The Garden Route: Baboons Take to the Tee

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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.

Baboons Playing Golf in South Africa from Camels & Chocolate on Vimeo.

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…

  • February 21, 2011

    ZA’s baboons are kind of like our racoons, cute but dangerous. Good to have some down time. I enjoyed that in Hermanus.

  • February 21, 2011

    Maybe the baboons were waiting for the golfers to invite them to play 🙂

  • February 21, 2011

    Don’t even know what to say other than craaaaazy!

  • February 22, 2011

    Dude, one thing you learn in CT is … don’t EVER mess with a baboon. Don’t ever feed em. Don’t ever leave the windows or doors of your house/car open. Don’t leave the lid off the garbage can. And don’t aggrevate it.

    We were hiking once and this baboon spotted us. Threw a rock at us. Luckily his aim was off.

    • February 22, 2011

      OK, I know I shouldn’t laugh at this, but the mental image is just too funny! And yes, luckily, we had been warned in advance how aggressive baboons are and how they will jump on or in your car and you should avoid them at all costs, so when we saw a couple on the drive to Cape Point, we kept our distance while other idiot tourists got out and left their cars, doors wide open, to take pictures!

  • February 22, 2011

    Shaun and I saw a baboon at the London zoo that looked like he wanted to maim the kids tapping on the glass.

    We quickly walked by – he was giving off bad juju.

  • February 22, 2011

    Haha, I didn’t know baboons were so irritable!

    I love your office in the first photo. As for the last photo… people talk about the sky ‘melting’ into the ocean. This is actually it.

  • February 28, 2011

    Funny story! This reminds of when I was in South Africa with my friend, driving to Cape Point. We stupidly got out of our car to take pictures of a mother baboon and her baby. The next thing, the mother was chasing us, so we ran back to our car full speed and shut the doors.

    Little known to us, she was able to open the back door! The next thing, we had a baboon on our back seat while we were sat in the front. SCARY! So we jumped out, while she ransacked our car looking for food. Took her a while to get fed up and once we managed to get back in – we realised getting out of your car to take pictures of the baboons is not a very wise thing to do 🙂

  • February 28, 2011

    That’s pretty hilarious.

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