monkeys sitting together in black and white

Monkey Business

A friend recently invited me to join him on a guided walk in the Hidden Forest Wildlife Sanctuary near Ballito in KwaZulu-Natal, also called Monkeyland. This sanctuary was opened to the public in 2019. Different primate species including capuchin monkeys, ringtail and black-and-white ruffed lemurs, squirrel monkeys and spider monkeys were settled in this indigenous forest on the Dolphin Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, some 45 kilometers north of Durban. The sanctuary consists of 32 hectares of virgin forest in which primates from different parts of the world such as Madagascar, Bolivia and Central Africa have been introduced to establish their own colonies. Visitors to the sanctuary are taken in groups of 10-20 people on guided walks through the forest by a knowledgeable guide who helps them spot these fascinating creatures, while providing interesting information on their habits and characteristics.

As we waited to join the next guided walk, three families arrived who were obviously related. With them was one older person, who by the way he was being addressed, was the father of some of the adults and grandfather to the children. The children’s ages probably ranged from about two to about 12.

I watched the children play catchers on the jungle gym, The three mothers placed themselves in strategic positions to ensure that the smaller children did not get hurt in the boisterous game.

The grandfather had fallen off the bench

All of a sudden there was a shriek from one of the benches next to the jungle gym. The grandfather had fallen off the bench he was sitting on, lying flat on his back on the paved floor. He must have slipped off the end, not realizing how close it was. The oldest boy of this group of children was next to him in a flash. “Are you alright, grandpa?” he said as he held out his hand to help pull up the poor old chap. “Have you hurt yourself, Dad?” asked the boy’s mother. The embarrassed old man assured them both that he was alright as he seated himself on the bench again.

Shortly after this incident two safari vehicles arrived and the drivers loaded all the people who had paid for the guided walk onto their vehicles. A five-minute drive took everyone to the entrance of the hidden forest that was the home of the primate families.

It was exhilarating to walk in single file along the established footpaths in the reserve. The guide was excellent as she pointed out the different monkey species to the walkers. The eldest boy of the three families, who had helped the grandpa get off the floor, had a camera with a zoom lens with which he took numerous photos. Surprisingly, the grandfather managed to keep up with all the other walkers. He did not show any ill effects from his fall.

Refreshing to walk in this unspoilt natural forest

I found it so refreshing to walk in this unspoilt natural forest and look at the beautiful creatures roaming freely amongst the age-old trees. The monkeys showed no signs of alarm as they curiously observed us. There were crystal-clear streams meandering through the forest that seemed to invite us walkers to scoop up a refreshing drink with our hands. We even spotted a red duiker foraging close by. The entire walk took about an hour. Everyone in the group talked animatedly about this unique experience in this amazing wilderness.

Back at the departure point where the vehicles had picked us up, we looked at some of the tourist mementoes for sale. Amongst them were lovely cloth replicas of the monkeys in the forest, like the one shown here.

The amazing generosity of that young boy.

As we went to our vehicle by which my friend and I had come, I noticed the boy who had helped his grandfather get up off the floor after his fall, and his mother, go back to the curio shop. A few minutes later they came back with five of the material monkeys. I heard the mother mention to the others in their group that he had used his entire pocket money of R600, accumulated over a month by doing chores around the home, to purchase these monkeys as gifts – one for his youngest brother, and four for each of his cousins. It had been his own decision, I heard her say.

To me the visit to this wildlife sanctuary will forever be a cherished memory, not only because of the beauty and variety of in God’s creation we were privileged to walk through, but also because of the amazing generosity of that young boy who used his month’s pocket money to bring lasting joy to his younger brother and cousins.

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Wolfgang Bernhardt is an engineer by profession. His passion is empowering professionals to achieve outstanding project execution.

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