Monday, September 21, 2015

Squirrel Monkeys & More At Monkeyland!

Carlos, the alpha male squirrel monkey at Monkeyland Punta Cana
Everybody, and I mean everybody, loves squirrel monkeys. Even prior to ever having met a squirrel monkey, I knew that they were supposed to be one of the most friendly creatures in the planet, on top of being adorable! When I found out that I would have the opportunity to not only meet and interact with these adorable critters, but also to become immersed in the culture of the Dominican Republic, I knew I had to take advantage of it! As such, while visiting Punta Cana this past spring I took a half-day trip with Runners Adventures.

This day trip started out at Monkeyland. Exactly as it sounds, Monkeyland is the home of the squirrel monkeys! In addition to being home of the monkeys, Monkeyland also features a botanical garden, where you are able to learn about plants and flowers that are native to the Dominican Republic. The entire property is spread out over 5 acres, and is located right in the heart of the forest.

I'll be honest, I was a little uneasy about this trip after my previous experience with elephants in Thailand. I did tons of research on Monkeyland prior to visiting, and my visit not only met my expectations for the safety and care of the animals but far surpassed them! I was so happy to interact with the staff and learn how much they cared for and really loved animals. Gwen and Mike, a Canadian couple who are the primary caretakers of the monkeys, have a combined experience of over 35 years spent caring for animals, with 12 of that being spent at the Toronto Zoo. Throughout the entire experience, it was so easy to see how much they truly cared for and loved the animals!

Once the entire tour group has arrived and viewed the botanical garden, you are instructed to remove any loose jewelry (the monkeys will love it and snatch it!) prior to entering the garden. Each person is given a 'snack bowl' full of nuts and fruits for the monkeys. After some brief instructions, it is time to enter!

I think this one speaks for itself!
Upon entering the enclosure, any children in the group are able to sit down in the prime location of the tour: right on a bench near several low-hanging branches. Slowly, the squirrel monkeys came out of hiding and began grabbing little bites of food from each of the children. This was a great way to get the children involved and super excited about the trip, and also to slowly bring the monkeys out of hiding and get them running around with everyone.

After some time with the children, we meandered along a path that had several great stopping points where various squirrel monkeys could come out and interact with us. They were all so friendly, and it was clear that they loved the attention and interaction with humans! While strolling through Monkeyland, Gwen did a terrific job of telling us stories about the monkeys and really educating each person in our tour group on the life of the monkeys.

I kept watching the monkeys, not looking at the camera...oops! 
One of the great things we learned is that contrary to popular belief, squirrel monkeys actually have a longer lifespan living in semi-captivity (like at Monkeyland) than if they are living in the wild. This is because there are no predators that attack the young, old, or sick monkeys. At Monkeyland, the semi-captive environment is more than enough for the current squirrel monkey population- the 5-acre property could easily accommodate at least 2-3 times the current population of the squirrel monkeys.

"Hey, what you looking at?!" is what I pictured this guy saying!
One of the very interesting stories we heard was the interaction between Carlos, the current alpha male of the pack, and a younger, 3-year old male monkey who was just coming to maturity. As the alpha male, Carlos sensed that this other male squirrel monkey (I forget his name!) may one day be competition. As such, Carlos actually began bullying this other guy and almost beat him to death. Fortunately, Gwen and Mike realized what was going on and stepped in, bringing this other guy to a separate enclosure and saving his life. They currently have plans to create a full-sized secondary enclosure and allow this guy to create his own pack!

Carlos striking a pose- such a show off!
"Ooh, wait, get my good side!"
Snack time!
In any case, the monkeys were so adorable, friendly, and each of them had such unique personalities. The alpha male, Carlos, was definitely a show-off! You can see several pictures of him here strutting his stuff and showing off for us (and the female monkeys!) When we visited at the end of April, it was nearing the end of mating season, so Carlos was in full show-off mood. It was very interesting to learn that specifically for mating season, the male monkeys will bulk up- you can see how much larger and muscular Carlos looks versus any of the other monkeys!

Maria's house
After our trip to Monkeyland, it was on to visit a traditional Dominican farm. The farm featured Maria and her family. While visiting Maria, you will have the opportunity to see a coffee and cocoa plantation, as well as tasting each of these products and some fresh Dominican fruit. At the end of this tour, you will have the opportunity to see Maria's house and how a typical Dominican family lives. This was a great experience to be immersed in the culture and get off the beaten, touristy path a little bit!

Working with the cocoa beans!
Overall, this excursion is an ideal excursion for families. The squirrel monkeys are a hit not only for the children, but also for any animal-loving adult! Visiting the farm and Maria's house is tailored more towards adults, but each of our guides did a great job of trying to include the children and keeping them interested.

A couple pieces of advice for this tour. First, definitely consider combining Monkeyland with Ziplining! The drive can be a long, bumpy one, and the two activities are located close to each other. In addition, make sure that you eat breakfast prior to this trip. It can get to be a long one, especially if you are hungry! I didn't have much of an opportunity to eat breakfast prior to Monkeyland but had fortunately brought with a snack, and it certainly saved the day! If you are visiting Punta Cana, either as adults or with a family, this is absolutely one of the best things to do!

**disclosure: I received a complimentary tour in order to facilitate this review. As always, this did not affect my review in any way and all opinions are my own and 100% honest!**

No Comments Yet, Leave Yours!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my blog! I truly appreciate and will take the time to respond to each of your comments. Please, do not post links unassociated with my content as they will be deleted.