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First Day of Adventure

SOUTH AFRICA | Wednesday, 30 January 2013 | Views [774] | Comments [4]

Bambelela, a wildlife and vervet monkey rehabilitation centre is situated, well quite frankly, in the middle of nowhere! The “metropolis” of Bela Bela is about 40 mins of dirt track, past Leopard’s Rock and forever around the next corner it seemed. My taxi driver, by his own admission, was very much a city man and seemed somewhat concerned that we were like totally in the bush and he could turn around if I wanted him to. We arrived, and far from trying to compete with the glamorous resorts, Bambelela is basic, practical and functional. If you were expecting the Ritz, you would be sorely disappointed but I wasn’t so, other than the odd little cockroach, the initial “basic-ness” didn’t take too long to adjust to. In fact, it is part of the charm of being in the bush, working with animals and away from over-civilisation.

Today has seemed to go on forever. We were up early and I only just managed to get a coffee in before work started. The day starts with cleaning out of the cages, then prepping up the food in readiness for feeding time.  Feeding time is a procession of staff bearing metal dishes full of various fruits, corn cobs and bread, leaving ‘The Clinic’ (which isn’t actually a clinic at all anymore it's a food prep area) and heading off to the various enclosures. The monkeys are separated into categories. The Pink Faces are the babies who have been orphaned who will then progress onto the Kindergarten. There is an enclosure for the Golden Oldies which I guess is their equivalent of a retirement home. I have been assigned to the Handicaps. There are some horribly sad stories – who would give a monkey a banana with a firecracker in it? Poor Kingsley has part of his nose missing and is completely blind. The cruelty of some people is beyond belief! But they are safe here, looked after and loved. Many of the staff know each monkey by name and there are around 200 monkeys!

Today we had a massive thunderstorm and heavy rain. I did the sensible thing and sat in with the 'Pink Faces'. Each baby is assigned a ‘mother’ who must be a long term volunteer or permanent member of female staff. There is a rota so that 2 people are in the crèche with them during the day. Come evening, there is ‘nappy hour’ when each of the littlest ones have a nappy put on, sellotaped on for the really little ones, and will then spend the night with its surrogate mommy. In our dorm we have one long term volunteer who is mother of two and after the last bottle feed they snuggle down in their blanket next to her until the morning.  Sitting in the crèche is quite an experience. Babies leap from anywhere and everywhere landing on your shoulder, outstretched arm or leg and even your head. They are totally unconcerned about leaping across you and anyone else in the way. Did you know that the vervet monkey DNA is 92% similar to our own, not as much as the chimp at around 98%, but close enough for some striking resemblances.

One of the things that make this place special is the people. A group of around 20 at the present time, different nationalities, different ages and different skills & talents but all working together. Other residents that help to complete the picture are 5 adorable lion cubs, named after the characters in The Lion King. There is a one-horned kudu, a 5 week old wildebeest, a porcupine with 3 legs, not to mention cat and kittens, 4 dogs. There are probably numerous others, but these are the ones I can think of.

There are many tasks to be done and so free time is hard to find but I'm writing and photos will follow once I can sort this technical hitch out. There is so much else to tell you, but another day….


Tags: africa, bambelela, bush, monkeys, south africa, thunderstorms, volunteering, wildlife




Wow.......sounds absolutley amazing....far from life in bristol!! awwwww they put u with the special ones......theres gotta be a cuckoo amongst them haha!!!
Been thinking about you loads today......still cant believe it!!!!
so pleased and proud u have ur wings and are back where u deserve to be!!
now rest ready for another busy day!! xx

  JJ Jan 30, 2013 6:54 AM


Sounds great - busy, but 'good' busy and just what the doctor ordered. You're going to have a fantastic time and learn so much about so much more than monkeys! Am dying to see the photos but presently just happy to know you're happy! What a wonderful place, and clearly wonderful people too. xx

  Lynne Jan 30, 2013 9:49 AM


I wish to relocate please!! Sounds exactly like what you were hoping for :) xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  Chrissy Jan 30, 2013 9:23 PM


Jambo Mama, wewe ni mzuri sana :)

  Boom Jan 31, 2013 10:08 AM

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