Thursday, December 14, 2017

Pirates, Monkeys and Exotic Birds at Gumbalimba Park

For our stop in Mahogany Bay, Roatan Island, Honduras, we had originally booked a Carnival sponsored beach day excursion on Maya Key. Some of the bad reviews made us a little bit leery, but we figured that it would be the best excursion for everyone involved. Unfortunately, we got notified a few days ago that the excursion had been cancelled. We ended up booking the Pirates, Monkeys and Exotic Birds excursion. The bus ride from Mahogany Bay to Gumbalimba Park took about 30 minutes and ran through a number of little town along the twisty road. Once we got to the park, we were warned to put our large bags into a locker (rentable for the low low price of $3), as the monkeys had a tendency to unzip large bags in order to search them for food.

After a brief sales pitch about the animal photographers needed funds to help keep them in school, we started off on our walking tour. We were first treated to some history about the pirate, John Coxon. Coxon rose to fame with his attack on Santa Marta in 1677 where he kidnapped the local Governor and Bishop and plundered the town. He later captured a Spanish fleet at Panama which included many man-o-wars. His most legendary achievement, however, was capturing a pair of sloops using nothing more than an Indian canoe with a crew of about seventy. The town of Coxen Hole (tee hee) supposedly gets its name from Captain John Coxon and the time he spent operating out of the island of Roatan.

It's Like They're Having Their Own Little Meeting
Learning about Captain John Coxon was just the first part of the tour. We did a little hiking up to a point where a slaughter of iguanas were hanging out. Obviously, that's where the park staff choose to feed them, so the iguanas stick close in order to get fed. They've got a lot of green iguanas which are "actual" iguanas in that they're of the genus Iguana. Gumbalimba Park is also home to a number of black iguana, which are in the same family as green iguanas, but are different genus and species. Unlike green iguanas, black iguanas can and will eat meat. I don't believe that Gumbalimba Park is home to the other member of the Iguana genus, the Lesser Antillean iguana. Once you're past the feeding ground, you'll notice random iguanas throughout the rest of the park.  

Just past the iguana feeding ground is a long suspension bridge that looks incredibly scary. For people who aren't up for the challenge, there's a much more stable "chicken" bridge. My family and I faced our fears and went over the suspension bridge. I kept thinking of that scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where Indy cuts the rope bridge in half. I was tempted to say "Shorty! Chau chi lan tsu tsa tsa!" to my daughter, but I knew she shouldn't get the reference.

After a little more hiking, we came to the bird sanctuary where we got to hold macaws and parrots. Trainers are there to balance the birds on your head, shoulders, and/or arms so that you and your friends can take as many pictures as you like. There's also a photographer on staff standing by to take pictures in case you didn't bring a camera yourself. The birds are pretty docile, so no worries about one going all Alfred Hitchcock on you. Although, one of the birds on my shoulder nibbled on my sunglasses, and one squawked loud enough to scare my youngest boy to tears, but no harm done. We got as much time as we wanted with the birds and then we hiked on to the monkey area.
"Take Your Daughter To Work Day"

The white faced capuchin monkeys that live in Gumbalimba Park are cute but ornery. They apparently don't really "live" in the park, they just come there to get fed by the trainers for sitting on the shoulders of tourists. They essentially "work" at the park. Kinda makes them seem even more human. They are trained to sit on the shoulders of the tourists who come into the area and usually receive a treat from their trainer for doing so. The monkeys also gently dig through the hair of tourists looking for bugs to eat. They certainly find them on occasion.

There are trainers at various points in the area who will coax a monkey into jumping onto your shoulder so that you can have your picture taken with one, but, if you just wait around long enough, one will eventually just jump onto your shoulder. As cool as interacting with a monkey is, it's not near as awwww-inspiring as seeing the female monkey walking around with her baby on her back. I had figured that  getting close to a momma monkey carrying her baby would be a huge no-no as it would cause the mother to become defensive. However, I soon saw the momma monkey on the shoulders of a tourist compete with her baby on her back. Those are some well trained monkeys.

The insect museum is probably the lamest area of the tour. They probably shouldn't end with it. I had been hoping that it would be something more like an insect preserve with actual live insect colonies. Once the tour is over, you're free to walk around the park, head back to the monkey and/or bird area, or head over to the beach, pool or mini-restaurant. I had heard that the beach was practically infested by locals hawking souvenirs, and, as we sat in the restaurant area eating, I could see a group of them waiting for the next tour group to hit the beach. We had considered going to the beach, but, by the time we were done with our tour, it was time to head back to the ship.

All in all, we had a great time at Gumbalimba park. The price was more than reasonable for the good time that we all had.

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