Invaded by Vervet Monkeys At Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park
Bob and I arrived at Hilltop Camp in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park exhausted after an extremely long day that saw us traveling from Kruger National Park and across Swaziland to get there. Over dinner, we had views of the Park from the expansive restaurant patio that overlooked muted silhouettes of undulating mountaintops while an armed guard sat unobtrusively in the shadows and watched for wildlife like Vervet Monkeys that might cross the thin electric wire just below the terrace.
It was a treat the next morning to wake up to brilliant sunshine washing over the canopy of trees and air that was rich with bird song.
Our split-level, 2-bedroom housekeeping cabin had sweeping views over the forested valley and mountaintops, so we situated ourselves on the balcony to revel in a refreshing breeze and soak up the sights and sounds.
The location was so peaceful and relaxing that we felt like we were in the Garden of Eden. There was absolutely no intrusion on the tranquility, but suddenly, I felt as though I was being watched.
I looked around and finally noticed this little gecko trying desperately to remain unobtrusive as it clung to the rafters.
When I turned my attentions from writing my journal, I discovered that there were actually numerous geckos clinging to vertical and horizontal surfaces both inside and outside our cabin.
After a period of relaxation, Bob and I set off to explore the expansive grounds of the Hilltop Camp there in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa.
One very large tree growing in the open space of Hilltop Camp.
Established as a Park in 1895, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi was opened up to tourism in 1934 when a visitor camp was built. We found the original structure at the opposite end of the Hilltop Camp property and were pleased to see that it still retains the character of its rustic roots.
Inside, a framed photo of Captain H.B. Potter reminds everyone that he was Zululand’s First Game Conservator who lived in the camp from 1929-1956.
The Mbhombe Self-guided Trail adjacent to the Hilltop Camp was recommended for a short hike,
so that is where we headed for a little exercise after lunch. Right away, Bob and I spotted 2 Bushbuck antelopes that entertained us for quite awhile.
They are quite solitary and secretive animals, so we felt blessed to have the opportunity to see them in their natural habitat.
Further on, I nearly jumped out of my skin when a Samango monkey emitted a deafening call. The loud resonant squeal was perhaps made by a female alerting others of a potential danger.
Several other Samango Monkeys were feeding on fruits or insects while occupying a nearby tree.
Though the trail was well traveled and easy to follow, we did not lose sight of the fact that Cheetahs have occasionally jumped the electric wire running around the perimeter.
That is why an armed guard patrols the property. Bob and I remained very vigilant, and that is probably why we detected quiet movements through the undergrowth just before locating a Red Duiker busily nibbling leaves and shoots found on the forest floor. Its reddish coat almost gleamed in the gloom of the forest.
Crossing the Camp on our way back to our cottage, we came across a couple of Vervet Monkeys making themselves at home on someone’s balcony.
The lodge proprietors had warned us that these monkeys will try to get into buildings if food is visible through the windows. That is why chicken wire is utilized in place of screens on the windows of the cabins.
When we saw a monkey absconding with a jar of candies and others with oranges and apples, we realized that these scavengers had gained entry to that cottage. Bob knocked on the door, and much to our shock, about 12 Vervet Monkeys came bounding out through the patio door. Bob called the Main Reception desk to report the problem, and an employee was dispatched to secure the building.
By this time, I was wondering if we had locked our own patio door before leaving the premises. Bob assured me that he had closed the patio door and engaged the lock. As soon as we walked into our cottage, however, it was apparent that we, too, had been raided.
The garbage can was upended,
sugar packets ripped open, creamer packages emptied of their contents, and biscuits consumed. The Vervet Monkeys were thorough!
Every cupboard had been opened, and boxes of soup mix and cereal tossed to the floor. Every surface was sticky with sugar and coffee granules, but the Monkeys did not discover the fruit in the microwave oven, the bread in the breadbox, nor the food in the fridge. This was a miracle because Vervet Monkeys have been known to open a refrigerator door.
Bob and I dutifully cleaned up the mess and relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon. Over the course of dinner that evening, the previous night’s full moon was totally obscured by a wall of heavy, dark clouds, and the terrace seemed an island in a sea of darkness. The pervasive breeze had become downright chilly, so we were glad to retire to our cozy cabin.