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Baboons on My Porch

I awoke to the sound of rattling; or at least that's what it sounded like; something rattling. Was it an earthquake? No. But it felt like one. When I gathered my mind and eyes into the same quadrant of my morning brain, I realized there were baboons on my porch. The troop - one at a time - were jumping from a tree branch over the fence and onto, with a plunk, my porch which was only ten feet from my head; the only thing between me and the troop of baboons was the thick canvas of my fixed tent. It was a big noisy troop and half of them were still on the other side of the fence, but not for long. Each of the baboons that remained outside of camp took their turn going to the end of the tree branch then - knees bent deep - the monkey threw his arms in the air and sprang up and over the fence like an Olympic athlete and onto the porch of my tent with a plunk.

I was amused initially thinking it would be nice to have a cup of coffee and watch them from my seemingly safe bed, but the kitchen was out there..., with the baboons. My coffee too was out there, inside one of the cabinets the baboons were so intently trying to open; unsuccessfully because I remembered to put the monkey proof locks on both cabinets before bed the night before.

My alarm clock went off, about scaring me to death. Before bed I had set it for four o'clock AM. My intent was to head out of camp when the gates opened at four-thirty to see what wildlife I could spot; perhaps lions sleeping on the warm tarmac. The baboons changed my plans.

Prior, I had nearly tangled with a vervet monkey in the Kruger National Park at the Lataba Camp. A baboon is much bigger than a vervet monkey, especially the male who at that point was peering into my tent through the mesh, having heard my alarm. I sat quietly staring back at him with absolutely no intent to tangle with him or any of his girls. Out of the blue he yawned, showing me his teeth, which were as big, sharp and long as a male lions. This gesture I knew was a sign of aggression.

It even surprised me when I heard the voice come out of my mouth; like a brave alien had penetrated my brain and was speaking for me. "NO NEED FOR THAT. GO ON!" I shouted and motioned with my hand and arm sitting up in the bed. He slapped at the door of my tent and made a barking noise. I let out a whimper and pulled my bed covers up over my mouth; my eyes still peering out, hoping this big furry fellow had no further intent.

I am pretty sure I stayed like that until the balance of his troop finished bounding over the fence, approximately twenty of them were then inside the Punda Maria camp. Seemingly, every other baboon that came over the fence gave my cabinets a go with no luck.

After what seemed like two hours, the first of the troop moved onto the next fixed tent where they were having better luck. Through the side window of my tent I could see one baboon with a loaf of bread. She was spilling bread slices as she jumped onto that person's railing to forage. When the others realized the party was at my neighbors' house, they all departed company without so much as a goodbye, lastly the big male turned and left me too.

At that point I needed a nap. It was then four-thirty in the morning and the excitement of the baboons was a bit too much that early in the day. Coffee and the potential lions sleeping on the tarmac would have to wait. I pulled the covers completely over my head and went back to sleep.

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