After leaving our new monkey friend behind in Plettenberg Bay, we headed back down the road an hour to Knysna. Here, we finally took a bit of a breather following 10 days of activity and rushed travel without pause. After spending the night at Pezula Resort—a five-star coastal sanctuary where big names like Roger Federer have owned residences at one time or another—Mom and I were soaking up the warm South African autumn sun on our balcony, watching the golfers below us as the Indian Ocean glimmered turquoise far below the rugged cliffs that frame the course. Our room was situated over the seventh hole, and we sat patiently waiting for the next team to tee off.
When they finally materialized, so did something a bit more suspect in my periphery. I grabbed the resort’s binoculars to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. Sure enough, a lazy baboon had meandered into the golfers’ direct line of play. (This wasn’t the first time we had seen baboons on this trip, but so far, we’d only spotted stray ones flying solo on the side of the road.) I wondered if the golfers would see him, or if he would get smacked in the head with a ball before they made the connection. I started to call out in warning, but if anything has been ingrained in me since birth it’s that it’s rude to yell at a golf course (other than the occasional and necessary “fore!” of course). Besides, selfish intentions convinced me it would be funnier if they stumbled upon him themselves.
But before the first golfer could even remove the driver from his bag, five of the baboon’s friends joined him, spreading out across the fairway as if lining up for a game of Red Rover. Just in the nick of time, the men noticed and were visibly stumped. Baboons are notoriously mischievous, but more than anything, mean as snakes. You do not want to piss them off, which is what I imagine whacking a small, dense ball in their direction just might achieve. They scratched their heads for a good 10 minutes (the golfers, not the baboons), trying to contemplate how to hit around the gangly creatures, as the baboons stood their ground, stubbornly. When the primates showed no signs of budging anytime soon and there was no clear detour around them, the golfers shrugged, resumed their posts in the cart and sped off to the next hole. Mom and I, on the other hand, stuck around as long as our schedule allowed to marvel at these impish creatures and their brass balls.
To be honest, when we planned our trip to South Africa, the last thing we expected to find was a championship golf course that rivals the ones we have out in Northern California. (A lot of things—particularly the gourmet cuisine—would prove to surprise us on this trip.) In fact, my father–who conducts “business” on the golf course more often than not–elected to stay at home for that very reason: If there’s not world-class golfing where we’re going, it isn’t a vacation for him. Yet, that’s precisely what we found at Africa’s first luxury resort estate: an 18-hole, 628-acre course designed by David Dale and Ronald Fream, sweeping views of the Indian Ocean and Knysna Lagoon and, of course, wildlife sightings to boot. Carts are even outfitted with GPS systems and computerized scoring. Guess Dad was the one who missed out this time. Next trip, maybe Mom and I will rent some clubs and play a round. But instead, our brief respite was cut short by an afternoon hike and paddle out to the ocean…