Aptly named, Monkeyland is a primate sanctuary nestled in the forests of the Garden Route. It was established by Tony and Lara, who also own and run Birds of Eden, situated right next door. Having the opportunity to have lunch with Lara on this occasion gave us a unique insight into the passion and dedication with which both facilities are operated.
As animal-lovers, we were pleased to hear of the ‘no touching’ policy, which protects the primates (and select other animals living in the forest) from human interference and allows them the privacy, dignity and opportunity to be animals that they deserve.
Significantly, Monkeyland is the first free-roaming, multi-species primate sanctuary in the world. There are about 450 primates living within the safety of this facility.
Photographs: Left – Langur on suspension bridge / Centre – Baby squirrel monkey / Right – White handed Gibbon
The monkeys here come mainly from private owners that realise (after four or five years of domesticating) that their monkeys do not make good pets. Sadly, these animals come to Monkeyland aggressive, shy and completely unfamiliar with other animals. Monkeyland then has to initiate a lengthy dehumanising process to enable these animals to integrate into a troop of monkeys and live a natural life in the extensive forest. Others are rescued from neglect or abuse. Many are also born at Monkeyland.
Our tour guide was Christian, who is also the curator of Monkeyland. His knowledgeable insights were fascinating and he was able to spot even well camouflaged animals in the forest. In addition, the tour guides are able to identify individuals and provide some info on their specific backgrounds, which helped us to appreciate even more the incredible work that Monkeyland does.
In addition to local species (such as the common vervet monkey), Monkeyland is also home to exotic lemurs, capuchins, saki monkeys, howlers, langurs and gibbons. These are a real treat to witness, as they are rarely seen in South Africa, but are common in South America.
Photographs: Centre – Ringtailed lemur
Our tour was in December, which meant we were privy to seeing plenty of mothers carrying their babies while they stared back at us with interest. Other animals include stunning birds (including the magnificent Knysna Loeries, as well as ducks and geese), tortoises, and more. The tortoises are those that were kept illegally as pets and, on being rescued or confiscated, are brought to the safety of this forest.
Monkeyland boasts a suspension bridge that allows visitors to cross the forest at dizzying heights. It is 128 metres long and is at canopy level. While it is a suspension bridge, it is sturdy and secure. The safari guides are multi-lingual, speaking Spanish, French, Dutch and German.
The Blue Monkey Café is a large restaurant situated right on the border of the forest. This means that monkeys play around you and, frequently, steal the food of those not paying attention. We had a burger and a toasted sandwich and were very impressed with the quality of the food and the friendly service.
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