When travelling it is inevitable, at some stage, that one will encounter the infamous Macaque monkeys. They are light fingered, opportunistic, intelligent, fleet-footed and skilled in the art of breaking and entering. When thwarted by the vigilant and well prepared for such encounters, these animals will resort to intimidation, mugging and assault to get their sticky fingers into one’s possessions. Money, food, drink, cameras, clothes, electrical goods, day bags – nothing is safe from these Fagin’s of the ape world. Don’t be fooled by their funny antics, the feigned indifference – they’re sizing you up as a mark, or their cute looks. Given a chance they will strip you of all worldly goods faster than a hen party can whip a male stripper’s underpants off.
Bako National Park in Sarawek, Borneo is a gem of a place. Interesting for the large amount of different types of primate, the most famous being the Probiscus monkeys. As with all nature reserves and jungles – where there is human habitation there will be the inevitable presence of the Macaques. These pests are called “cheeky monkeys’ by the tourists and ‘bloody nuisances’ by the locals.
It was the second day into my stay and breakfast was being served. A drinking session the night before with one of the local guides and some friends had resulted in disorientation, tiredness and a mega hangover. As I picked my way gingerly around ramshackled huts and headed towards the restaurant, I was distracted by the guide who was enthusiastically bouncing around his chargees as if he’d never consumed 10 bottles of beer and half a bottle of wine.
“Look, you look, very rare, two snakes together” he shouted as he pushed me towards a twig which the vipers were entwined on. “But don’t get too close – very poisonous” he added and pulled me back again. Making the appropriate noises I backed off only stopping when I was out of striking distance. Experiencing a false sense of well-being from escaping death by venomous poison I relaxed from jungle commando alert to to beach bum chilled. It was a big mistake.
Reaching the canteen I collected my breakfast, which consisted of egg, sausage and chips, made my way to an empty table and put the plate down. In the time it took to pick up my utensils on the tray and look up, two bundles of brown fur leapt across three truckle tables, snatched my food, bounded back to the railings surrounding the dining area and sat on top of them. Alerted by the screams of other dinners I looked up and met the eyes of the Macaque holding a fist full of my chips. He glared back at me and stuck a chip up each nostril in defiance. The monkey should have been a comedian – it brought the house down.
The whole incident from collecting my breakfast to having it nicked took about 5 minutes max. I headed back to the serving counter to try again. The girl behind the counter looked at me strangely, obviously thinking that I was either a fast eater or had worms.
“Bloody monkeys” I said and understanding dawned on her face. She smiled at me sympathetically and served me up another helping.
As the rest of the drinking crew were still in bed, I wondered if any of them would believe me when I told them that I’d lost my breakfast to a monkey and not due to the drink!