Part 1…Our day trip adventure to the Monkey River and rainforest…

Looking like tourists, off we went on our adventure this morning.

Covered in bug spray, looking like tourists loaded down with a camera, binoculars, water shoes and swimsuits under our clothes, at 7:45 this morning we walked across the street to the pier at the lagoon to meet up with our well versed guide, Jason, born in the tiny community of Monkey River, an area rich in Belizean history and culture.
Along the way, we met a lovely couple, Ruth and Howard from Brooklyn, New York staying here in Laru Beya over the next several days, also participants in our planned outing which was arranged through the resort.  The cost per couple for the six hour expedition was $150.

After a high speed bumpy boat ride from the Placencia peninsula across the rolling Caribbean Sea to the mainland of Belize, we made our way to the Monkey River, a well known 10 mile long winding river literally amass with wildlife and overgrown vegetation. 

Vultures hovering in the trees along channel as we left Placencia.

By 9:30 am, we were docked at the pier in Monkey River to stop at “Alice’s Restaurant” to place our lunch orders, with a plan to return around noon for the included meal of stewed chicken, rice, beans and pan fried vegetables.  Moment later, we were off on our excursion of the river.

Tom in front of Alice’s Restaurant in Monkey River where we had lunch.
Inside Alice’s Restaurant in Monkey River.
Monkey River locals enjoying the day.
The gift shop outside Alice’s Restaurant.  Notice the conch shell border around the entrance.

Speaking mostly a combination of English and Creole, Jason was an articulate wealth of information possessing the eye of an eagle, quickly spotting every morsel for our excited attention to behold.  We saw all we could have hoped to see! 

Jason, our tour guide and Jess, outside Alice’s Restaurant.

Luckily, the day was overcast, less humid than normal, around 80 degrees making it a perfect day for our adventure.  With low expectations and a little apprehensive about the abundance of horseflies, mosquitoes and no-see-ums hovering around us in the boat, we slathered on the bug spray while bracing ourselves for what was yet to come.

Pair of dolphins we saw on the way to Monkey River.
Moments later, we saw another dolphin.

Jason slowed the boat as we entered the winding river, stopping frequently to point out crocodiles, many species of birds, unusual fish, families of the Black Howler Monkey known for their loud screeching.  Halfway through the four mile river journey, Jason pulled the old fiberglass boat up to a shore as we climbed out to explore a rough trail in the rain forest.

Dense vegetation along the Monkey River’s edge.
We lost track of the names of the endless variety of birds.
Immature Blue Heron are white prior to turning blue as adults.
Believe it or not, there were three Black Howler Monkeys hiding in this canopy in the rain forest.   We saw them move, heard them screech but so high above our heads, we couldn’t focus for good shots.

As soon as our feet hit dry land, Jason began banging his machete against a tree.  Curiosity brought out dozens of the black monkeys high in the trees to begin of earsplitting chorus of a sound unfamiliar to our ears, both annoying and entertaining at the same time.

Dozens of Black Howler Monkeys hovered in these trees.

It was difficult to take photos of the monkeys as it was of much of the wildlife, rapidly flitting around, shy of uninvited visitors.  They moved so quickly, staying buried in the leaves and branches of the enormous trees. 

After a time with our necks straining from looking up, Jason steered us deep into the rain forest along a narrow, head ducking, ankle turning, rock and vine covered path into a world neither of us imagined.

The entrance to Monkey River.

Magical sounds filled the air of creatures big and small, hidden out of sight protecting their young.  Over and again Jason warned us to look out for dangerous plants that were either poisonous or possessing needle like thorns difficult to remove once merely touched. 

We learned about medicinal plants for almost every imaginable ailment as we carefully lifted our feet over potential pitfall from burrowed holes from hidden creatures such as the blue land crab to termite nests to the dreaded red ants meandering across the forest floor.

Jason, his machete and Tom as he explained the medicinal uses of this tree that the locals call “The Tourist Tree” since it relieves the sting of a sunburn.

Bug spray in hand, we continually soaked ourselves, as flies, bugs and spiders presented themselves at almost every turn.  As Jason described some of the dangers in the rain forest I looked down at my water shoes and screamed a scream that must have echoes through the jungle.  I thought I saw an enormous black bug on my shoe.  It was a part of the laces.  We laughed after we all calmed down from my senseless scream.  See the photo below.

I can tell that Tom’s chomping at the bit as I write this!  Its time for me to shower and get ready to go to our now usual Tuesday night Mexican buffet at Habanero’s Restaurant across and down the road.  I’m hungry too looking forward to their wide array of meats, veggies and cheeses that I can enjoy along with the best guacamole in the world.

In the dark of the rain forest, as Jason is explaining the dangers, I looked down at my “worn for the first time” water shoes thinking that this black clasp was a huge black bug.I screamed scaring the daylight out of the five of us in our group.

Tomorrow is my 65th birthday. After grocery shopping for which Estevan will pick us up promptly at 9:00 am come celebrate with us, my first birthday on our worldwide journey, as we tell the “rest of this story” with lots more photos and stories about our day trip to Monkey River.