All around Londolozi you’ll see troops of Vervet Monkeys communing with nature, and with our human community. If you have ever visited Londolozi and sat on one of our beautiful decks for breakfast on a warm summer morning after game drive, you’ll know that the troops that roam the camps provide endless entertainment for guests who find the interaction with these animals delightful, as it highlights the fact that we are completely enveloped in nature.
They do, however, provide some challenges for staff due to their troublesome want for the delicious food that the Londolozi kitchen produces every day.
Every camp at Londolozi has their own technique for deterring monkeys from their beautiful buffets, and from interrupting meal times for our guests. Some camps use a system of complete patrol – where chefs, butlers and camp managers will rotate watch on the deck. Other camps have been known to imitate leopards with calls in an effort to deter the monkeys from raiding the buffet table.
Whilst helping to provide a presence for one particular troop of vervets one afternoon at Tree Camp, I stood and leisurely chatted to guests who were enjoying the afternoon cake and iced-tea – in no hurry to get out into the heat of the afternoon. Once they were ready, I wished them a prosperous afternoon in the bush, and no sooner had my hand come back down from my wave than a large female monkey darted straight onto the tea station, grabbed some apples, an orange and a spot of lemon chiffon cake – possibly as a treat for the infant that clung to her. While my focus was trained on the first offender, a smaller, secondary accomplice took the gap and came in for more fruit, knocking over the iced-tea and coffee jugs in its haste. Again, in the blink of an eye, our buffet fortress had been penetrated. And, like a good ‘where’s Wally’ cartoon, the more I looked around, the more I became aware of the troop that were all waiting in the wings.
I let out a cry of desperation, and turned to find Phanuel, a Tree Camp Butler, standing next to me. The words that quietly left his lips next were profound: “They are so patient”. He let that hang in the air for a moment, and then calmly began cleaning up the mess that was left behind.
In my time watching monkeys, I have described them as many things: naughty, opportunistic, mischievous, destructive, sometimes annoyingly entertaining. But never patient.
And so, with this addition to my monkey adjectives, I thought a bit more about the three things that we can learn from a troop of vervet monkeys…
- Team Work: We can move through this life on our own, with the idea that we have no support and no-one looking out for us, or we can recognize a team or community of like-minded individuals who we can recruit (or be recruited by) in order to work together for a common goal. The goal may vary from finding a way to score a delicious afternoon snack, to a sense of shared fulfillment through symbiotic relationships. Whatever the goal, working with the community will almost always work in your favour.
2. Find the gap: This one leads into the last lesson, and is somewhat intertwined with it. I was amazed at how the troop waited and watched, with endless patience, and didn’t (seemingly) put pressure or emphasis on the outcome of their efforts. They simply waited, watched, assessed and – eventually – found the perfect gap to go for what they wanted. It was almost in the ‘out breath’ of the situation that the success came for them. Not in the anticipation. By finding the right gap, and having the patience to wait for it, our efforts might just be more fruitful.
3. And finally, the kicker…Patience: We live in a life of instant gratification. If we want something, it’s available for online purchase immediately, and can be delivered to our door within 24 hours. We have begun to thrive on instant likes, shares, little blue ticks on messages and small red dots with a sparkling new ‘1’ in them. What we can learn from a troop of vervet monkeys is that the things that we want, but more importantly need, in life, will come with the patience that we give them. If we can find the vision of what we want, identify a team to work with in order to get it, and then have the patience to wait for the perfect opportunity to attain these things, we will be able to eat from the preverbal buffet of life.
Next time you find yourself communing with nature, keep a look out for these small lessons that it may have for us – its wisdom has many years on our own, and its teachings are endless.