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John Bokma's Hacking & Hiking

A visit to Avonturia De Vogelkelder

March 7, 2020

For today we had planned to pay a visit to Avonturia, also known as "De Vogelkelder" (The bird cellar) located in the city of The Hague. I had read on Facebook that they also sell tarantulas, and I wanted to buy like two or so to extend my collection to three; I bought a tiny Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens, commonly known as the "Green Bottle Blue" (GBB) two weeks ago.

In the days before today I had made a kind of wish list made in the iOS Notes app, based on research on Google, with the following species on it:

Two species not listed are Brachypelma smithi, of which I know the scientific name by heart, and Aphonopelma seemanni, a species that I considered a maybe.

Flamingos quarreling
Flamingos quarreling.

But how to transport those big spiders? I had no styrofoam box or something similar to protect them to the outside cold of around 10°C (50°F). So first I called Avonturia and I was told that they pack the tarantulas for me. But then I recalled that I forgot to ask if they would pack them against the cold as well, so I made another call to the shop. And the answer was that I had to take care of that myself.

Two male mandarin ducks, Aix galericulata
Two male mandarin ducks, Aix galericulata.

Close to the main bus station in the town of Naaldwijk there is an Albert Heijn, a large supermarket. Maybe they sold a styrofoam box or similar. But when we arrived there I was told they sold none but to maybe try another shop, named Blokker.

So we walked to Blokker and when I asked they told me they sold cooler boxes; moreover I had just walked past hem. So I bought a large cooler box and we walked back to the main bus station and after some waiting, we had just missed the bus, the next bus to The Hague arrived; we got in and soon were on our way to Avonturia.

Bearded dragons, Pogona vitticeps
Central bearded dragons or inland bearded dragons, Pogona vitticeps.

Somehow we missed our stop and had to walk somewhat more but finally we arrived in Avonturia! I tried to find the tarantula section as soon as possible. When I found it, I was a bit disappointed by the small selection. But they had Brachypelma smithi (49.95 euro) and Aphonopelma seemanni (59.95 euro).

The former species I could select from a few specimen already each inside a plastic box with some soil and a plastic plant. I just picked one. Of the latter they had only one specimen, in a terrarium on display. So it had to be caught and put in a plastic container. Both were put inside the cooler box and I was told I could pick it up at checkout number 3 later.

Adam and Alice inside restaurant "Oehoe"
Adam and Alice inside restaurant "Oehoe".

After having looked around a bit more, we decided to have lunch in restaurant "Oehoe", part of Avonturia. Alice and Adam each wanted to sit in front of a beautiful paludarium with poison dart frogs, fish, bromeliads, and orchids. And of course they wanted lollypops with an insect inside.

When in the restaurant Alice discovered that one could crack open "lava balls" (geodes). So she and Adam asked if they each could have one. I agreed and so we went to a chest full of geodes and each picked one.

A chest full of geodes ready to be cracked
A chest full of geodes from Mexico, ready to be cracked.

Adam wanted his geode cracked first. Next was Alice her turn. She wanted to crack the geode herself, and she made it break exactly in half.

We continued to walk around and look at the animals. I selected a bag of sand and a tunnel shaped piece of cork bark. The former I would mix with coco peat to create a suitable substrate for each tarantula, and the latter I would break in two alongside to make two hides, one for each tarantula.

Adam with parrot "Jan" on his arm
Adam with parrot "Jan" on his arm. Photo by Alice.

When I went looking for our children I found Adam with parrot "Jan" on his arm. Somehow Alice had made him get the parrot on his arm so she could take photos of Adam with the parrot. The parrot loves buttons, zippers, and hats, and was already trying to get one off Adam's jacket.

Adam couldn't get the bird back on its stand so I took the bird on my arm. I don't like parrots very much. Or more specifically, I don't like their huge beaks. Earlier Esme had tried to help someone to get Jan back on its stand and got nipped on the arm in return.

So, while I didn't like Jan, the bird somehow did like me and was soon sitting on my shoulder, rubbing his beak just behind my ear. I was laughing nervously and ... so did the parrot, loud in my ear. After it had played with one of the zippers on the arm of my jacket I managed to get it back on its stand.

Handling an Aphonopelma seemanni
Author handling an Aphonopelma seemanni. Photo by Esme.

After the parrot adventure we went to the check out to pay. I had to return to the reptile department to get the CITES paperwork done for the Brachypelma smithi. When that was done I paid, and we walked to the bus stop.

Brachypelma smithi in its terrarium
Brachypelma smithi in its terrarium.

When we arrived at home I started to prepare the substrate; a mix of moist coco peat and sand. For both species the coco peat has to be more dry than I prepared it, but I hope it will dry out sufficiently the coming weeks. For the Aphonopelma seemanni I used a 19 litre (5 US gallon) plastic container and for the much smaller Brachypelma smithi a 6.5 litre (1.7 US gallon) plastic container.

Aphonopelma seemanni in its terrarium
Aphonopelma seemanni in its terrarium.

The container the Brachypelma smithi came in came with a little plastic plant. While I don't like plastic plants I decided to use it in its terrarium and actually liked how it looks.