The lemurs have been on a bit of a vacation, here in the dog days of August. I know, we weren’t long back from Rome when we were off again, this time on a trip I’ve been excited about for months. Somehow, I learned that the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Centre in Jersey has a significant Madagascan wildlife collection and that, in particular, they have a lot of lemurs. My response? OMG squeeee!!!111!!!1! Yeah, here at The Lemurs are Hungry, we are kind of lemur crazy and it turns out, so is lemur friend Thrifty Gal. So, as a belated birthday jaunt, Thrifty Gal and I cooked up a plan to visit Jersey and see the lemurs. The Durrell Centre has a splendid offer that for just £50, a party of up to five people can go backstage with an animal keeper and get up close and personal with their choice of animal. So we booked flight and hotel and headed off to St Helier with very few other plans in mind.
As it turns out, Jersey is really lovely. We stayed in the Pomme d’Or hotel which, although they won’t tell you this themselves, is where the Nazis situated their HQ during the Occupation. Obviously, it’s been completely renovated more than once since then but the possibility of Nazi ghosts haunting the corridors gave the place an extra frisson. There are lots of memorials to the Occupation and with more time we would have explored the remnants of this fascinating history, but the sun was shining on us and we focused on the beautiful scenery instead. Jersey really has lovely beaches. The one above is at Portelet, and when we arrived there were about three other people and a dog there. It was utterly beautiful and could easily have been in Greece rather than Britain. We spent a happy morning pootling about in the shallow water then took a bus up the dramatic west coast to the lighthouse at Corbière.
But what of the lemurs? We spent a full day at the Durrell Centre and honestly, I couldn’t recommend it more. We were instructed to go to the lemur kitchen (OMG the lemur kitchen!) where we were met by Rachel, one of the lemur keepers. She was lovely and seemed so very happy in her job that we were all seriously wondering about our choices in life. She showed us the lemurs’ menus, all very scientific, with specific portions like “3 peanuts” on a Wednesday that had us dying of the cuteness before we’d so much as laid eyes on a lemur. Then it was off to feed the lemurs. Because they are hungry.
First we met the gentle lemur, so soft and fluffy. Apparently they’re totally misnamed and will have your finger chomped before you can say bamboo leaf, but this little guy seemed content enough. Look at the tiny paw action on those leaves!
Next up were the ringtails and here we were in complete lemur heaven. Rachel led us into the staff-only area behind the enclosure and scattered some raisins to bring the ladies over to see us. Next thing we knew it was lemur madness, with a dozen leaping lemurs including two utterly adorable 8-week-old babies. Mr Lemur went into full-on photography duty while Thrifty Gal and I tried to control the squealing. It was amazing to get so close to the creatures I’ve been obsessed with for years, and though I was secretly longing for just a little hug (come on, just one?), we were all just transported with joy to spend lunchtime with the lemurs.
We spent a wonderful day watching bears, komodo dragons and orang-utans (geeks that we are, we tried to attract their attention by promising to return library books). Apparently the Durrell Centre is losing money because of the drop in Jersey tourism–now that people take cheap flights abroad, Jersey is no longer a top destination. The whole island is losing out from being neither cheap nor exotic, but it’s especially sad to see this amazing conservation centre suffer. If you’re looking for a charity gift you could do a lot worse: they do good deals on animal adoptions and the trust does fantastic work around the world and works with local communities.
I realise I’ve talked more about lemur lunches than human ones. I’ve got more to post on Jersey restaurants, but for now I’ll just point to the single most delicious thing they make on Jersey: ice cream. You’ve heard of Jersey cows and Jersey cream and boy do they make the most of that. I’ve literally never tasted ice cream like it and bear in mind I just came back from Italy. We subsisted on an extremely ice cream heavy diet and it’s probably just as well for our cholestorol levels that our break was a short one. The best version (not the one in the picture, because we ate it too fast to photograph) was super-vanilla-y regular ice cream topped with richly creamy vanilla soft serve. Dear gods, it was good.