Monkey Jungle, El Choco
If you like monkeys, and you visit the Dominican Republic, I highly suggest a visit to Monkey Jungle. This was really a highlight of our trip for Eve, who is clearly an animal lover by nature. Located within the mountainous El Choco area, Monkey jungle is situated on a 280 acre working farm which offers zip lining, beautiful views of the area and the opportunity to feed 25 friendly squirrel monkeys, and meet several rescued capuchins. All proceeds from tours at the facility fund an onsite medical and dental clinic where locals can have their needs met free of charge. It's a pretty amazing venture that you can read all about here.
We traveled by a cab who navigated a dirt road full of holes and bumps that twisted it's way through the jungle. The journey to and from these destinations is always so fascinating. It's an opportunity to see what life is like for rural island dwellers. Very simple shelters, laundry on the line, chickens and a whole lot of cattle. When we arrived, we were overlooking a lush green valley. Todd and Luke went to gear up and go on the zip lines. Eve and I enjoyed the view and hung out at the outdoor lounge/reception with a very friendly cockatoo, a lazy cat and a couple of beautiful macaws.
When the guys returned, the four of us got a tour of the Monkey Jungle. The guide told us all about the monkeys, how they came to the island (there are no monkeys native to the Dominican Republic), and some information on the clinics here. She told us to let the monkeys come to us, and never to touch or grab them in any way. The fruit, nut and seed mix we held in our hands and dishes was very well received - all 25 monkeys were present to jump all over us to get that food. I wasn't worried about Eve being scared because I know she is thrilled by the chance to meet furry creatures. Luke wasn't happy about it though, which I didn't expect. He didn't like their little fingers pulling at his hair (which is why I didn't get a good picture of him with the monkeys). The guide was very suprized by how the monkeys gravitated toward Eve, letting her gently hand them food into their tiny fingers. She said it's rare that a young child is so comfortable and unafraid. I was so proud of her. Two weeks later, she's still talking about those monkeys.
We met the capuchins in their separate sanctuary, and I have to admit, they didn't thrill me. I mean, one was named George but by the look on his face, I'd suggest "Furious George" might be a good nickname. These monkeys are off limits for physical interaction as they are strong and aggressive. It's worth noting that they are also rescued pets who were mistreated, sometimes for many years before making the sanctuary their home. Fascinating creatures with very human like qualities.
How did I feel about up to 3 squirrel monkeys sitting on my head, their little mini hands gripping my long hair? Well, I couldn't stop giggling about out. It felt ridiculous, like 3 little cats sitting up there. But I never felt afraid, and everything at the facility was clean and organized. I think this is the ultimate fun adventure for a family or anyone who loves animals. We had a fantastic day.