Garden Route – Day 3 (Plettenberg Bay)

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Jardine Parrots at Birds of Eden

Where? Moonshine on Whiskey Creek (http://www.whiskeycreek.co.za)

What? Touring Monkeyland and Birds of Eden

ITINERARY

10:30 am – Packed up and off to Monkeyland

11:00 am – Arrival at Monkeyland

11:45 am – Walk across the way to Birds of Eden

3:00 pm – Drive back to Moonshine

4:00 pm – Hike down to the waterfall

6:00 pm – Dip in the swimming pool

So we started the day by having a lazy morning, making breakfast and packing up our things before heading out to Monkeyland. As a long time animal lover, I HAD to visit both Monkeyland and Birds of Eden (which incidentally results in a discount if you purchase both passes together). Monkeyland (http://www.monkeyland.co.za/index.php) was set up in a way that you would pay for a pass and then you would wait until the next tour (I think they were every half hour) before entering the sanctuary. I enjoyed Monkeyland, however I did prefer our tour of Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary (see previous blog post about that). We ended up being in a group with just one other family with a young child and we wandered through the forest slowly. We didn’t see as many primates as I was hoping and the ones we did see tended to maintain a good distance. There were a couple of capuchins that were rolling about and playing together enthusiastically:

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Although I found these two would trail behind us and when you would turn to try and get a photo they would either turn away as if they were the ghosts from Mario or they would come towards you in an oddly aggressive way. It made for some decent photos however:

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We found most of our furry subjects gathered near the feeding stations, and as usual, I was very happy to see some lemurs!Image

I also saw an animal i have never seen in real life, which was a rare treat – the Howler Monkey!

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And last, but certainly not least was the baby squirrel monkey that we were lucky enough to spot!

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The tour was quite short (like 20-30 minutes) and I know that if we were able to just wander through on our own we could have spent more time looking for the different species.

We then we headed straight over to Birds of Eden (http://www.birdsofeden.co.za). Based on how small Monkeyland was, we didn’t expect the Birds of Eden tour to take long. In fact I just assumed that we would have to go through with a guide, but that was not the case. We bought a little book at the shop in order to identify the different species we would see which was a great investment. I had read that Birds of Eden is the largest free flying aviary in the world, and honestly, I don’t doubt it for a minute. The huge area was completely fenced in (obviously) and there was a wooden boardwalk that snaked it’s way through the forest, so you could explore the canopy but you could also head down to the forest floor. Upon entering the aviary we spotted a Golden Pheasant, which has always been one of my favourite birds:

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There were so many birds, we were constantly snapping photos and looking through the book to identify them. Another one of my favourite birds, the toucan, was easy to identify along the way:

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They have over 220 species and most of these birds are rescued or rehabilitated. Many (especially the parrots) are completely comfortable being in close contact with humans, as we discovered when we encountered the Indian Ring necked parakeet:

Imageand then the African Grey shortly after:

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I also captured this strange but hilarious moment between Dan and the African Grey:

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It definitely looks like the bird just told him a joke or something. Ridiculous. Not staged for the record, in fact, Dan hates this picture because it’s catching him laughing.

The whole aviary is so beautiful that even if there weren’t so many birds, it would be such a lovely walk all on it’s own. After like an hour of wandering, we were starting to feel quite hungry so we consulted the map to see where we were and discovered we had only gone 1/3 of the way through! But we were enjoying it far too much to rush through, so we just dealt with the hunger. After passing through the canopy portion we reached a beautiful wetland-esque area with ponds and birds lounging on the grass and in the shallows. We laughed when we saw Canadian geese, because, well obviously they were not all that exciting to us, but other visitors were interestedly reading all about them and taking photos. Instead we gathered around the more vibrant and unique residents, like the Spoonbills:

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and the shockingly bright Scarlet Ibis:

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By the time we emerged from the aviary it was 3:00pm and we were DEFINITELY ready for lunch / dinner. I loved Birds of Eden and if given the opportunity I would definitely return there again. We then had a quick bite to eat on the way to our next overnight destination, Moonshine on Whiskey Creek (http://www.whiskeycreek.co.za). This was by far the BEST place we stayed at for our whole trip! The owners were really friendly people who live in a beautiful house on site with their lovely dogs. The unit we were staying in was called the Tree Frog Cabin, and it was like a beautiful tree house, situated high up in the forest with breathtaking views of the area.

Unfortunately by the time the thought of taking pictures crossed our mind, we had already made a mess, but just ignore that:

ImageThe interior was ENORMOUS and so clean and seemingly new. We had a giant kitchen that was fully stocked with all of the appliances and kitchenware we needed. Everything was very open so it was very sunny and bright as well. We really appreciated that these cabins were very eco-friendly, that was one of the big draws. They use only rainwater which was great and we could definitely taste a difference too. The cottage was bordered by a wooden walkway that made a lovely balcony looking out over the forest:

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We weren’t sure what to do for the rest of the day and our hosts suggested we take a hike down to the waterfall. The hike itself was a bit long and it was quite hot (and we were pretty tired from walking around the attractions in the morning) but we were drawn in by the description of a cool, pristine pool fed by a waterfall. So we suited up and started the trip down. It was extreme downhill hiking to get there, which was good going down, but we were dreading the journey back up. We reached flat ground and followed the river towards our end goal. It was a beautiful walk and the trees provided a cool shade which made the hike more bearable.

When we finally arrived at the waterfall, well, let’s say that ‘disappointment’ isn’t a strong enough word. We were utterly devastated. The pool itself was sizeable, the diameter was likely around 20 metres. The waterfall was smaller than expected and lacking a certain power we had envisioned. The real shock though, was the fact that the water was dark, like pitch black, and on the surface there was this strange ‘oil-spill’ residue that just hung there, like a toxic slime. It was about as uninviting as a body of water could be. As hot and sweaty as I was, I had NO desire to get in that pool. Dan felt the same way immediately, but Jessi hadn’t even noticed. In fact, it was our disgust and horror that made her question it at all. She was definitely peeved that we had ruined her perception of the water because the doubt became so strong that she too was unwilling to go in. I settled by taking random pictures of the area and each other, but Jessi was determined, if nothing else, to get to that waterfall. I still don’t really know why she was so drawn to it, it was a pathetic waterfall, and it was impossible to reach. There were steep rocky walls on either side and the rocks were slick as oil. But she was determined and set off on her quest. She made it further than I expected, in fact she was pretty close, when, as expected, she slipped and fell into the water. At first I was worried she had hurt herself and would need saving, but she only fell a bit, in fact she was still standing in the water, just wet and uncomfortable. So I turned away from the shot I was getting (of a little frog), took a photo of her standing waist high in bilge, and then returned to the frog.

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When Jessi returned to mainland, she asked to see the picture I took, and after noticing that I had obviously just gone back to photographing the wildlife, she was shocked at my lack of concern. It was pretty hilarious. Besides, if she were in mortal peril, I would have no power to save her, that was Dan’s job. We then made the long, exhausting trudge back up to the cabins and discovered that there was a beautiful, clean and overwhelmingly inviting swimming pool that was calling us. I basically collapsed of both happiness and exhaustion upon entering such a holy place. It was magical. After relaxing for a while, Jessi and I took turns tossing each other around in the pool and Dan decided to photograph the entire debacle. This is and will always be my favourite photo of the event:

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Jessi disagrees. I think that face is what really makes it such a keeper though. Overall, I have to say it was a really fantastic day!

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