Sigean African Reserve & Other Days Out

Sigean African Reserve

A favourite day out for families is the Sigean African Reserve. Lovers of history and architecture will enjoy the Abbaye de Fontfroide. Cyclists and walkers are within a short drive of the famous Canal du Midi.

Sigean African Reserve giraffes

Just a 20 minute drive from the Chateau de Nevian, you can find the African Wildlife Reserve at Sigean. It is a 300 hectare safari park and home to over 3800 animals that are free to roam in its open spaces. This is an estimate of the numbers as the animals breed so they do not have an exact inventory. They are predominantly African species in the park, ones able to thrive in the climate in the Languedoc – lots of sunshine and mild winters.

Pink flamingoes at Sigean African Reserve

You will see cheetahs, lions, red buffalos, impalas, zebras, springboks, ostriches, giraffes, white rhinoceri and Asiatic bears, along with hundreds of reptiles and birds. You can easily spend a day at the park – as a minimum you need an hour to tour in your vehicle and then a further two to three hours on foot. However, if you have not seen all the animals in the early tour in your car, they advise you to revisit this area of the park later in the day when it will be less busy. Booking in advance is advised. At the time of writing the tickets cost 33 euros for an adult and 24 euros for a child, with family tickets available. 

The Cistercian monastery L’Abbaye de Fontfroide is 15km from Nevian and takes about 15 minutes to drive to. The magnificent architecture, courtyards, cloisters and stunning gardens are worth a visit in their own right but it also holds regular events and concerts throughout the year. If you time your visit well you may be serenaded by an orchestra, experience life in Mediaeval times at an immersive history event or enjoy the floral splendour of The Fete des Plantes. 

Abbaye de Fontfroide

It was originally founded in 1093 as a Benedictine Monastery but then affiliated to the Cistercian Movement in 1193 before being dissolved during the French Revolution. It passed into the private ownership of two artists, the Fayets, in 1908 whereupon it became a centre for artistic endeavour. Today it is a tourist attraction, cultural venue and produces its own wine. It also has a restaurant on site. 

Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi is a 240 km long waterway that starts at Toulouse and flows through  Carcassonne, Castlenaudry, Beziers and, finally, Sete where it reaches the Mediterranean Sea. Together with the Canal de Garonne it connects the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. This phenomenal feat of engineering was designed by Pierre-Paul Riquet and completed in 1681 and now has UNESCO World Heritage status. 

Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi runs through some exceptionally beautiful scenery and is a favourite with walkers and cyclists. You can also rent a boat to travel along the waterway or take a daytrip. There are a number of Canal du Midi villages nearby where you can get onto the towpath that runs alongside the Canal du Midi. The nearest is Ventenac en Minervois, 10km away from the Chateau. Ventenac has a very good bistro – La Grillade du Chateau – directly on the banks of the Canal. Its Menu du Jour is available at lunchtimes midweek and is great value. The Chateau de Ventenac Minervois right next door offers wine tastings. We recommend the sparkling rose. 

Canal du Midi

From Ventenac you can follow the Canal east to Le Somail which is about 5 km away, about an hour’s walk. Le Somail is a pretty little village with a number of bars and restaurants. It also has an ancient library which is now an antique bookshop with a collection of over 50,000 old or out of print books for sale. Going west the path will pass a number of Canal du Midi villages, Paraza, Argens Minervois and Homps, each with something different to offer.