I was having an EXCELLENT time exploring the caves of Zimbabwe. Well, not all of them—but several.
My parents, being Christian anthropologists, take us to all kinds of cool places around the world. They research lots of different languages, and cultures, and ancient civilizations. Then they write magazine articles and books, and even appear in documentaries. Most of the info they collect is about the Bible and God’s creation.
My sister and I just have fun. Chrissy isn’t bad for a little sister. We get along okay—maybe because she’s actually excited about the things I like. At least for now. She thinks it’s fun exploring and learning about all kinds of stuff.
And she didn’t mind the bats in the caves. She wasn’t too excited about the creepy crawlies, but she wasn’t scared of them either.
But the most fun was when Mom and Dad finished their research and said, “we’re not going on north quite yet. We’ve got a surprise. I think you’ll like it, Chrissy! But we know you will, Tom!” Dad had a big grin on his face.
Now the things that are a great surprise for me probably aren’t the same for you. Oh, I like a big amusement park or waterslides just as much as the next guy. But what really gets me going are ANIMALS. Doesn’t matter what kind—mammals, fish, birds, amphibians—I think they’re all INCREDIBLE. There’s never enough time to find out all about every one—but I still try.
So what did Mom and Dad they have in mind?
“Oh, we’re still stopping over in Germany for the big festival, and we have to go to London. We’re filming the documentary. You’ll be visiting Uncle Chuck. He’s looking forward to taking you to the the famous zoo in Regent’s Park. But first….” Mom always thought it was fun to draw out the suspense.
“What!” Chrissy could never handle that. She jumped up and down, excitedly. “Tell us!”
Having a little sister was convenient. It saved me from having to act like I couldn’t wait to hear…I just had to hang in there for a few seconds….
“Okay!” said Mom. “We’re going to check out a couple more caves.”
Chrissy was okay with that, except, “why! What’s the surprise! Tell us!”
“Nope,” said Dad. “It won’t be long. We’ll head for the airport soon. We won’t hang around at the hotel, writing up our magazine story. We’ll do it on the plane.”
“Yay!” shouted Chrissy
Good, I thought. We’re going right away. Their announcement might seem anticlimactic to you, after all we’d just seen some great caves. But I knew they had something special up their sleeves.
“How far is it?” I asked, trying to get a little info, at least. Then I could try to find out something Online.
But Dad wouldn’t budge. “You’ll see. Now run to the market and buy some snacks. You know what we like.” He handed over some African money.
Chrissy and I headed to the outdoor market. We were back in a jiffy, munching on flaky, crispy flat bread and bite-size pieces of spicy meat. For the trip, we had gotten biltong, which was more like jerky, and plantain chips.
The flight wasn’t that long. And we didn’t go in a huge plane. Just a little Cessna.
When we arrived, there didn’t seem to be any hotels around. Instead, somebody met us in a jeep, and we bounced out to a campsite.
We’re used to archeological digs, but this was a little different. We were on an Animal Reserve.
A man and a young woman approached us, smiling.
“Here to see the monkeys, huh?” asked the middle aged man.
The woman poked him with her elbow.
“Oops!” He said, realizing he’d given away the surprise.
Monkeys…hmmm? I’d studied monkeys when I was…Chrissie’s age.
But I’d done a lot of research on them over the years. They were everywhere, it seemed—in the rainforests of South America, the bush country of Africa, the Caribbean islands, even India and China. I’d seen them all, okay not all—there’s like 260 species. But I’d seen the smallest right up to gorillas—which of course are really apes, not monkeys.
“These baboons are a little different,” grinned the young woman. “Dad and I have been studying them for a while. Nobody knew what to make of them at first. Come on! You’re just in time to see them tonight.”
“Where are they?” Chrissy was doing her usual hopping up and down, excitedly.
It was getting dark. I suddenly saw movement in the trees—I should say more movement than usual. Monkeys seem to always be moving and chattering. These baboons were on the move, all heading toward a rocky cliff.
“They usually sleep in the trees, don’t they? To keep away from leopards and things?” I asked.
They were climbing down the rocks—and suddenly disappearing into cracks and crevices.”
“They’re going into the cave to sleep,” Mom told us.
“And look at the flock of bats coming out!” exclaimed Dad.
Soon all the baboons were gone, having entered the cave.
“Why do they do that?” I asked.
“I guess it’s safer. They found the place and like it,” said the man. “Monkeys have been sleeping in caves for centuries, we think. But this particular bunch suddenly showed up here.”
“Wow.” It really was pretty cool to see it. All those baboons climbing down the rocks and suddenly disappearing. “They’re called troops right.”
