One of the many joys of Africa is watching the great variety of monkeys and other primates (baboons and chimpanzees can be found on other pages). They are usually up to something interesting, if not mischievous. They can, however, present a challenge for the photographer. Often they are high in the trees, partially obscured by foliage or moving very quickly. Some of them, however, have adapted quite well to the presence of humans and specialize in stealing food from the camps or picnickers. Most of the monkeys pictured here fall into this latter group.
We had particularly good luck at the Kichwa Tembo Camp in the Masai Mara of Kenya. There we saw a Blue Monkey that had come down out of the bush to feed on the open lawn of the camp. At first, he was quite wary, but soon decided that it was safe enough to come down and have a meal.
While at Kichwa Tembo, we also saw a few Red-Tailed Monkeys in the trees. One of them had a baby with her, but she was very protective and it was difficult to get a clear view of the baby.
One of the most commonly seen monkeys in Africa – because of their brazen behavior – is the Vervet monkey. These monkeys have adapted perhaps too well to the tourist industry. In the Ngorongoro Crater, they stalk the few areas in the crater where visitors are permitted to leave their vehicles and eat a picnic lunch. While we were there, standing at the front of the vehicle using its hood as a table, several Vervets snuck over the back of the vehicle, through the roof hatch and before we could react were inside the vehicle searching for food. Even with several people standing around the hood of the car, just a few seconds inattention was all these little thieves needed to pounce on an unprotected item and spirit it away to a nearby tree.
At the open dining area of the Samburu Intrepids Club in northern Kenya, the Vervets have become particularly adept at raiding unattended tables. I saw more than one person put some bread down on their table then walk a few feet away to get some butter. In the ten seconds this process took, a Vervet came out of a nearby tree, stole the bread and was well on his way back to safety – often to the amusement of the nearby diners. The problem has become so acute that the camp has hired uniformed guards who patrol the area with small slingshots to shoot small beans at intruders. The monkeys have learned to avoid the guards and it is very funny to watch them hide until the coast is clear for another sneak attack. Most of the Vervets I saw were the common variety of the East African race, though I did spot a few black ones also.