A few years ago, for my big 40th birthday, I wanted to do something spectacular. I spent a few weeks thinking about various ideas, and I decided to ask myself, “If I died tomorrow, what would I have regretted never doing?” And the thought immediately popped into my mind, “I want to hug a baby monkey.”

And so it was – I planned a month long birthday celebration around hugging a baby monkey. It was fun just researching where to go. After lots of digging, I decided to go to the Vervet Monkey Foundation in South Africa where they have no shortage of adorable monkeys. The little angel I got to spend some time with was named Keksie, and she was the most precious thing I have ever seen. 

The Vervet Monkey Foundation is nothing short of amazing. Dave and Josie who run the program do a wonderful job. You live on site in wooden cabins with tin roofs and shower in camping style showers with no warm water (so leave any princess needs behind). We participated in the daily care of the monkeys and met volunteers from all over the world. It was hard work, but an amazing experience. 

Most of the orphans come into the program because their mothers were hit by cars, electrocuted, or shot by farmers. The VMF has an amazing program where they integrate the babies into a troop and eventually they release the troop into the wild. The level of care and consideration for the animals’ needs were top notch.

At the tail end, we did a 3-day safari to the famous Kruger National Park. No words can describe seeing lions, giraffes, rhinos, and countless other animals in their natural environment. 

If you have not been to South Africa and are looking for the memory of a lifetime, I would highly recommend the Vervet Monkey Foundation. I could not have picked a better way to celebrate my 40th!