“Yes, they move in a troop,with the strongest male in charge. They don’t usually stay in one place. Troops move on depending on where they can get food,” said the woman.
“Now, come on over for dinner. I know you’re leaving later to go….somewhere else,” The man was not about to tell this time.
“Somewhere else? Where!” It was me, asking this time!
“You’ll see. We have to get there bright and early in the morning,” said Mom. Then she teased. “That means you’re going to have to get up when I call!”
Chrissy groaned. She didn’t like to wake up in the morning, but Mom was known for getting up and out before dawn!
For now, I grabbed my notebook to write down everything we’d learned about these baboons.
We had a fun time with the scientists that evening. We learned that these brown baboons were called chacma baboons. And even though they went down into the dark cave, they could still communicate with each other.
We caught another flight after dinner and slept on the plane. Chrissy and I finished up our night’s sleep in a hotel, not even knowing where we were.
It was unbelievably early when Mom woke us.
“It’ll be worth it,” she said. “You can sleep anytime.”
We headed out to another animal reserve. When we finally got around to asking where we were, I was amazed at the answer.
“Madagascar,” said Dad.
“The island! Wow. What are we here for?”
“More monkeys?” asked my sister, sleepily.
“Nope. They’re lemurs.”
“What’s a lemur?” Chrissy wasn’t hopping around, for once. But she was starting to wake up and get curious.
Her hair blew as Dad drove. She shoved a buttered roll from the motel buffet into her mouth, as she waited impatiently for the answer.
I munched on fruit and already had my phone out to get more information.
“Lemurs aren’t monkeys. They’re different.” I said. “They’re grey and they live near limestone caves—these guys do, at least. They have long tails with black rings and they don’t live anywhere else in the world. Only here on this island! I know where we are!” I saw the name of the park.
“Good luck trying to say it,” said Mom, with a grin.
“Where, where?” Chrissy was really waking up now. She grabbed a little bottle of orange juice from Mom’s backpack.
“Tsimanampetsotsa National Park!”
“Wow….” Chrissy’s eyes were wide, quite impressed that I could say it.
“I’m sure that’s not how it’s pronounced,” said Dad, laughing. “Hey, we’re almost there.”
We met another group of people who were also up early—just to meet us. I was still trying to get more info Online.
“No need for that,” said Dad. “These people are the experts.”
The man laughed, “Not experts–just very, very curious. Like you, young man, I think.”
“And me!” this from Chrissy
The man grinned down at her. “Experts before us discovered what these guys were up to. I’m a ranger but I love this stuff. ”
“There they are!” exclaimed Mom.
We gazed up at the cliffs. Dozens and dozens of lemurs were climbing, their long tails hanging down. What a sight! They’d been sleeping down there in the caverns, and now they were heading out to find food and start their day.
Just like us. The people we met invited us to a real breakfast, where we talked about God’s incredible creation.
“Monkeys are so cool!” I said.
“And so funny….” giggled Chrissy
“The smallest one in the world is a pygmy marmoset. It weighs four ounces and it’s just five inches tall! The biggest is a mandrill—seventy seven pounds and three feet tall!”
“Wait a minute! What about gorillas? They’re bigger than that!” said Chrissy.
“Gorilla’s are apes. They’re different than monkeys. Apes don’t have tails, for one thing,” one of the rangers told her.
“The largest gorilla is 550 pounds and seven feet tall…” I could go on and on, but I knew that Mom and Dad had to get on to film their part in the documentary they were doing. If we wanted to go to the festival in Germany and get to London for the filming, we needed to get going. And Chrissy and I would be visiting Uncle Chuck and checking out the London zoo…but I just couldn’t help reading on….
“Whoa, Dad! I just found out what this big long name means–lake in which no dolphins live. Fish and things can’t live in their lake. But in the caverns there’s those blind fish that everyone talks about!”
We headed toward the jeep, for we needed to get to the airport.
“What animal will be next for you?” Dad asked. as I reluctantly clicked off my phone.
“I have no idea,” I said.
I shook hands with our new friends, and thanked them for taking time to hang out with us. Chrissy gave them all a big hug.
“So,” I heard the ranger ask my dad, “which animal do you think he’ll study next?”
“Oh, I think it might be all of them” Dad murmured. And he whispered something that made all the adults grin.
I assumed he meant the famous zoo in London.
But maybe not…you never know with my parents….
To be continued….
By Carol Bennett
“Hey, my favorite verse in the Bible is this one! The works of the Lord are great. Studied by all who have pleasure in them.” (Psalm 111:2)
This information came from many sources. I’m so grateful to scientists, researchers, and writers who have shared their discoveries of the many interesting facts about the animals of the world.