On our recent NCL Jewel cruise to Roatan, Belize, and Cozumel, we decided to book the Gumbalimba Animal Sanctuary excursion through NCL. We weren’t sure what to expect, but the reviews were good, so we took our chances and this excursion ended up being the highlight of our cruise!
Our meeting time for the excursion was not until 11:45. We left the ship early to explore the shopping area at the port. There were plenty of shops to choose from including Diamonds International, a Duty Free store, and a Harley-Davidson store, as well as many local craftsmen and artists. Our children enjoyed the local musicians and dancers that were performing as we exited the ship. The area also included a couple food and beverage stands, so we decided to sample the local beers while we waited for our meeting time and purchased a couple bottles of water for the kids to take with us on the excursion.
At 11:20 or so, we joined the line already forming in our meeting area. From there, they escorted us to the waiting vans. There was a bit of confusion getting our large party of 9 loaded on to the vans but they were quick to find a solution and we managed to travel together fully intact.
The excursion description said the drive to the sanctuary would be about 30 minutes. As our drive started up the mountain, through the lush tropical forest, I had flashbacks to an excursion in Jamaica where a “30 minute drive” took 90 minutes over a winding mountain road at 55 mph while dodging oncoming traffic on a one lane road… But this 30 minute drive was thankfully actually 30 minutes and there was a lot to see on the way there – beautiful houses, amazing ocean views, zip line courses, local schools and so much more.
Upon our arrival at the sanctuary, we were asked to store our belongings in lockers (there was a $3 fee for each locker, but one locker was plenty of room for two backpacks), encouraged to take a quick restroom break, and then we were off. Our guide Rudolph was wonderful. He was great at making sure everyone was engaged and he was hysterical and teased our daughters (in a very friendly way!).
Throughout our walk through the sanctuary, Rudolph encouraged us to be on the lookout – up, down, everywhere, as you never know where you might see wildlife. Our daughters were always on the lookout and were super excited when they were the first to spot an iguana, an anole, a parrot or many of the other creatures that call the sanctuary their home.
The tour of the park also included an insectarium, a Pirate’s Cave (with a short history of the island), and a suspension bridge over the river. It was an incredible view of the river and the animals that call it home, but if we return, our daughter will likely take the chicken walk instead.
Our favorite part of the excursion was the interaction with the monkeys. We were briefed on proper behavior, removed all glasses, hats, and anything else that the monkeys may try to steal, and entered the Monkey area. Almost instantly, more than 10 capuchin monkeys started jumping and climbing. The trainers were wonderful; they let us know which of the monkeys we could pet as some like it and some don’t, and they made sure that anyone who wanted a monkey to sit on their shoulder (or, often times, their head) was given many opportunities with multiple monkeys. Our daughters thought it was hysterical when the monkeys were using their sister’s head as a table to eat the peanuts the trainers were giving them.
After our tour concluded, we were lead back to the locker complex and given some time to shop. You can purchase your pictures on CD for about $12 per person, but they also allow you to take pictures with your own camera. As a party of 9, the CD would have been pricey, so we relied on our own photos instead. When we were finished shopping, Rudolph lead us back to the van to head back to the ship.
We didn’t know what to expect when we left that boat that morning, but we’re glad we took this chance and created one of the most memorable vacation moments we’re ever had.
Want a capuchin monkey to use your head as a table? Contact me today to plan your Caribbean Cruise! Email me at Amy@TravelWithTheMagic.com or you can find me on Facebook. You can also call me at 1-800-670-4312, ext 129. I can’t wait to plan your MAGICAL vacation!