The wonderful Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani - Japan's “Hell Valley”

Native to Japan, the wonderful Japanese Macaque (Macaca fuscata) are classed as a terrestrial Old World Monkey species and the world’s northernmost living primate.

Almost certainly the best location to get up close and personal to these wildlife stars is in the Jigokudani region of Japan, otherwise know as “Hell Valley”. And the best place in this region is Jigokudani-Yaen-Koen or Wild Snow Monkey Park, which was established in 1964.

Typical of all primates, the Japanese Macaque is highly intelligent and adaptable. During the last century these macaques, affectionately known the world over as “Snow Monkeys”, discovered that immersing themselves in the naturally occuring hot thermal springs (known locally as onsen) of Jigokudani, was not only an enjoyable and sociable experience, it was essential for combating and surviving the harshest of environments.

Visiting the hot springs is now a daily ritual for the 160+ strong monkey troop.

The park is located in Yudanaka-Shibu Onsen in Yamanouchi Town in the Nagano prefecture. It is approximately. 2.5km from Shibu Onsen, 7km from Yudanaka and 33km from the city of Nagano. 

 

The park is open all year round . . .

SUMMER
April to October 08:30am – 17:00pm

WINTER
November to March 09:00am – 16:00pm

ADMISSION FEES

  • 250yen for children
  • 500yen for adults

There are no roads from the park entrance to the hot springs, so, during the winter months, be prepared to walk for approximately 25mins on a single, snow-covered track through the forest to get to the monkeys.

It's worth the effort !

Discover more Snow Monkey images 

All creative, photographic and written content © 2009-2017 Andrew Sproule Photography

The Red Kites of Gigrin Farm, a wildlife success story

Updated October 2017

Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Red Kites at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales

35 years ago, Wales had a mere handful of breeding pairs of Red Kites (Milvus milvus), a fact that’s hard to believe when you spend the afternoon at Gigrin Farm with a spiralling mass of over 500 (can be less or a lot more depending on the weather and time of year) of these beautiful raptors filling the sky at feeding time.

Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Red Kites at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales

Feeding stations have become an important element in the RSPB’s Red Kite conservation programme and since 1992 when Gigrin Farm was first approached, it’s been playing its very important role extremely successfully.

Now a true Welsh tourist attraction, Gigrin Farm is owned and run by Chris and Dominique Powell and consists of 200 acres of land starting at 700 feet and rising to 1200 above sea level located in Rhayader in the Wye and Elan valleys in mid-Wales.

Gigrin Farm is also a Red Kite Rehabilitation Centre in conjunction with The Welsh Kite Trust. This unit allows kites, that have fallen ill or been injured, to recuperate after having any required veterinary care elsewhere.

Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Red Kites at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales

RED KITES
Red Kites are instantly recognisable in flight with their distinctive forked tails (fanned when diving) and striking colour, which is predominantly chestnut red with white patches under the wings and a pale grey head. It’s a medium-large bird of prey (females being slightly larger then the males) in the family Accipitridae which also includes many other raptors such as eagles, buzzards and harriers. Vagrant Red Kites have even reached north to Finland and south to Israel, Libya and Gambia.

FEEDING TIMES AT THE STATION
When the feeding starts there is definitely a pecking order (less so in the winter) with the older birds going first followed by the younger and then juvenile birds. You’ll witness some spectacular aerial acrobatics with amazing displays of twists, turns, diving and feeding on the wing.

SUMMER FEEDING TIMES
3pm last Sunday in March – last Saturday in October

WINTER FEEDING TIMES
2pm last Sunday in October – last Saturday in March

Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Red Kites at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales
Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Red Kites at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales
Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Red Kites at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales
Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Red Kites at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales
Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Red Kites at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales
Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Red Kites at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales

Frequent visitors to the feeding station include a pair of White or Leucistic (reduced pigment) Red Kites. Normally, this would be a distinct disadvantage in the wild but they’ve been accepted here by the other raptors.

Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Red Kites at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales
Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Red Kites at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales

OTHER VISITORS TO THE FEEDING STATION
Expect to also see Carrion Crows, Ravens, Rooks, Common Buzzard and Heron, as they also frequent the feeding station.

Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Common Buzzard at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales
Andrew Sproule Photography | Wildlife + Travel | Common Buzzard at Gigrin Farm feeding station, Rhayader, mid-Wales

VISITOR INFORMATION

 

LOCATION
Gigrin Farm, South Street, Rhayader, Powys LD6 5BL

FARM OPENING TIMES FOR 2017
OPEN 1 January – 30 November
12:30pm to 5pm Tuesday – Sunday
closed Mondays
(except OPEN Bank Holiday Mondays and Mondays during the school holidays)

CLOSED 1 December – 26 December

OPEN 27 December – 30 December
12:30 pm to 4pm

ADMISSION FEES

  • Adults: £6
  • Concession: £5
  • Children: £4 (with 4yrs and under allowed in Free)
  • A family ticket: £18 (2 Adults and 2 children)

FACILITIES
Free parking (as well as disabled access to the hides), cafe, picnic area, gift shop, toilets (including disable facilities), campsite and farm trail.

HIDES
There are 5 main observation hides alongside the feeding field from which to view the kites.
There are a further 4 specialist photographic hides, which are subject to an additional fee.

PHOTOGRAPHIC HIDES
There are a number of conveniently located hides specifically aimed at photographers and film makers with costs starting at £15pp* for ground level (accessible by wheelchair), rising to £25pp* for the Big Tower Hide. The Big Tower hide can accomodate 6 photographers with tripods or 8 without.

If you would like to experience the action from a different perspective and more close up and personal, then there's the Kite Field hide priced at £45pp*. Please note that photographing the kites from this hide requires a significantly sharper skillset.

These prices include the standard entry fee. *Prices correct as of October 2017

Photographic hides are available Tuesday – Sunday throughout the year EXCEPT for December 23rd- 26th. Whilst hide space may be available to book on the day, it is advisable to pre-book your hide online to avoid disappointment as they can be very popular and spaces in each hide are limited.


All creative, photographic and written content © 2009-2017 Andrew Sproule Photography