Apenheul revisited

With the EU’s internal borders having reopened and the twins’ birthday having happened just over a week ago, we were able to take the two hour drive into the Netherlands to visit Apeneheul once again. This is a zoo of free-roaming primates in which you can wander through a forest and see the animals in as close to their natural state as possible.

It’s a bit different from the last time.

For a start, we have to buy tickets online before visiting. And when buying the tickets, we also had to choose an arrival slot — this gives is a half-hour window in which we must arrive. Miss the window, and the journey is wasted. So we gave ourselves plenty of leeway and ended up with the best part of an hour to kill before we could enter the zoo.

Fortunately, the site is set among some wonderfully scenic grounds, so walking around for a bit really is no challenge at all.

Once inside, the effects of the coronavirus are still visible. The parts of the site in which the 1.5 metre social distancing can’t be enforced remained closed, as do some of the free-roam areas. Most notable of these (for us, at least) were the squirrel monkeys because these little guys are just too inquisitive to be allowed near anyone right now.

That said, there is still plenty to see and do and the boys all enjoyed a great day out.

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My only real gripe is with the ordering system they have implemented. The cafes are all self-service and, to prevent crowding at the tills and take contactless payments, you have to use an app to place and pay for your order, and I really did not like the app.

When I say app here, the reality is that I was using the partially translated mobile web version on my phone. The user interface for this relied on some wacky web ordering framework which didn’t understand that a browser has a back button, so one click can empty your basket and send you right back to the beginning of the process. This is not pleasant when you have three hungry children sitting around a table. Once I had managed to place an order, there is no feedback at all. You simply return to a screen that informs you that they’ll let you know when the order is ready which, after having waited twenty minutes for three sandwiches, felt really inadequate.

For all my whining, though, this is a relatively minor gripe and, once I knew what to expect, I was a lot more relaxed about it.

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Even with the inevitable restrictions, Apenheul still represents a great day out. The site is huge and, even with some parts closed off, we still managed to spend more than three hours working our way around the park. There is loads to see, plenty to do and the primates are still able to get close and personal.

We will certainly be going again. Hopefully the Coronacrisis will be over by the time we do.

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