Hanging with monkeys

Sitting by the pool (only spot with reliable wi-fi), drinking a Heineken, keeping an eye on a gang of monkeys nearby, while Scott and Audrey nap in our room. What a couple days it’s been!

The original plan was to spend two night each at neighboring lodges (about 30-40 minutes apart) run by the same company, but the recent rains/floods damaged River Lodge, so we’re spending all four nights here at Billy’s Lodge. We lucked out. Not only does it mean not having to pack and move, it means spending the whole visit in the swankier of the two lodges, where we were upgraded to an amazing suite with lots of room and our own plunge pool. It’s surreal.

Each day we’re woken at 5 am, then join the others (so far there’ve been three other couples, all American, and in their early 60s so Audrey has adopted them all as surrogate grandparents) for coffee at 5:30, and head out on our morning game drive before 6. The land rover holds nine of us exactly, plus the driver and tracker (who sits on a little perch that must bear the brunt of the bumpy roads). We drive down bumpy trails and do some off-roading through scrub-brush-type terrain in search of animals. Sometimes they track them down on their own, sometimes the radio crackles with tips from other land rovers from neighboring lodges letting our driver know where good animals have been seen.

Halfway through, give or take, we stop in a field somewhere for coffee, tea or cocoa and biscuits (rusks). Around 9am, we arrive back at the lodge for a full breakfast (met by smiling staff with cool washcloths and juice). Then we have the midday to relax, nap, swim, dodge the dodgy monkeys, etc. until 3pm lunch. [the freaking monkeys are in the tree above my head right now. Eek] Then the evening game ride goes from 4:30 until about 8pm, with a break towards the end for a “sundowner” (cocktail at sunset). Then back to the lodge (in the dark) for dinner. Then we struggle to stay awake long enough to get A in pajamas, read a few pages of Harry Potter with blurry eyes, and it’s lights out by 10 to get a few winks before the 5am wake up.

[Oh my god, a mama monkey just walked past me (within 10 or 15 feet) with a baby monkey hanging on to her underside. Adorable.]

Audrey has been amazing. Has loved the drives, has behaved great, and the only time she showed boredom, she fell asleep in Scott’s lap on an incredibly bumpy drive. The staff love her. She finally is taking a genuine nap today, and we hit a solid 7 hours of sleep last night (better than previous nights) so hoping we won’t fall asleep during dinner.

Yesterday we saw two young male lions, giraffe whacking each other with their necks and adorable hyena pups by their den. Highlights today was seeing “Big Boy,” the former dominant male lion of the pride (who’s been pushed out and living on his own) and hippos (or at least the tops of them). Hoping for elephants, rhino (tried in vain to find them today) or the elusive leopard tonight!

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