Just a few monkeys appear before a large herd of the long-tailed animals in different shapes and sizes come in sight to wait to be fed as this is their long-established reflex when they hear visitors approach So Ray Plantation on the peak of a hilly forest, a 15-minute drive from the heart of Con Dao.
Unlike the daring monkeys in HCMC’s outlying district of Can Gio who snatch hats, handbags and food from tourists, the monkeys in So Ray are timid and have never been known to take visitors’ belongings except bananas, fruit or steamed rice offered to them.
Some of the larger monkeys are brave enough to sit by guests to chew fruit greedily but most of the animals take their food far away or climb up trees to enjoy their take-out to the fullest because they are fearful of their party being disturbed by other monkeys.
As usual, tour guides bring bananas when they take their guests to So Ray, which is located about 260 meters above sea level, to feed the moneys.
Tourists are also recommended to pack some food before they travel to So Ray to reward the monkeys who in return give them some memorable photos and film the animals skillfully peeling the banana skin before greedily swallowing it in a few seconds.
So Ray is not only a kingdom of monkeys but also a historical site where the French forced independence fighters and supporters to perform hard labor in the farms, including growing crops to produce food for their French rulers before 1945.
In 2002, the management of Con Dao National Park developed 20 hectares of endemic and rare trees to create a habitat and a source of natural food for wild animals such as black squirrels, long-tailed monkeys, lizards and other distinctive creatures of the island off Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.
A watch tower at So Ray is a supreme position for visitors to have an astonishing panoramic view of Con Dao Municipality and its turquoise sea and nearby beautiful islands. The sea breeze helps eradicate the tiredness away from trekkers after over an hour walking up to So Ray.
It usually takes half a day to visit So Ray for those who do not have much time. However, it is also worth giving this green area a little more time as besides feeding monkeys and the spectacular views, travelers can chat with forest rangers of Con Dao National Park and listen to their stories about So Ray and Con Dao of old. By Mong Binh in HCMC
Tourists observe a long-tailed monkey peeling the skin off a banana at So Ray
Long-tailed monkeys sit on a tree at So Ray
Con Dao and the sea viewed from the watch tower at So Ray – Photos: Mong Binh