Let’s Talk About Lemurs
Lemur tell you all about aye-ayes, blue-eyed black lemurs, grey mouse lemurs, and Coquerel’s sifakas.
Perhaps you know that Durham is the City of Medicine with over 300 medical and health-related companies. Or maybe you’ve heard that it’s the Tastiest Town in the South with James Beard Award-nominated chefs. By now, you’re probably aware that it’s home to numerous Grammy-nominated artists like musician Rissi Palmer and acclaimed saxophonist Branford Marsalis. But did you know it's also home to the largest group of lemurs outside their native Madagascar?
Deep in the heart of the Duke Forest, lies the Duke Lemur Center (DLC), a sprawling 100-acre complex that houses over 200 lemurs across 14 different species. Founded in 1966, the DLC is open to the public and educates more than 35,000 visitors annually. Its highly successful conservation breeding program seeks to preserve vanishing species, and its Madagascar Conservation Programs study and protect lemurs, the world’s most endangered group of mammals.
The DLC offers a variety of unique tours, including a VIP behind-the-scenes look. We’ve put together a guide to help you plan your visit to observe the world’s largest population of lemurs in Durham.
Location: 3705 Erwin Road Durham, NC 27705
Admission: The DLC does not accommodate walk-in visitors. All guests must have a prepaid tour reservation to visit the Lemur Center.
What to Wear: Wear close-toed shoes and comfortable clothing. Also, masks are required when entering buildings.
Photography: Lemurs are extremely photogenic, and flash-free photography is allowed.
Accommodations: There are accommodations available for guests who need wheelchairs, canes or other mobility assistance.
Bathrooms: Bathrooms are located by the gift shop.
Gift Shop: The Lemur Landing Gift Shop is open for in-person shopping daily from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (Please note that you still have to book a tour to see lemurs when you visit the gift shop.)
COVID-19: If you need to cancel your tour due to illness, the DLC will work with you to reschedule. If you are not able to reschedule, the DLC will refund your tour registration fee.
What to expect: The DLC isn’t a zoo with numerous back-to-back exhibits curated for entertainment. It’s more like an outdoor museum where you quietly step back and observe the lemurs in their home. Guests should respect the lemurs and give them space to move freely. For the safety of the lemurs and guests, visitors are not allowed any physical contact with the animals.
Cost: Adults (ages 13-64) $14 + tax; Children (ages 3-12), Seniors (65+) and Military $12 + tax; Children (ages 2 and under) are free
Available: Thursdays and Fridays 5 - 7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Make memories that will last long after you return home as you wander through the DLC at your own pace. The general tour is the best tour for families with children, because it operates similarly to an open house. Visit approximately 17 lemurs representing eight different species, including lemurs that look like King Julien, the most famous ring-tailed lemur from the movie “Madagascar”. Enjoy watching lemurs playing in their outdoor enclosures with toys, puzzles and other enrichment activities, while a staff member shares lemur facts and answers questions. Little ones can rest on a bench under the shaded pergola or eat a snack on a nearby picnic table. While you have a maximum of two hours to explore, most people, especially families with kids, head out after about 45 minutes.
Private Group General Tour
Cost: Flat fee of $150 + tax per group; maximum group size of 15 individuals.
Available: Mondays, Wednesdays, and occasional Fridays (various times in the morning and early afternoon)
Looking for a creative birthday party venue or a fun, memorable family outing idea excursion? You can book a 90-minute private tour where you follow a designated guide from station to station to learn about the history and mission of DLC and its residents. Walk by lemurs and observe them in their leafy enclosures, playing with natural objects that challenge them and stimulate their curiosity. The tour includes a special Q&A time with trained educators.
Walking With Lemurs Tour
Cost: $95 + tax per person, with a maximum group size of 10 individuals, and no minimum fee
Available: Seven days a week 10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.
You might have seen lemurs that like to “move it, move it” in an animated movie or maybe at the zoo, but the DLC’s Walking with Lemurs tour is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience lemurs leaping through the trees around you. Here’s your chance to do something cool for your staff retreat or plan some unique entertainment for your family reunion. Guests are guided in small groups through the forest just as the animals’ keepers set out to feed them in the morning, ensuring the appearance of furry lemurs eager to chow down on fruit and veggies for breakfast. While this tour allows you to come within proximity to lemurs and observe them, the lemurs will not directly interact with guests. Because visitors must quietly observe the lemurs in their natural habitat enclosures, you must be at least ten years old to participate.
Behind the Scenes Tour
Cost: $400 + tax per group, up to four people
Available: Saturdays and Sundays from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Curious to know what goes on “behind the curtain” of a world-renowned primate research, education, and conservation center? The Behind the Scenes tour allow you to see how the DLC staff cares for over 200 lemurs around the clock. Get a seldom-seen glimpse of off-limits areas and hear first-hand information that you can’t find online. Learn how the DLC gets sumac, the lemurs favorite leafy greens as you observe an afternoon feeding. Also, this one-of-a-kind experience is the only tour where you can glimpse the amazing aye-ayes, lemurs with large radar-like ears and large incisor teeth that never stop growing.
Whether you’re a returning lemur fan or a brand-new visitor, your experience at the DLC will be educational and unforgettable. For more unique things to do this summer, check out our summer guide. For those looking to stay in Durham overnight as they plan their trip to the DLC, the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, JB Duke Hotel, AC Hotel by Marriott Durham and the Millennium Hotel Durham are some of the closest spots to Duke University’s campus. Check out our Hotels & Inns page to find more options for you and your crew.