Travelling to South Africa to meet the vervet monkey

If you have read my earlier posts, you will already know that I was planning to go to South Africa to work at the Vervet Monkey Foundation (VMF).

I had to wait 2 months for my visa and finally I could leave early February!

The process was not dificult because in 2 weeks I was able to get all the documents I needed (doctor papers, police papers, pasport, bank papers,etc). It just took a lot of time. The only advise I can give is that you never ever ask for your visa in December. This time of the year in South Africa they have summer holidays and everything will take double the time.

It took me five days to book a flight, book the bus in South Africa, email VMF that I was coming and of course I had to pack. Packing was the most difficult part. A month before leaving I started to set apart clothes and other things that I would like to take with me, but when I tried to put everything in my suitcase, I discovered that only half of it would fit.

After trying different ways of packing (I watched a hundred YouTube videos on how to pack your suitcase) and deciding again what was strictly essential, I was able to put everything in my suitcase and it weighed exactly 23 Kg!


A two-day journey

My journey started on an early Sunday morning in Andújar (southern Spain). I took the bus to Madrid airport, where I had to wait 5 hours. When I got rid of my luggage and past the control point, I could relax a bit before taking my flight.

The first plane was to Cairo. Good vegetarian food on this flight. In Cairo I only had to wait 2 hours to get my next plane to Johannesburg, where I arrived at 7 in the morning. About two hours later I was sitting in the bus to Tzaneen, a bit disappointed that I was not able to visit and explore Johannesburg.

Sitting in the bus I could observe the beautiful green South African landscape around me and the nerves in my belly disappeared. I was almost there and this was so beautiful, everything was going to be fine.


Arriving at the VMF

The heat punched me in the face when I got off the bus. I was not prepared for that kind of temperature change.

The moment I sat foot at the VMF, I knew that this was my place. I felt at home, surrounded by monkeys, spiders, snakes, lizards and a lot of mosquitos.

The VMF is a beautiful place with a lot of space for the monkeys, wooden cabins for the volunteers and a communal space where we all can come together. Every day is like a camping experience (in a good way). The communal showers and toilets, the campfire, the mosquitos, no electricity and surrounded by nature.


Meeting the vervets

But this is not a travelling blog, so let’s talk about the monkeys!

The foundation has 3 big sections and every section has 4 troops. In every troop there are between 20-50 vervet monkeys and they all have a name.

On my second day at the VMF, I started with my training as a staff member of the bottom section. I would be in charge of all the monkeys there, taking care of them, preparing enclosures, doing introductions, training volunteers etc. I would also be working in the baby foster program, helping with medication, preparing daily diets and doing maintenance work.


My first days

I spent my first days getting training by different staff members. I learned about integrations, daily routines in my section, preparing milk for the babies and taking care of them and the sick monkeys. I am still learning new things every day, but mostly I am learning all the names of my monkeys (I have about 200!!).

Soon I will tell you more about the foster mum program they developed! And you will get to know some of the babies of this year.

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