SOUTH AFRICA: MONKEYLAND

One of the most fun places I got to shoot in South Africa was Monkeyland, a free-roaming primate sanctuary in Plettenberg Bay.

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A Capuchin mom picks over some fruit while her baby clings to her back

The sanctuary rescues the majority of their monkeys from captivity and abuse, and the focus is rehabilitation. There are laboratory monkeys, ex-pets and ex-zoo animals here.

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A squirrel monkey munches on an apple

We had a guide accompany our Africa Media photography group, partly to answer questions, and (I suspect) partly to make sure these cute primates didn’t try anything too mischievous with us.

The access was incredible – we were able to get just feet away from these beautiful creatures and get some amazing photographs.

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Hooded Capuchin
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Ring-tail Lemur
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Black & White Ruffed Lemur

I was also able to capture two of my favorite moments on camera; the first, we watched for several minutes while a Capuchin hopped on the back of a tortoise and proceeded to tease him. He would slap the tortoise shell with his hands, throw rocks and sticks at him, and hop on and off. The poor tortoise couldn’t run away, and could only hiss with irritation. Our guide said this was just an example of how mischievous Capuchins can be, before she finally shooed him away from the tortoise.

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The second moment came as I was taking pictures of another Capuchin enjoying some fruit. The light was gorgeous, outlining everything in gold.

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Hooded Capuchin – I love the light in this picture!

I was content with this picture, when something truly heart-warming happened. Most monkeys that I observed during my two visits to Monkeyland would scream and slap at other monkeys who got too close to their food; that was not the case with this one. I watched another Capuchin hop right into his space, and instead of fighting, the two were genuinely excited to see each other! They stopped worrying about food, grabbed onto each other, and just said hello, howling their happiness at being together. I don’t know if they were lovers or best friends, or maybe both, but the interaction warmed my heart.

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