Whilst travelling around the beautiful islands of Thailand last summer we were taken by boat from neighbouring Ko Phi Phi to the aptly named Monkey Island. An uninhabited piece of real estate with the purest white sand and bluest sea I have ever seen. Uninhabited that is by people but claimed as their own by monkeys, the indigenous Rhesus type monkey or Rhesus Macaque to give them their correct title.
How cute, were my first thoughts, unlike the aggressive urban guerillas that inhabit the Rock of Gibraltar, these little cuties, and lots of them were sitting in family groups preening, lounging, relaxing on the beach and gently picking at the odd scrap of food lying about. And why not, they lived in the most idyllic backdrop any monkey or human could wish for. There were even wooden swings, ropes and hammocks constructed, I suspected not by the apes themselves, although I wouldn’t be surprised these apes are VERY intelligent as we would soon discover.
Once we and a handful of other travellers disembarked our traditional wooden Thai boats, this beautiful, tranquil and idyllic scene morphed into our own personal scene from the Planet of the Apes. Each and every one of those incredibly humanoid eyes alighted on us. Slowly the mood changed and they began to approach us looking for some tasty morsel we may have brought, the going rate for entry onto their island we thought.
Since non of us were forthcoming with the required entrance fee the band of little terrorists decided to play hard. The humans on the beach who were distracted and had placed their belongings on the ground were the first targets. With great stealth they sneaked up on the unguarded loot. They carefully examined how to get inside and deftly fiddled with the zips or clasps, but proving a little too much like hard work they proceeded to use their teeth with determination. Wise to this we kept out belongings with us but we were not getting away with invading their island at no cost. One little chap tried a snatch and run technique but having been mugged on the Island of Bali a few years earlier by a relative of his we were wise and ready for him.
A couple of less vigilant Swedish travellers were still cooing over how cute our furry friends were, taking pictures of a mother and baby leaving their backpack and bag some distance from them. We could see the ambush about to unfold and in a four pronged formation some larger, more mature monkeys approached. We shouted over to ‘Watch your Bags’ but too late, they were in! The contents of the two bags were strewn all over the beach, the first ape tucking in to a large family size bag of cheese and onion crisps, the second trying to unscrew the top of a drinks bottle.
Whilst we snapped away, our Swedish counterparts seemed amused and unalarmed until they noticed the third made off with their wallet and the fourth intrigued by a whole new discovery the IPAD! Watching him examine his new toy proved quite fascinating, we stood in awe for a minute or two he turned it every way up and tried pressing the buttons but the thing that seemed to intrigue him most was his own reflection in the screen. Apparently apes are the only animal that can recognise their own reflection as themselves. He posed and grimaced at himself, looked at his teeth, stroked his reflection and kissed himself on the lips, clearly a diva monkey!
Now we had screams and panic as the wallet was disappearing into the undergrowth and the iPad was being rigorously examined in the sand. There was a fleeting, ungracious thought of ‘Thank god that’s not mine! that soon passed into helping to see off these marauders. The monkeys were not going to be intimidated by their larger less agile relatives and bared teeth and squealed back with great relish!
Soon the crips were eaten, the wallet dropped before it disappeared for good and the Ipad retrieved without it seemed too much damage, all settled into an uneasy calm as the other travellers departed and we stayed a while longer to swing in the monkey hammocks, sit under a tree in the shade and drink in the scenery. A moment later and a missile thumped into the sand from above missing our heads by inches, a falling coconut? No the full drinks bottle the second monkey had stolen and now hurled at us from the heights of the tree. We decided the inhabitants were trying to tell us something, we had come to their island uninvited, brought no gifts, did not pay their entrance fee, were not playing the game and had outstayed our welcome.
They were right of course!