About an hour later, the tides had drastically dropped. We rowed the canoe into a narrower creek, just as the gliding sun began to slide behind a pillow of spotless clouds. The paddlers navigated into towards the creek edge where a narrow bush track meanders away into the interlocking mangrove forest.
“Na here dem dey,” (“this is where they are”) announced Pius- the heftiest among the two guides, pointing at the foot path.
“Ok then,” I said, as I lifted my tripod from the wet floor of the canoe; “make we go sharp sharp before dem go run comot” (“we should get there quickly before they run away”). Emma, the second guide, quickly jumped out from the bow of the canoe and moored it to the big stem of a nearby mangrove tree.
We hiked for a few minutes into mangrove thickets, carefully manoeuvring across shallow mud flats as we approached a small creek. With a swift gesture, Pius suddenly ordered us to slow down and keep quiet. At the instant, my ears and my eyes opened up, and a loud chorus of grunts began to swarm my ear drums. At the other side of a small creek just about ten meters ahead of us, a myriad of Mona monkeys spread across the tree tops, trunks and stilt roots in their tens. I swerved slowly into a nearby foliage cluster and began to observe these amazing creatures.
A big mother monkey sat on a half-fallen branch near the top of a tree with her baby clung to her chest, and seemed to be dishing out orders to some other monkeys sitting on the lower branches. Most of them also had babies clung to their chests. In an instant, three of the monkeys seated on the lower branches dashed into the muddy creek bank beneath the mangrove trees, and started rummaging through the shallow waters left-over by the receding tide. They were hunting for trapped fishes and toads. The scene was amazing. They moved and struck at the wet soil with such great stealth and furtiveness that no fish in the mud could elude their blows. They began to grapple things here and there in the water, munching at their picks and feeding their babies with the leftovers.
As the monkeys hunted beneath the trees, others called out and danced anxiously on the branches above them, with gestures that suggested they were hoping for more catches. Two gorgeous woodpeckers perched nearby and watched the scene with great delight before deciding to make their own move. The birds began to fly in turns to a bag of beehive hanging from a tree branch above, treating themselves to a delicious breakfast of bee and honey.
We secretly watched as more drama followed. After a while, the monkeys began to withdraw into the forest; and when they had all gone, we retreated to our canoe, well-satiated by the feast of natural wonders that our eyes had just been fed with. The mona monkey (Cercopithecus mona) species is an Old World monkey that is known to dominate Western Africa.