MONKEYLAND and BIRDS OF EDEN So, we went on a walkabout with a group between an array of primates and birds to be found at two adjacent venues on the Wildlife Sanctuary in The Crags, Western Cape, South Africa – just off the N2 about 20 – 25km outside Plettenberg Bay towards Jeffreys Bay.
Upon arrival at Monkeyland we were pleasantly greeted by international volunteers and local staff working the gate, and were guided to the start of our tour through the greater part of 12 hectares of jungle. The guide was very personable, yet still professional at his task. We could see he knew every inch of the forest and knew the primates and their behaviour. There was representation of most of the resident troops on our journey which included a hanging bridge as well, which we entered in controlled groups. The tour was successful and informative, an ideal family mini-adventure and amidst the hands-of-our-wildlife policy, we were surrounded within an arms-length often by many primates crossing the paths, having arguments, eating or lazing in the sun.
From the entrance (or exit) of Monkeyland, it is a mere 2-minute walk to the entrance of Birds of Eden, another sanctuary (number two of three) owned and operated by the SAASA (The South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance) Group. Once again, we were greeted with enthusiasm and friendly directions to the starting point of our trip through this barely visible enclosed sanctuary. This tour is different from the Monkeyland in the fact that we were given carte’ blanch to walk the routes without a guide. This automatically allows amateur as well as professional bird-watchers and photographers the opportunity to spend quality time in the massive aviary. The route is secure and user-friendly, with spray-points below bridges where soft mist falls onto the dense vegetation. The feathered residents are wild but they allow proximity, and the water-points, restaurant and even the large amphitheater (where you can get married or have an audience if so inclined) have sound and sight of many different birds. After crossing another hanging bridge, we spent some time in the well-stocked, colourful (maybe a little over-priced for local consumers) curio and clothing shop on the premises. The experience at both
Monkeyland and Birds of Eden was as expected a good one, and considering the massive undertaking and maintenance involved in the two venues, the fees to enjoy both or one at a time warrants the asking price to undertake the offered adventure. As T&Q promotes the interaction of humans and animals WITHOUT physically touching them (supporting #handsoffourwildlife), it is noteworthy once again to mention that SAASA supports this international initiative as well. Another boost on their behalf is the fact that both venues in their entirety is wheelchair-friendly. We are looking forward to accessing their third sanctuary called Jukani, where they house wild cats, but in the interim Truth and Quality rate the two venues we visited a 7.65 and 7.80 respectively. The access road and parking lots can do with a little resurfacing and beautifying, and the prices of goods in their shops could perhaps meet the local South African market more.