I’m a big fan of experiences over gifts, especially when it comes to my birthday. It’s not always possible to travel every year, but because I am already in South Africa, I wanted my 26th birthday to be one to remember!
After giving it a little thought I decided I wanted to go on a day trip to the Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary near the Hartebeespoort dam (or Harties for those like me who can’t pronounce Hartbeespoort). I had my first experience with a Capuchin monkey named JoJo on our honeymoon in Costa Rica, and I’ve been in love ever since! We had passed the sanctuary a couple of times while driving, and after doing a little research and reading Jenna’s experience on her blog, I knew it would be perfect!
Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary is a refuge for orphaned and abused monkeys. They have a variety of species including lemurs, squirrel monkeys, capuchins, and bush babies. The sanctuary offers an hour long guided tour that takes you through the enclosure. It is described as a game viewing experience, and not one where the monkeys are exploited in any way or forced to interact with the humans, do tricks, etc. That being said, the monkeys are playful critters and have been known to jump on a back or two and will pose for pictures if you catch them in the right mood.
As we entered the enclosure walked down the meandering trails filled with lush vegetation, we could see a group of monkeys jumping from tree to tree up ahead and I my heart leapt! I was
secretly not so secretly hoping one would jump on me, or sit on my shoulder, but because we were such a large tour group they stayed their distance.
Jono, Gareth and I hung back for a few minutes in hopes to interact with one of the monkeys, Apie. Monkeys are known to be kleptomaniacs, or “little thieves.” These monkeys were no different! Apie started digging through mine and Gareth’s pockets! They are such clever little critters.
They say one way to tell if a monkey is happy is whether or not he/she is mating. I was thrilled to see little monkey babies, not only because they are SO cute, but because I know they are happy and well looked after in the sanctuary.
PS: Jono took most of these photos so I could enjoy the experience! Isn’t he a good photographer/husband?!
The path took us over a bridge with a stunning view. The fact that it wobbled a bit was a little concerning for a few of my family members, but they made it across just fine and our guide said it can withstand a ton of weight, so there is no need to worry…unless you have a fear of heights, then maybe it’s not for you.
Towards the end of the tour, one of the monkeys, Sarah, was ready to pose with anyone who wanted to! I was in line and ready to go, when a woman went before me. She had sunglasses on top of her head which Sarah happily grabbed and the lady let her take. Sarah took her new present up into the tree and would not come back down. Which, is of course because she is a wild animal and does what she wants.
My family teased me saying that I was giving the woman the death stare…but honestly I was so infuriated. Basically, that stupidity cheated others out of a nice photo opportunity and introduced a foreign object into what is supposed to be a natural habitat. For the love of God, please hold on to your belongings, and I don’t care if your sunglasses are “cheapies” or not. I also had sunglasses, but made sure to hand them to my husband when I got in line for the photographs.
Anyway, overall it was a GREAT birthday experience, and that one episode did not ruin the experience. I would highly recommend the Bush Babies Monkey Experience to anyone who loves nature and seeing wildlife in their natural habitat. This a great family activity, even families with little ones – my nephew was in his element! I would also recommend going on a weekday out of season. Obviously this isn’t possible for everyone, but with a smaller group I believe the experience would be richer! We plan to go back on a weekday next month!
If you go to the Monkey Sanctuary…
What you’ll get: An educational, outdoor experience that is great to share with friends and family.
What you won’t get: Guaranteed photos with the monkeys or a zoo-like atmosphere with animals in cages.
Tour Length: 1 – 1.5 hours
Tours are on the hour every.
First Tour: 09:00, Last Tour: 16:00
Open 7 days a week.a