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In the morning, lemurs warm themselves in the sun while sitting in tranquil yoga positions.
A ring-tailed lemur at Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary casts a calculating sidelong glance at one of the vervet monkeys and starts rubbing his wrists up and down his long, barred, floating tail.
Stink fight time.
The vervet knows something is up, but stink fighting for status is a foreign concept for these African primates. He gives the lemur a last baffled look before leaping up to rejoin his mates in the high yellowwood trees.
For the most part, though, the 15-odd species that share this virgin Tsitsikamma forest along the Garden Route live happily ignoring one another.
Conservationist Tony Blignaut started Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary near Plettenberg Bay in 1998, and it has quickly become one of the best Garden Route attractions.
This is the first place in the world where different species of monkeys, all born in captivity, can roam free in a massive forest sanctuary.
Many of them had never even seen trees before when they first arrived, and are sometimes nervous and unskilled. "I remember the time we released the first squirrel monkeys from their cage, and a little later, it was like raining monkeys, plop, plop, out the trees. But they learned fast," grins Tony.
Many monkeys are former pets, others come from zoos where they've outbred the available space. Some of the zoo-bred lemurs took months before they'd climb higher than 2m, the height of their previous enclosure. Now you'd swear they had always been wild.
The newly arrived captive-bred monkeys learn which forest berries and leaves are good to eat from the resident troop of wild, indigenous vervet monkeys.
To see these cheerful creatures at treetop level, take a walk along Monkeyland's suspension bridge, the longest in Africa. You'll also probably see Atlas the gibbon whoop to his mate, and hear the black-and-white ruffed lemurs fill the forest with their wild chanting.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary
Tel: +27 (0)44 534 8906
Cell: +27 (0)82 979 5683
How to get here
Monkeyland is situated about 20km from Plettenberg Bay, close to a tiny settlement called The Crags. It's off the N2 national road, and is very well signposted.
Around the area
The adjoining Birds of Eden aviary is a memorable experience. This is the largest free-fllight aviary in the world, with 280 species of birds to see in your own time.
The guided walks are highly recommended.
What will it cost
Entrance is free to Monkeyland itself, and you're welcome to eat in the restaurant or just sit on the deck where you'll see and hear monkeys. But a one-hour guided walk will cost R150 per adult and R75 per child (aged 3 to 12). If you'd like to see the adjoining Birds of Eden park, there's a discounted combined fee of approximately R240 for adults and R120 for children.
Length of stay
Set aside at least three or four hours if you'd like to see Monkeyland and Birds of Eden. Spend around an hour or two at Monkeyland to really appreciate the experience.
Where to stay
There's plenty of accommodation on the Garden Route. Monkeyland is also close to the beautiful seaside town of Nature's Valley where you will find SANParks accommodation and camping facilities next to the Groot River.
What to eat
There's a fantastic farmstall called Nature's Way on the road down towards Nature's Valley where you can enjoy tea and scones.
Monkeyland and Birds of Eden are wheelchair friendly.