Christine Keiffer hires out donkeys to groups of holiday makers, for week-long treks through the amazing Mercantour National Park, on the Italian border.
How did you start your business?
We started 20 years ago. I come from the area, and wanted to work with donkeys, because they are intelligent. Intelligent, affectionate and loyal.
Why do people take donkeys on their treks?
They carry the luggage – and you need quite a lot for a week in the wilderness – they motivate children, they are a pleasure and entertainment to be around, and they offer some degree of security, including simply carrying a weary child. It is also a learning experience to be close to a donkey.
Who hires out your donkeys?
Walkers who have some degree of walking experience; it’s not a serious week of hiking, but the terrain, navigating (it is self-guided) and camping are not for total beginners either. Other farms can offer a similar holiday on easier routes, which would be suitable for beginners.
Families can only take our donkeys out if their children are over 5 years old. The donkeys are mainly meant for baggage, but will be happy to carry children – or even an adult – for a while, if a child gets very tired.
Do people need to be experienced with donkeys for this kind of trip?
No. We have 50 donkeys, who were all born on the farm. Before any group sets off on their trip, we spend around 3 hours with them on the farm, explaining how to look after donkeys, how to handle them, and how to deal with any veterinary issue, just in case. Donkeys are easy to look after, gentle, and they eat grass.
There are around 150 farms in France, where donkeys are hired out to walkers, and 80 who are members of the Fédération Nationale Anes et Randonnées. Visit their site for more information on why donkeys are special, how trekking with them helps the environment, and other interesting facts about donkeys and the association.