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Travelling to Sodwana Bay -a revisit

Updated on July 12, 2017
Banded Mongooses visiting camp site
Banded Mongooses visiting camp site | Source
Spring low tide-Sodwana Bay
Spring low tide-Sodwana Bay | Source
Grey-headed Gull
Grey-headed Gull | Source
Sykes (Samongo) Monkey at camp site
Sykes (Samongo) Monkey at camp site | Source
Indian Ocean- Sodwana Bay
Indian Ocean- Sodwana Bay | Source
Crested Guinea-fowl
Crested Guinea-fowl | Source

Sodwana Bay Revisited

Never go back! Good advice about going back to where you grew up after many years. It is better to remember things as they were, than to spoil those memories. Things are never as you remembered them, either because they actually have changed or because you have changed, and I don’t know which is worse.

Probably it is a combination of the two. In my experience, going back to places that I lived many years ago, has inevitably been a disappointment. Sodwana Bay in the N/E corner of South Africa has been different. Perhaps this is because I never lived there and so memories that I have are based on holidays that I spent there at different times in my life. In fact I have been to Sodwana Bay 4 times in about 50 years and interestingly enough at intervals of about 10/15 years. My Dad, my brothers and I went on a fishing trip in about 1963. I took a group of fellow students from S.A. Bible School on a diving/snorkling trip in 1971. In about 1989 I did a trip with students from Hudson Park High School on a Geography excursion. Now Audrey and I are camping here for 4 nights before going on to Swaziland. We plan to bird and snorkel- that is if the weather improves.

This is a magic place and is the premier diving location in South Africa. The coral reefs are beautiful, the beaches are amazing and the birding is excellent. At present it forms part of the ISimangaliso Coastal Wetland National Park (a World Heritage Site) and is run by the Kwa-Zulu Natal Parks Board. Accommodation is available in about 150 camp sites, delightfully situated in the Coastal Forest, or in a variety of Lodges and Self-catering establishments, most of which specialize in either Diving or Deep-sea Fishing.

We arrived at lunch time and after pitching our tent, we visited the beach. Unfortunately the wind was howling, as is can along the coast, and the tide was a spring high with huge swells running. So after a short walk on the beach, we returned to our camp for a pleasant supper. We did manage to photograph two birds that we never see in East London, Crested Guinea Fowl and Grey-headed Gulls.

As we sat under the trees in our large sheltered camping spot we were amazed to see a group of Banded Mongooses arriving in a group (moving in an organized line). They climbed up the side of the rubbish bins and then into them and then out again.On they moved to the next camp spot hoping for better luck.

A group of Samango Monkeys visited our campsite to look for what they could find.We always keep all food in our trailer so that monkeys and other wildlife are not tempted. One of the large monkeys is quite aggressive and I try to frighten him off with my walking stick but he stands his ground and so we have a Mexican Stand-off. This is after all his area and we are only temporary visitors.

On return from a hike we were amazed to find that our tent was open and my clothes bag trashed. Obviously the Samango Monkeys have become clever enough to open the zipper on the front of our tent and even a clothing bag. This was the first time in all our travels that we have come across this behavior from animals. Previously we have found cooler boxes tipped over and opened but never a tent opened. It goes to show that one can never be complacent when visiting the wilderness areas. To our amazement my tablet carriers had been opened and a weeks tablets eaten, probably not a healthy alternative for a previously healthy monkey.

Tomorrow the tide will be low, the water will be crystal clear, and the birds and tropical fish will be waiting. We will leave even our clothing bags in the trailer to avoid further temptation for the local monkey tribe and their desire for heart tablets.

Don’t disappoint me Sodwana after all these years!

Day Two - The Battle of the Apes.

It is interesting that there are no primates in the wild in North America. That is except for a group who live in the Florida swamps, the remnants of escapees during the shooting of the Tarzan movies many years ago (so my guide book on our trip to the Tallahassee area told us). But now we are in primate country, and since our arrival in the Sodwana Bay/ iSimangoliso Wetland Park, we have been doing battle with the monkeys who live in the thick coastal forest that surrounds our campsite.

As we were unpacking our car, they made their first attack. I was taking things out of the back of our station wagon, when one climbed through the front window of the car, grabbed a packet of raisins and made off. With amazing speed, if you consider my age, I followed in hot pursuit while calling to Audrey for help. The packet broke open and the raisins were left in the sand.

Another of the monkey tribe used this opportunity to climb into our trailer that was now unguarded and grabbed a packet of food that we had purchased only a few hours before in the supermarket at Matubatuba. This again led to a hot pursuit chase until the monkey, realizing that he was outnumbered dropped it. Welcome to Africa!

Luckily I remembered to bring my “knobkierie” (a walking stick with a knob at the end) with and so now I keep it close at hand. To our further amazement, a tribe of about 20 mongooses of all different sizes came through the campsite and helped Audrey to reclaim the raisins that she was going to throw in the animal proof rubbish bins. The mongooses had no intention of such delicious food going to waste and so they enjoyed an unexpected snack!

Day Three - The Battle of the Apes Continues.

Secured out tent, packed all edibles in the trailer and felt that there was nothing to attract the monkeys. They had been a bit of a nuisance during the night, arguing for a while in the trees above our tent, but soon we, or they, or both of us went to sleep, and so peace prevailed, or perhaps a Mexican Standoff.

We left for a beautiful walk on the beach with the wind now nothing but a light breeze. Collected pieces of Coral and shells, including a couple of rare Cowrie Shells, enjoyed a cup of coffee on the deck of the little shop overlooking the sea, and then made our way back to camp. The shells, coral and some pretty stones, polished by wave action, are going to make an important part of the practical group work of my Social Psychology course.

When we got back and opened the front zip of the tent, we immediately saw that something was not right. One of my boxes of tablets that I had left in my suitcase in the tent was lying on the floor. How could this possibly be as the zipped door to the inside/bedroom area was still secure? On further inspection we saw that the miserable monkeys had, in fact, got into the tent and trashed my tablets that were in a side pocket of my suitcase.

Audrey solved the problem of how they had got in. The tent has two entrances into the sleeping area and they had opened the zipper on the side behind the table and fridge/cooler-box to gain access. It seems as if all they had found and had eaten were my 20 Berroca C tablets. They had tasted a couple my heart tablets after opening the sealed containers, but then spat them out.

We were now angry and our previous mild annoyance towards these unwanted guests turned in to some aggressive talk. Corporal punishment and even the death penalty was discussed, but the monkeys, now safely in the trees around our camp site, looked unconcerned even if they did appear rather psyched up, perhaps because of the heavy dose of vitamin C.

Round two to the monkeys!


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    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thanks for the comments

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This was nicely done with wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing.

    • mwilliams66 profile image

      mwilliams66 5 years ago from Left Coast, USA

      Beautiful photos!