Friday, 15 March 2013

Day 7 & 8 - Road Trip (With monkeys)

Good morning, good day, and good evening world!
Well the wait is finally over! Yes, this is the famous (or depending your disposition, infamous) "Monkeyland" post! I hope it lives up to your expectations!
But before we get to what can only be described as the most magical place on earth, first we have to tell you how we got there. Hehehe ;)

WORD OF WARNING: Those with sensitive stomachs, may want to proceed with caution!

Maja in front of the Southern Cross Beach House
When we last left our dynamic duo, they were packed up and on the road from Oudtshoorn on the way to Plettenberg Bay. We arrived a little later than expected, around 3:30pm. We stayed at another fantastic guest house, sense a theme? No hotels for us, these guest houses are basically like oversized bed and breakfasts and are a great way to get to know some of the locals. This place was called Southern Cross Beach House and while it was a little difficult to find, it was right on Plettenberg Bay's Solar Beach. As we sat down to admire its terrific view, we were a tad disappointed that the cloudy weather put a damper on our sun-soaked beach plans for the afternoon. The disappointment continued as the house manager brought us our tea and informed us that Monkeyland closed within the hour! Looks like we'll have to wait another day.

One thing we did really enjoy about the Southern Cross beach house was that they had two dogs, Baloo and Toby, both poodles, one large and the other miniature. We aren't usually big fans of poodles but since we missed our own pets so much, we were excited to play with these two guys! Maja was a big hit with Baloo especially, as he jumped up next to her, cuddling with her as we both sat out on the patio, drinking complimentary champagne and reviewing our pictures. Once we were ready to go to sleep, the little guy followed us into our room and snuggled next to Maja in bed all night long! It was pretty adorable (but Mike was more than a little wary of fleas. It turned out fine though, lucky for us).
Baloo the poodle making himself at home on our bed

One of the best things about South Africa so far definitely has to be the prices. On our last trip to Las Vegas, the prices of everything (souvenirs, hotels, drinks, activities and food) was so cost prohibitive. We could basically only treat ourselves to one high-end restaurant during our stay there, and we felt guilty about it. Even on our trip to Southeast Asia, the prices at a lot of the fine dining restaurants were comparable to what we'd find back home (read: too expensive). After all those places, it's amazing to come to South Africa where not only is the Rand/Canadian Dollar exchange rate at about 8.82 Rand for every Loonie but the prices are also significantly lower than what we'd pay back home. SIGNIFICANTLY! During this road trip, we'd gotten recommendations from all the guest house managers as to what is the best, most high-end restaurant in town and once we'd arrived, we found not only could we afford wine with dinner but also a starter AND a dessert. Back home, we rarely order wine with dinner and ordering dessert is even more rare, starters NEVER happen, but down here, we've had all this and it's been cheaper than breakfast at many of the restaurants we go to in Ottawa! For example, the meal we had yesterday, an African Trio (ostrich, kudu, and springbok steak), an ostrich fillet, a crocodile grilled starter, two glasses of wine, a coffee, a crème brûlée and a glass of port for dessert only cost us the equivalent of roughly $50 plus tip! And this is at THE BEST restaurant in Oudsthoorn! There's no way we'd get away with that back home! Come to South Africa: Eat Like Kings!
Nothing like eating three different animals on the same plate to make you feel like the King of Africa! :)

In the morning, Mike sprung out of bed like a rocket, nudging Maja like a kid on Christmas Day! "Monkeyland!" He kept yelling over and over (it made for a messy breakfast). We headed into this giant conservation area that housed thousands of monkeys and some apes with the kind of excitement usually reserved for the birth of a child, or at least a slice of a really, really, really good chocolate cake! Once we arrived at Monkeyland, we were greeted by the friendly guides, who proceeded to slide multiple gates open to let us in the santuary. Mike could swear he heard the theme to Jurassic Park as they slid open that last gate but Maja insists he's just crazy.
Doo doo, doo doo, doo da doo da doo doo doooooooo! doo doo doo doo da doo doo da doo, da da doo dooooooo! (Hint: Jurassic Park Theme Song)
Monkeys apparently hate apples
Hehehe, "Monkey Business" :)
We waited patiently on the patio landing, wondering when a tour guide would arrive. She was over 5 minutes late but it felt like an eternity. Lucky for us, we had a mother capuchin monkey with her baby clutching to her back to  keep us company. She was scoping the area to see if any sloppy patrons left behind pieces of their breakfast. Unfortunately, our surprise guest was only temporary as she quickly decided we weren't worth her time. Once our guide arrived, we learned that Monkeyland is not a zoo, it is instead a monkey sanctuary. Like the safari, all the animals here were rescued from private collections and do not have the skills to live in the wild on their own. At Monkeyland, they can finally learn how to live with their own kind again, mate and have children who can then be released into the wild. The area is indeed fenced in, but this is more to keep other animals out, rather than to keep the monkeys in. We were told if an outside alpha male were to enter the reserve, it would absolutely destroy the entire ecosystem. The monkeys can, and in fact have, leapt over these fences but most if not all return.
C'mon, that's just ADORABLE!

