Whilst road tripping along the Garden Route, we thought we’d spend a day exploring the Birds of Eden and Monkeyland sanctuaries, which are right next door to each other near Plettenberg Bay.
I have mixed feelings about these kind of places as I’m a firm believer that animals belong in the wild. However, they are both free roaming/ flying sanctuaries and a lot of the animals they’ve taken in were previously in captivity, such as zoo’s and as private pets. Or in the case of the monkeys, many were trained pickpockets! As such they wouldn’t stand much chance if returned to the wild. It’s also a great way to educate people about these species and the importance of conservation for wildlife.
Birds of Eden is the Worlds largest (two hectare) dome which spans over a gorge of indigenous forest. You can walk around at your own leisure on the walkways whilst the birds fly freely above your head (and yes, if you were wondering, I got pooped on). I was too busy looking around to take many pictures, however when we came across the flamingoes I got quite snap happy.
We then hopped across the road to Monkeyland.
On entering Monkeyland you are warned to keep all your belongings close as the trained monkey pickpockets will grasp any opportunity to steal, something we witnessed on our visit as one mans water bottle very quickly disappeared!
A guide takes you through the forest, but the first port of call is the free mosquito repellent cream that they heavily advise you to make use of. Having been warned about the pickpockets and the mosquitos our group then proceeded into the forest, simultaneously swatting and twitching and trying to keep all their belongings clutched to them. Following on at the rear this made for quite an entertaining sight! (Although they weren’t kidding about the mosquitos, there were millions of them!).
They have a range of species all roaming around the treetops and, having been kept in captivity are used to humans, they frequently came to investigate.
There are also several food tables piled high with fruit. Whilst this makes the guides’ job easier as it’s almost guaranteed the monkeys will be where the food is (wouldn’t we all?) it’s also because the forest of the sanctuary can’t provide the right (fruity) diet for all the species.
As part of the tour you walk across their 128 metre high suspended canopy bridge, which the monkeys have claimed as their own and crossing it is akin to a monkey obstacle course.
The forest is enclosed by a high fence topped with electric wire, however this is more a way of keeping the native baboons out (as they would eat some of the other species). The smaller species of monkey, such as the Squirrel Monkey can fit through the links in the fence and frequently go out to explore, yet always returning to the safety of their forest.
After visiting both places, I think that the use of the term ‘sanctuary’ really is the best way to describe them.