live freely in the trees, instead of an enclosure, and visitors walk through the animals' habitat.
It's not the first time I've been to the park - I've visited several times since it opened in 2005 - but I've never had a chance to go behind-the-scenes before, so I was looking forward to quizzing the keepers on monkey life.
Here's how my day went...
Meet the keepers
I arrived at 9am, an hour before the Monkey Forest opens to the public, and met Anna, the head keeper.
Jumping into the van, which was already loaded with buckets of fruit, veg and maize, we ventured through the Jurassic Park-style gates and into the park itself.
As the monkeys approached, responding to some top whistling from fellow keeper Di, we threw the apples, sliced melons and potatoes to them while Anna explained their behaviour.
I was relieved to hear there's no aggression involved in their teeth-baring, and they never try to escape (although there are smooth panels on the fence to make sure they can't)!
Having emptied the van of supplies, it was time to head back to the food store and prepare the next day's breakfast.
I loaded four big buckets with apples and heard more about the experience and how popular it's been since it was launched five years ago.
Many of the bookings come from people celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, and it's really popular with the little monkeys too - including toddlers.
The macaques are wild animals and can't be touched or cuddled, but they respect humans' authority and keep their distance, so it's perfectly safe for the little ones.
A unique VIP experience
Breakfast with the Monkeys is a unique experience in a unique location.
While other zoos and wildlife attractions offer similar experiences, none of them allow visitors to walk through the animals' habitat and get so close.
The small groups - each experience is for a maximum of two people - give you the chance to ask the keeper all your burning questions and get plenty of personal attention.
Breakfast with the Monkeys is priced at £90 per person. Experiences are booked direct by phone (01782 659845) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Great value short breaks
If you like our furry and feathered friends, there are plenty of animal attractions for you to explore in Staffordshire.
Combine an overnight stay with visits to three animal attractions with our great value for money Staffordsheer Escapes short break packages.
Our Family Fun packages start at £145 for a family of four - that's a saving of up to 62%!