A day at Monkeyland and Birds of Eden

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Travel and Environmental Journalism – May 2019

The last few days had all been about writing and coffee shops. This morning we left extremely early to drive to Monkeyland and Birds of Eden. Monkeyland and Birds of Eden are both ethically run places that help out primates and birds who cannot be released back into the wild and follow strict protocols to ensure the safety of each animal. It was about a two to two and a half hour day drive. We packed the van like sardines, but Andy Varsha and I got lucky as we had the back to ourselves.

I quite liked the drive looking out at the mountains in the distance. It was really nice seeing a cloud perfectly perched on top of one of the mountains, almost as if the mountain was using the cloud like a scarf. The greenery reminded me of my time in Ireland, just slightly more tropical. We reached the point where the Indian Ocean is the stunning focal point in view. I hope we get to go to the beach stretched across with its white sandy beaches.

The road to Monkeyland and Birds of Eden looked desolate as we pulled off the main highway. It’s basically in the middle of nowhere, at least from my foreign eyes. There were only a few cars parked in the driveway, and we all got our things in order. Ashleigh and Annie talked about not wearing any scarves or jewelry because some of the monkeys can be naughty. I made a mental note to hold on to my phone extra tight. We walked into a foyer made of chainlink doors. Again I pictured Jurassic Park, especially with the sounds of howling, chatting primates filling the air around you.

Andy, a charming tall guide, took the photography and journalists as his pupils for the day. He loves to tell jokes, as well as call to the monkeys in their native voices. The first primates we saw, were the ring-tailed lemurs from Madagascar. They were so fluffy and adorable, with wide eyes that paid no mind to us snapping photos and cooing over them.

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They seemed to appear out of nowhere, walking right by you as if you were a ghost. Their main concern was a table filled with oranges and apples. Occasionally a capuchin would come down to steal some of their breakfast. The lemurs have such a light, squeaky call to one another which made me laugh. They just chat away or call in one long high note up in the trees. As we walked through the forest, we would see them cuddled up with one another soaking up the sun wherever they could catch a patch.

The capuchins are extremely expressive, and intelligent monkeys. Andy talked about how they use tools to open nuts and find bugs in the trees. They’re also very curious and would look at you upside down in a tree. Watch out for falling poop though! Always look up with your mouth closed.

One of the primates that looks very unassuming, but is apparently the most vicious is the Squirrel Monkey. These tiny, yellow-orange tinted monkeys are the epitome of cute. They’re also quite fast… running by us in packs. I had to watch all around me in fear of stepping on one, also so they wouldn’t ambush me!

The gibbons call sounds like a loud water droplet coming out of a faucet. Andy called back to them, as we made our way towards their call. After almost giving up, we found them in a tree branch dangling above a pond. They were a lot smaller than I imagined since their call was extremely loud.

 After Monkeyland, we went to the neighboring Birds of Eden. I love birds and immediately started naming the ones I knew. (Eclectus, Macaw, African Grey, and many more) Even though I wanted to pet them, I knew to leave them be. The sanctuary is all about rewilding these birds and I completely understand the need for education when it comes to something like keeping birds as pets.

Birds of Eden is like a tropical paradise. Mist floating through the air, colorful birds fly above, and water flows through the center. A floating bridge runs perpendicular and overlooks the creek below. My favorite part was in the back where the flamingos and other colorful birds relaxed.

At the end of our trip, I interviewed Vijver (pronounced favour) who is the Social Media Manager at Monkeyland. I can’t wait to share my articles that will come out regarding the new Monkeyland KZN as well as a Humans of the Garden Route interview about Vijver herself.

-Laurie Sullivan

Be sure to go and check out her blog, Laurie’s Layovers.

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