Charmaine, that little troublemaker
The most prevalent species of monkey we saw was definitely the capuchin. These monkeys are the ones you'd be familiar with as Marcel from Friends, or the cigarette smoking drug dealer in The Hangover Part II. These monkeys aren't indigenous to Africa and are in fact from South America, but they are by far the more popular ones chosen as pets in private collections. They are known as the smartest of the small monkeys and extremely trainable, which is why more often than not, you see them in movies and television. One particular capuchin, named Charmaine, was so used to human companionship that she came up and greeted us, then stood next to our guide, climbed up her walking stick and then followed us on our tour for a few minutes. You could tell she was extremely smart, but also that she was at one time, owned by a person.

Mike's favourite, by far, were the squirrel monkeys. At full grown, these adorable little rascals are only about the size of a kitten but have twice the energy. There were probably about twenty of these little guys scampering around, squeaking and buzzing us as we walked by. The cutest thing about the squirrel monkeys was watching them wrestle. They would run and tackle each other and once they got each other down on the ground it was almost like watching a uber-minature version of UFC. Mike really wanted to smuggle one of these little guys home. The only problem was that they moved so fast, it was almost impossible to snap a quality picture. Other species we saw were tortoises, who weren't nearly as exciting, and a white gibbon, which was actually an ape, not a monkey, since it had no tail and super-long arms to compensate.

A Squirrel Monkey: Quite possibly the cutest animal in existence
.....Hate you...
Finally, we also saw two types of lemurs, a ring-tailed and a black and white lemur. While it may seem obvious, we were told they were not primates, which you can tell just by looking at their face. They have opposable thumbs but we were told that they were not nearly as smart as the monkey species we had seen. We watched as they munched on piles of fruit and stared off in the distance. As we looked into their enormous eyes, it was easy to believe that there wasn't much intelligence residing behind them. In fact, our guide said that many of the monkeys in the park love to tease and bully the lemurs, who are too dim-witted to fight back.

Perhaps, the lemurs knew that the group were poking fun at their intelligence as one of them took to the trees. Mike, who was obviously infatuated with the countless monkeys surrounding him, moved closer and closer to the feeding table to snap better pictures and movies. He was so giddy that he ignored Maja as she called out for him to be careful. "I won't miss the chance to see so many funny and adorable creatures up close!" he thought. Well, next thing he knew, he heard a scream: "MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIKE!!!!!!!"
He leapt back as quickly as he could but it was too late, the lemurs had their revenge:
If you think that's gross, try walking around with that on your back with half a tour left to go!
Mike tried his very best to keep his spirits up after this happened, as there was still half of the tour left to go, but you could tell some of his excitement was diminished. Maja insisted he stay at least a metre away from her at all times but she secretly enjoyed rubbing it in Mike's face, it was her warning he kept ignoring after all. Mike wore the shirt for the rest of the tour, but once we got back to the main building, he had to wash up as best he could in the bathroom, leading him to walk around the souvenir shop shirtless (luckily this seemed to be a common occurance at Monkeyland, and no one said anything!). Regardless this was the definite highlight of the trip so far, as Mike insists no lemur poo will put a downer on seeing this many monkeys. It was, after all, lemurs and NOT monkeys, who caused all this trouble. Don't worry, monkeys, you're still in Mike's good books ;)
Smelly, smelly Mike.....DAMN YOU LEMURS!!!!


  1. It may just be me, but does anyone else think that maja's food picture looks like someone took three poops on her veggies?

  2. You guys are totally debating whether or not to get a pet monkey when you get back aren't you?