This is the fourth stop on our trip along South Africa’s Garden Route. If you missed the eco-lodge in Gansbaii, the ostriches in Oudtshoorn and the elephants in Plettenberg Bay, go back and check them out first.
After we were through with the elephants, we started to head back to our lodge, Hog Hollow, only to realize Monkeyland was just up the road. So we detoured and bought admission to the park. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a sucker for wildlife experiences. Plus, monkeys happen to be one of my favorite animals (second only to the camel, of course).
But this was no trip to the zoo. Monkeyland is an open-top sanctuary where the primates roam free. More than 400 monkeys comprising 15 species swing through the trees of the 30-acre park.
We were told to watch out for “warm streams,” as the naughty creatures like to give the visitors showers (as this little bugger tried). They’re also notorious for swooping down and swiping cell phones off unsuspecting tourists, so you have to hold your belongings tight as you wander through the forest on the one-hour tour.
Of course, allowing 400 monkeys to roam at will creates unpredictability. We never knew who might be blocking the walking path (or, in one case, shielding us from crossing the suspension bridge).
If you’re wondering if it’s true that all monkeys do all day is lay around and pick fleas off each other, I now can vouch that yes, this is indeed true.
I’m not going to so much as comment on this guy. After all, “animal porn” is still the most popular search term that brings people to this site; I needn’t add fuel to the fire.
Monkeyland is next door to Birds of Eden, a dome-like structure housing many native South African species. I’m not nearly as fond of birds as I am of monkeys—and besides, as always on this trip, we were on a schedule—so I took a pass. But if you have the time, it sounds like a fun activity. When we finally did make it back to Hog Hollow, we sat out on the porch and had lunch with our new friends Vanessa and Simon. They weren’t the only ones eager to be our dining companions.
This little guy watched us curiously, ravenously, from the top of the Main Lodge for a solid 10 minutes. (Hog Hollow is situated in a plush jungle just off the coast of the Indian Ocean, and the general manager warned us we might encounter some mischievous locals while we stayed there. We just didn’t know how truly mischievous they’d be.) I knew he wanted to make a move; I just didn’t think he’d have the balls to do so with so many people milling about. But he did, oh did he.
Almost as if in slow motion, I saw him creep around the perimeter of the patio, scaling the handrails all Mission Impossible-like, then stop just behind my mom and Vanessa. Now I know you’re never supposed to feed the wildlife, but here’s where I found myself in a pickle. If I were to grab my mom’s and my plate and try to run away, I was 99 percent sure the monkey would follow and catapult himself onto the elusive tableware—or worse, my face—in my escape attempt. So instead, I sat and watched it all unfold.
That varmint ran straight up to the table, performed a graceful hop, skip and a jump, Nadia Comaneci style, onto the empty chair and up on the table, and grabbed my mom’s sandwich—right from under her nose!
At this point, we were all keeled over with laughter—and my mom busted out her camera just in time—so Sir Cheeky decided to come back for seconds, stopping just long enough to pose for his mug shot.
But if we thought he was trouble, we clearly had yet to meet the baboons of Knysna…