Saturday, September 18, 2010

Where The Somewhat Wild Things Are

Julia and I embarked on our first weekend adventure today!

Adventure abounds when you set two eighteen-year-old girls loose on Ghana by themselves... : )

Our destination was the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary.

The sanctuary protects the Mona Monkeys, who are considered sacred in that region. The people there believe that when the monkeys migrated to the Tafi Atome area, they brought the gods with them. 
Tafi Atome is a tiny, tiny village 5 km from Logba Alekpeti, a slightly larger village somewhere roughly halfway between the major cities of Ho and Hohoe. Our day got off to an interesting start when we arrived at the Aflao tro-tro station just in time for pouring rain to turn the entire city into a giant mud puddle. (The tro-tro's, by the way, are the rickety vans that will take you anywhere in Ghana for a handful of cedis if you're willing to cram into them with 15 to 20 other people.) We snacked for a while until the rain let up enough for us to find a tro-tro headed to Ho. The street food here is lethal- it's ridiculously cheap and ridiculously delicious. We munched all day and realized later that our "splurging" had only resulted in spending the equivalent of about $3 apiece. After arriving at Ho, we found a second tro-tro going to Hohoe and got off at Logba Alekpeti, where we hired a cab to take us to Tafi Atome. Funny how that five hour process can be summed up in one sentence...Travelling in Ghana- and probably pretty much any developing country- is all about waiting. Wait for a tro-tro to come, wait for the tro-tro to fill, wait for the driver to decide he's ready to start, wait for the person next to you to finish buying pineapple through the window... 

A very helpful woman on the tro-tro had advised us to buy bananas to lure in the monkeys. Which Julia and I, being the Westerners we are, assumed meant we would throw the bananas on the ground and wait for the monkeys to come so we could see them relatively close up......

Ha ha ha, as if anything in Ghana is that reserved... 

I think I have a new definition of "close up."

Our guide led us into the woods and started making loud kissing sounds, and within moments dozens of monkeys started appearing out of seemingly no where. He showed us how to firmly hold a banana and offer it to the monkeys. To our surprise, they came right up to us and ate it out of our hands, peeling it and breaking off pieces to shove into their mouths with their tiny, humanlike fingers.

Hand-feeding monkeys in Africa is definitely one of the coolest things I've ever done!


Of course this begs the question: weren't you scared the monkeys were going to bite you? Of course it was a bit nervewracking at times - please note my expression in the photo when two of them simultaneously leaped onto my arm and started fighting over the banana! But although they're definitely wild, they're very used to humans, so it wasn't scary. They were very grabby (imagine offering two dozen toddlers a handful of M&M's...), but they snatched it with their fingers, not their teeth. Well...except one. You have to hold onto the banana very tightly and just inch your hand down little by little as they eat it so they don't take the whole thing at once. However one monkey decided I wasn't moving along fast enough and shoved his entire face into my hand!
Julia and I had a blast! Ten bananas were definitely not enough!

The excitement wasn't over when the bananas were gone though.
Almost as soon as the last peel hit the ground, we heard a strange croaking sound echoing through the forest. The guide explained that the chief monkey was using his command voice to call the others back to him. And sure enough, the minion monkeys all but disappeared.

We got very lucky though, because the chief came out of his hiding place deep in the trees and made an appearance for us! He was significantly bigger than the others, and much more dignified.

In the end, our time with the monkeys was much too short, but definitely worth the effort to get there!
For all the difficult aspects of my decision to come live here for a year, I think the pros outweigh the cons at the end of the day.


  1. Aww, how wonderful...and I am SO jealous. You know monkeys are my fave (well, tied with elephants, but still a fave) and I don't think I've ever even touched a real one...much less handfed. Oh, you lucky, lucky girl!! xoxo

  2. Thank you again for sharing your experiences Katherine. We get to feel the experiences through you!!

  3. That sounds like so much fun!!! It beats the heck out of traffic in Western WA! LOL CG