Ol Tukai lodge has signs posted every four feet warning guests not to feed the monkeys because “they are dangerous.” They’re also pretty adorable and not intimidated by people in the least. There are hundreds around the grounds – hanging from trees, lounging on the cabin patios, scurrying along the roofs, waiting at the front door and perched on the narrow ledge peering into the cabin windows.
We’d been warned not to leave the room door open even for the briefest moment. It’s difficult when the door requires a key not simply to open it but to lock it again once you’re inside. I always gave the key one turn too many so the dead bolt was out keeping me from closing the door. The fact that we have to lock ourselves in, rather than just turning a latch, would never be acceptable in the US. I got into the habit of keeping the key in the lock so I could make a speedy exit if I needed to. The last thing you want to have to do is hunt for a key when escaping.
By day two, three of my companions had already had to face down aggressive monkeys. I was feeling proud of my caution until earlier this afternoon.
I’d just pulled the key from the door after locking it when I realized that my window was still open, leaving just a flimsy screen between the monkeys and everything I’d brought with me. I unlocked the door and shut it behind me, but neglected to lock it, as I leaned down to close the nearby window. A split second later I heard the creak of the door opening. I turned and was looking at a sweet little monkey, his/her hand still on the open door. I didn’t hesitate to shout at it to leave, making myself appear more aggressive than I felt. As the little guy looked sheepishly down and raced from the room, I felt grateful that my uninvited visitor was a timid monkey.
Later in the evening I left my room to meet up with my friends for dinner. Outside my door were about ten monkeys playing around. I didn’t have my camera but decided to just stop and watch them. I stood about three feet away and stood as still as I could to not disturb their twilight games. There was one whose baby walked beneath her, trying to keep up with mom’s long stride. She seemed oblivious to the baby. With every other stride the baby was left exposed and had to scurry to once again be under mom. She nearly sat on the baby when she abruptly halted and lowered herself to the ground – the baby scooted to the side to avoid being smothered. Five of the other monkeys chased each other, rolling around and batting at each other. I was really enjoying the display. Then a larger monkey (mom? dad?) walked into the area with a baby clinging, upside down, to his/her underbelly. That baby looked at me. For some reason I scared it. It called out in panic, dropped from mom/dad, screeched at me again and scurried into the arms of another monkey nearby. The monkey it had been clinging to looked at me and raised his/her arms and began to yell at me with a high pitched screech. In an instant all the other adorably monkeys turned into a mob in support of the monkey challenging me. Despite that they only came up to my knees, my adrenalin was pumping. I tried to speak soothingly to the aggressive monkey but it wasn’t having the desired affect. I decided to back up. The monkeys advanced. I turned and despite wanting to flee, I slowly, casually walked toward the cabin my friend was in thinking I might need re-enforcements. I was shocked at how quickly they went from happy frolicking creatures to these intimidating beings. Luckily my retreat soothed them. A few minutes later they were back to playing around having seemingly forgotten me. The one baby who’d instigated the mood shift watched me warily as I stepped cautiously past the crowd of monkeys once again on my way to the dining room.
The signs were true – I’d seen that the monkeys could be dangerous and I wouldn’t forget it.