Observing Endangered Samango Monkeys in iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Samango monkey in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa

iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Africa.

It comprises an incredible 280 km of protected coastline and is home to 1200 crocs and 800 Hippopotami.  More on those incredible creatures in an upcoming post.
Samango monkey in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa I was most excited to learn that it was also home to the endangered Samango Monkeys.  The only endangered monkeys I observed on my Wild South African and Swaziland Adventures.  They are found across Africa from South Africa to Ethiopia  but only in a few locations in South Africa.  The population on Cape Vidal in iSimangaliso Wetland Park is highly endangered due to habitat loss.  I would also add them to my  South African Wildlife:  Beyond the Big 5 list.
Samango monkey in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa I hopped out of our safari truck and asked our guide from Heritage Tours and Safaris where the best place was to spot Samango Monkeys.  It turns out it was right above where we parked.   I turned my head up to find a monkey uncharacteristically quietly observing me.  This was strange since usually you hear the distinctive tweets of the Samango monkeys long before you see them.  Our guide surmised that she was being sneaky.  The Samango monkeys at Cade Vidal are notorious for stealing lunches carelessly left out in the open.  Fruit is a favorite, especially by the males who have more of a sweet tooth than the females do.  Hmmm…I wonder if that includes chocolate too?

Samango monkey and deer in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa

Making new friends?

I can confidently say “she” since Samango monkeys live in harems with one male surrounded by females and his young, which can be as large as 35 individuals.   The thought of competing for one male’s attention with 20+ other females stresses me out, although it does make for good reality TV – maybe the Samango monkeys were the inspiration for the TV show The Bachelor? But the troop was peaceful when we were there.  Chirping away, curious, intelligent eyes not missing a thing – or any opportunity to steal a piece of fruit.

Travel Tip for going to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park:  Increase your chance of spotting Samango monkeys, other wildlife, and even a leopard if you’re really lucky by booking a tour with Heritage Tours and Safaris.  Their guides are passionate, knowledgeable and I swear they have eyes in the back of their heads.  They’re incredible at spotting wildlife.  I also visited Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park  and did a Hippo and Croc Safari with Heritage Tours and Safari and saw WAY more wildlife that I would have on my own.

Where to stay in iSimangaliso Wetland Park:  I highly recommend staying at Umlilo Lodge where I stayed.  It’s the most serene guest house that I’ve ever stayed in.

Travel Tip for Getting Around:  While I highly recommend doing the safari tours with knowledgable guides, I also recommend renting a car from Sunny Cars since it makes it much easier to get to St. Lucia and in general for getting around South Africa.

View iSimangaliso Wetland Park in a larger map
Thank you to Heritage Tours and Safari for providing me with the incredible opportunity to observe endangered Samango monkeys in iSimangaliso Wetland Park.  Thank to our guide whos tips meant that my lunch didn’t stolen by adorable, but mischievous monkeys.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.


  1. Leigh November 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful outing. Your comment reminds about stolen food reminds me of my time in Tanzania where one fellow in our group was getting quite cross with the monkeys aggression. He went off to sit by himself in the safety of the jeep – or so he thought. The monkeys came in through the roof and relieved him of his sandwich in milliseconds.

    • Laurel November 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm - Reply

      @Leigh – Haha, sounds like he got exactly what he deserved. Monkeys are smart!

  2. Jennifer November 22, 2012 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    How amazing to observe endangered monkeys in the wild! They are cute little buggers.

  3. Zhu November 23, 2012 at 12:45 am - Reply

    They look so smart! Monkeys are fascinating creatures to observe.

    • Laurel November 27, 2012 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      @Zhu – Agreed and these guys were definitely smart, you could see it in their eyes.

  4. Nico November 25, 2012 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Sounds like you had a great time on safari. If the monkeys in South Africa are anything like the ones in Bali then you definitely need to keep a close eye on them.

    • Laurel November 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm - Reply

      @Nico – Oh yes, these are cheeky monkeys. They look so cute and innocent, but really they will take any opportunity they have to steal your lunch.

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