Monkeyland-KZN has just opened a unique forest sanctuary for exotic primates on the Dolphin Coast, about 12km from Ballito. Journalist Ismail Suder went to check out what the monkey business was all about.
A bellowing booming sound stopped me dead in my tracks. “Howler Monkeys”, my guide whispered. “There”, he said, pointing to chaotic movements on the 60m tall treetops.
I had joined a group of visitors on a walking tour of a forested sanctuary called Monkeyland-KZN, the Dolphin Coast’s newest tourist attraction that opened last month – a mere 12 km from Ballito.
The forest silence was shattered again and again as a troop of rare Howler Monkeys broke into an angry bellowing call that reverberated through the expansive sanctuary that houses exotic monkeys from South America and Madagascar. For me, the wild earth-shattering roar sounded like a supersonic boom of a fighter jet, but perhaps I exaggerate a bit….but you get the drift!
Surprisingly, Howler Monkeys are said to have the loudest sound of all land animals in the world. At peak, the Howler Monkey can produce sounds that reach 140 decibels and can be heard from a distance of over 4km away. Who knew? Experts say Howler Monkeys make a roaring sound as a means of communication especially when calling their young ones or as a warning when a predator is sighted. It does this by amplifying its baggy throat in which the sound vibrates.
Monkeyland-KZN is a free-roaming primate sanctuary set in a 23-hectare indigenous forest near Shakaskraal that serves as a refuge for exotic primates rescued from the pet trade, while some are surplus zoo primates that have been donated. The operators of Monkeyland-KZN say “its mission is to educate and foster greater understanding of our primate cousins and the threats and challenges they are facing.”
Frankly speaking, this is the closest a visitor could come to watching a primate in a natural habitat in South Africa.
What is remarkable about this unique tourist destination is that you could be inside Monkeyland-KZN’s dense forest within minutes of leaving the main Shakaskraal road. The forest canopy is so thick in places that it almost blocks out the skyline.
Our knowledgeable guide was adept at spotting various other primates species that included exotic tufted and weeper Capuchins, Bolivian and common squirrel monkeys, ring-tailed black and white lemurs and buff-cheeked gibbons.
Paula Hallam, marketing manager of Monkeyland-KZN says the new tourist destination would be a treat for nature and primate lovers, and could rival some of the best attractions in the region.
Although, there’s abundant berry-like fruit hanging from low-lying branches, many of the primate residents are dependent on food supplies. Fruits and vegetables placed on a steel tray can be found along strategic spots along the trail.
The denseness of the forest, reminded me of a time when I spent a week in the company of a remote Indian tribe in Brazil’s tropical Amazon Rain forest, 100km from the riverfront town of Manaus, trudging through thick jungle amidst the sounds of wild animals and insects. But that’s a story for another day.
Monkeyland-KZN has all the elements of raw forest life. You will hear chirpings of birds, the call of primates as they fling themselves from treetops to treetops and the quiet rustlings of bushes where you may spot buck feeding on lush vegetation.
Paula Hallam is keen to draw Muslim visitors to the Education Centre at Monkeyland-KZN. Although, their fired pizzas are not yet halaal, she has made special efforts to create a dedicated salah room stocked with musalahs, kitaabs and Qurans. In addition, the centre has a curio store selling gifts and local handmade products, a restaurant and a children’s jungle gym.
The sanctuary is currently running a summer special – all day tickets are half price until 31st January 2020: Adult R150; Child (aged 3 to 12) R75. For more info, contact Monkeyland-KZN on 032 004 0178 or Paula Hallam on 066 479 6138. Their web address is: https://www.monkeylandkzn.co.za/
And oh, the wild roaring calls of Black Howler Monkeys in THIS forest is the closest experience you will have short of traversing into the Amazon Jungle. I should know – I was there!