This doesn't allow much sleep or chance for further recovery. This is sort of what I signed up for, though. What didn't help was that I woke up at about 2 AM and was unable to fall back asleep, probably because my muscles were overly sore from incorrectly sleeping on my side. Going into the first day with sore muscles is not so hot. Once 5ish rolled around, I got myself up and began to prepare. Turns out I had way too much time. Half hour or less would be just fine... and then it would be off to the sleep site.
What a baboon researcher generally does is follow the baboons around for several hours and record their behavior. The time can get rather empty when the baboons aren't doing what you want or just aren't doing much at all, so I was able to get plenty of pictures.
We followed the baboons from their original sleeping site, through fields, across streams and a marsh, through some pine trees, over another field, to where they would sleep the next night. Hopefully these areas won't get old too quickly.
The day before was a major South African holiday; apparently South Africa recognizes even more holidays than the People's Republik of Massachusetts. Its little wonder, given how recently Apartheid was abolished, the new government and culture feels the need to celebrate the advances and changes that have been made in the past 20 years. And who can blame them?
In the states, we like to hold bar-be-ques as celebrations and are ingrained into the festivities of some of our holidays. South African's love their bar-be-que. They even have a special name for it: braai. The word means "roast" in Afrikaans, and is a very good word to know, apparently. Use it, and you will make them happy.
So, lots of South Africans went out to the park picnic grounds to celebrate Heritage Day. The baboons would wander through the exact same areas a day or even hours later.
That's the way of working with "urbanized" baboons. People can create effects over hundreds or years or just a few days. There are significant benefits, however. You can meet some very interesting people when you're not all alone in the bush with the animals. Plus, the baboons are powerfully habituated, so they're not afraid of us researchers at all.
Which brings me back to a question I was asked by several individuals before I left. I told them that by my guess, that the absolute closest I would be able to get to the baboons would be 10 meters.
I was mistaken. These baboons will let you within a foot of them. We try as hard as we can to stay 10 meters away, but that won't stop them from walking right up to you, past you, or starting a fight all around you. You just have to do your best to stay out of the way, get out of the way, and be as invisible as possible.
But it's a pretty good deal.