Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Adventures in Ghana, Part II

Hello again! Here we go on our second leg of the New Adventures in Ghana Trip...

From Kumasi we headed for the Fiema Monkey Sanctuary at Boabeng. The drive was an interesting mix of nice smooth wide pavement and rough dirt, until the turnoff to the forest and village where it became just dirt, but pretty nice...

When we entered the sanctuary, a sign directed us to check in at the information center which didn't really exist, but a lady walking by explained that we should drive on into the village and a guide would meet us. Sure enough, a mile or so down the road was the village and when we parked we were joined almost immediately by a uniformed Park Guide- a terrific old guy named Jonas.

There are two kinds of monkeys in the Sanctuary (mona and colobus) and after a night or day of normal monkey-ness in the forest, the mona monkeys come into the village and the village homes and help themselves to whatever they can find. The villagers consider the monkeys sacred and will put food out for them each day in the morning and evening.

The monkeys, of course, being monkeys, help themselves to the offered food and then take whatever they can steal. This is part of the village on the edge of the Sanctuary forest...

When a monkey dies, it is buried in a small box in the monkey cemetery. Dork that I am, as I read the little signs on the graves I said, "Oh, look! They knew that one by name- Mona." Cooper and Duke gently pointed out that it was not the name of the monkey but the type of monkey it had been. Oh. Yeah. I'm sure our guide thought I was brain damaged.

As we walked through the forest with Jonas, he carried a bunch of nuts for the monkeys and made a clicking noise with his tongue that coaxed a few of the mona mothers out to see us and take nuts from us. Their hands are impossibly small and dextrous, and if you hold the nut tightly they will patiently and carefully pry it from your fingers.

Here is Duke feeding one...

what I wish you could hear is him saying

"Take the picture! Take it take it take it!"

because he was unsure he wanted to feed the monkeys at all. ;-)

This, like the Canopy Walk at Kakum National Park was something he was not crazy about when we started but glad he had done when it was over.

There are a million paths through the forest and we wandered for a while, stopping to look at monkeys and occasionally admire the many helpfully labeled trees. With our guide's blessing Cooper and Duke each climbed inside this ficus... (ignore the look of joy and happiness on his face- he was practicing his teenaged ennui, and doing very well I might add).

and Duke sat on the 'giraffe shaped' part of this one...

After quite a while, Jonas found us a pair of colobus monkeys. They are considerably less social and do not go into the village. These two were completely aware of our presence and totally miffed at our gawking - they actually turned away from us as we tried to peer up into their tree which was actually kind of nice to see.

Pooh on us and our free nuts- they are wild monkeys and don't need no stinkin' people.
This is the best shot we could get...

That long white tail was very impressive.

Back in the village, we had a very short wait for the monas to start their evening invasion. Coop and Duke sat outside one of the houses and eventually Coop held out his (empty) hand and after the monkey approached and saw that he had nothing batted his hand away in disgust, which of course cracked Cooper up...

The man who lived there very kindly came out and asked if we would like to see the monkeys inside his courtyard.

So this is inside the walls, in his dooryard-

his house surrounds this area on three sides.

Jonas said each troop of monkeys visits a specific house and if one troop invades another's house there is a screeching mess until the interlopers go away.

It was a cool thing, and it's very nice to know that way out there in the center of Ghana is a small village at the edge of a big forest taking special care of two species of wild monkeys.

Next time, we head for one of only five meteor crater lakes on the planet!