If you’re planning to visit Cape Vidal in the Greater St Lucia Wetlands area I’m sure you will do some research on the camping facilities or self-catering accommodation that is available there. You will read how great this park is and you will learn about their monkey problem. When I read comments about the monkeys I understood that visitors would be under siege the entire time. Whilst there is a healthy monkey population and these little creatures do use every opportunity to steal food, they really aren’t as bad as they’ve been made out to be. As they are diurnal animals, it’s only during the daylight hours that one needs to be vigilant.
The camping facilities at Cape Vidal are quite idyllic. The campsites are set behind the dunes in the coastal forest and it’s in these thick trees that both Vervet and the rare and endangered Samango Monkeys live. We had never photographed Samango Monkeys before so were looking forward to having a chance to do so. After we set up camp it didn’t take long for us to realize that although we couldn’t see them, the surrounding bushes were alive with monkeys just waiting for us to slip up and leave food unattended for a second. During the week that we were camping there we lost food on about three occasions – mostly when the clever little devils sent in a decoy to distract us while others came in and helped themselves to whatever we were eating.
The Samango Monkey is found along the east coast of Africa. If differs from the Vervet Monkey in that it is slightly bigger and much darker on its back and legs. It has a long tail and tall hind legs. The Vervet Monkey is small and grey with a dark face and the male’s genitals are bright blue. Both types of monkeys share a similar diet of fruit, leaves, berries and flowers, as well as insects and whatever they can steal from humans! They move in troops of up to 30 monkeys.
The gestation period for their babies is slightly different as well, with Vervets requiring a seven month pregnancy to produce young and Samango Monkeys giving birth after about four months. Vervets breed all year round and Samango’s breed between the months of September and April.
We were lucky to get photos of an almost albino-like Samango Monkey, which the Park’s Board officials said they had never seen before. When I first saw these yellow monkeys in our campsite I thought they were juveniles. If any of our readers can help us out with information on this colour difference, we would appreciate hearing from you.
Don’t be put off by the bad press that the monkeys get at Cape Vidal. If you’re careful with your food and take reasonable precautions you can have a lovely holiday alongside them and get to experience wonderful sightings of some unusual animals. In fact our campsite had the most amazing visits from the local animals and birds, which I will write about in my next blog.