One port we visited on a Caribbean cruise last year was Roatan in the Bay Islands, Honduras. Since you often only have one day in each port we try to choose our excursions carefully. We read reviews from other travelers as well as the "canned' descriptions from a travel agency or cruise line. One such shore excursion brought us to Gumbalimba Park, named after the tough resilient Gumbalimba tree that grows here, so hardy that if you cut off a branch, a new tree can sprout from it. One way Gumbalimba Park is unique is you can get close and personal with the local creatures and that is the focus of this article. Okay, I have to throw in at least one photographic pun or reference, right?
As in almost any tropical destination, Iguanas were all around. Some were easy to find while others were only found if you searched hard through trees and vegetation. I learned that Iguanas can communicate with members of their species non-verbally using their body language which was fascinating.
There are Macaws and Parrots flying around freely at Gumbalimba. Some of them are rather large and many don't mind mugging for the camera either! The handlers can prompt them to fly over and land on you which is pretty cool. I had one make a gentle kind of purr right in my ear that sounded reallly neat. I'm grateful it wasn't their full on shrill call because it may have rendered my hearing useless for a bit. Using a long lens I was able to get some nice portraits of these majestic birds.
There was an exhibit area with displays showing some of the various fauna indigenous to Honduras that ranged from vividly colored butterflies to things that, well.... downright creeped some folks out. This giant of the insect world pictured above is the Elephant Beetle. The hand is there for scale so you can see how large they are! They are mainly nocturnal and feed on the tree sap and bark or certain trees and also on ripened fallen fruit like pineapples. How would you like to wake up with one of these crawling on you?
The Capuchin Monkeys are pretty tame at the park. The guides give you ample warning about their curious behavior and that they are skilled at picking pockets and getting into purses, camera bags, backpacks...etc. I almost always have a lens cap in my pocket and a guide told me the monkey will get it before you even knew he reached in your pocket. Basically, all gear goes on lockdown or placed in a safe monkey free zone. As much as I wanted to interact with them, at the same time I vowed that no monkey would be taking my pricey camera from the vice-like grip of my hands, that's for certain! They will let you pet them and they like hanging around on your head or shoulders. One perched on my head and fiddled around with my ear for a bit. Another laid across our laps so we could pet it.
Not all reviewers gave raving reviews of the Park, but I think some tourists are almost impossible to please half of the time. A bonus for this particular day trip was a few hours at the Beach adjacent to the park. All in all, I'd say this was a good trip and definitely worth bringing the camera! Until next time... cheers