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BELIZE: Monkey Eco Tour

Today would be our day at Harvest Caye in Belize. For those that don't know what this is, it's a private area that was purchased and developed for NCL. 

We decided  to book this excursion with NCL. Normally we use this day as a "free" port day but wanted to do something a little more exciting. 

We headed over to the Marina, which is where our tour was going out of. 

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We are going on the Monkey River Eco Tour!

Here is the description from NCL about the tour:

  • 31/2 hrs Estimate Duration

  •  Family Recommended


Cruise the winding Monkey River, looking for wildlife in the surrounding rainforest, and then enjoy a hike with a naturalist that will explain the plants' medicinal uses.

After departing from the pier, you will soon arrive at a small village near the mouth of the Monkey River, where you will begin a leisurely cruise upstream. Along the way, the guide will provide enlightening commentary about the region's history, including how the economy boomed in the late 19th century when large volumes of bananas were exported.

Little evidence of that thriving time period remains, as the meandering Monkey River is bordered by undeveloped rainforest. Natural beauty and remarkably diverse flora and fauna are now the main attractions.

You can expect to see a variety of wildlife, including crocodiles sunning on the riverbanks, turtles popping their heads above the water's surface, and iguanas perched in the tree limbs. You might even spot a troop of black howler monkeys screeching in the forest.

Tropical birds are just as abundant along the river, especially wading birds such as herons, brightly colored tanagers and keel-billed toucans, the national bird of Belize. Toucans are easy to spot because of their large, colorful bills and how they croak like frogs.

Once you disembark, you will hike through the surrounding forest while the naturalist guide points out plants with medicinal qualities. For instance, leaves of the soursop are often brewed into a tea that reduces fever, and the wild yam has anti-inflammatory properties.

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Being able to see the howler monkeys in their natural habitat sounded amazing to us! The only time we have ever seen a howler monkey is in Aruba at Philips Animal Garden. There's only one of them and every time we go, we can't wait to see him and hear him howling. It's the highlight of our trip to the animal farm each time! So we were going on this trip mainly in hopes to see and hear the howler monkeys. Anything else would just be an added bonus. 

Our tour started at 12:30pm and meeting was at 12:15pm at the marina. It started getting crowded and they started naming off tours and also the ferry over to the mainland was there as well. 

When it came time to get on the boat, of course everyone wanted to be first to get a seat. When it came time for us to get on the boat, all the seats were taken that had a cover over it to stay out of the sun. We were going to have to sit in the blazing sun on the tour. Oh goodness! Now there were several families with small children. But those children were taking up a lot of space. If they would have just moved down some or put them on their lap, we could have had some shade. But, we were going to make the most of it. 

Then we seen that they were loading a second boat. Oh why didn't I just wait? Ugh

Then off we went. At least I had a good view without someone sitting in front of me.

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As we started the tour guide was telling us about the tour and what we might see and where we are going. These waters would have fresh and salt water mixed.

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We were winding in and out of the mangroves and I was snapping pictures along the way.

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Then the boat stopped. The tour guide was pointing up in the trees. What was it? I kept asking what it was. Everyone was looking. I didn't see anything. The guide took out his light pointer (green dot) and was pointing it up in the trees. It was very hard to see but it ended up being an iguana. 

I snapped a picture, but this is zoomed in and cropped. You can see his green pointer on the iguana's back.

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 We moved on. 

I seen something up i the trees that was big and I believe he kept saying they were  "Armidillo" nest. At least that's what it sounded like every time he said it. They were like big pods up there. 

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There were white birds up in the tree. I believe they were great egrets.

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There was neat foliage around the water with these puffy sprouts coming out of them. They were everywhere.

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We cruised on and managed to see a more noticeable iguana in the tree this time.

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We had been on the water and in the sun for, I guessing, 30-40 minutes, and I wasn't feeling too well. I was feeling overheated and a little dizzy and sick. I'm assuming it was because of the sun because I don't get sea sick on boats. 

About this time, the tour guide pulled the boat up to an area by a tree. They ask Sakari to come up to the front part of the boat and sit and ask her "Do you see anything?" She's looking around and nothing...

He pointed at the tree and said "What is that?" Again...nothing. I gasp and said "Oh, oh, oh, I know, I know!"

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They were bats lined up on the tree! These are called proboscis bats or long-nosed bats or sharp-nosed bats. They have short pointed tails and markings on their forearms. They always perch together in a line over the water along the river. They hunt for bugs flying over the water. They weigh less than an ounce. Unlike other bats, light does not disturb them and they roost in well-lit areas. 

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As we sat there, I was taking a video of them with the Gopro. I thought I had the camera turned on and they all flew away in a line. It was so cool. Only I would discover later that I had missed it all and had the Gopro turned off. Ugh!

At this point I was really feeling terrible. I got up and went toward the back of the boat in the shade. I couldn't take it anymore. There was a lady and her daughter that had been sitting on a box in front of where the captain of the boat drove. I sat there because they had went up front. I didn't care if I had to sit in the middle of the floor to be in the shade. The hubby was worried and brought over some water. I actually poured it on my face, hair, neck and arms. I needed to cool down. The lady and her daughter decided to stay up on the front. 

We continued on in the river.

Then we spotted a howler monkey! I heard the howl and I knew immediately! OMG! So neat!

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We pulled up to to where we were going to get off the boat and do our land tour. The other group made it there before us. 

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We docked and all piled off the boat. It was time for our walking tour and we all gathered together to listen to the tour guide explain what we were going to do along the tour. I had read many reviews prior to this tour and knew that all the complaints involved being ate alive by mosquitos. I was prepared. I brought my bug spray and we immediately applied all over. No one else brought any humph. Well, they would be sorry. 

He started telling us about these trees. This was called a trumpet tree. It is a fast growing evergreen tree and reaches up to 65 feet tall. It has fruit that can be eaten raw and it also has a medicinal use for numerous ailments for the liver, kidney, heart and hypertension. The branches are hollow and can be used as blow tubes or trumpets. The inner branches is used as a tough fiber used for socks, ropes and so on. The leaves can be used as sandpaper to build houses because of its rough texture and the trunk has latex used in rubber. Of course all the kids wanted to do was hang on them and shake them.

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As we walked on down, we immediately spotted a snake in the tree and not just any snake, A BOAT CONSTRICTOR!! Just hanging out above our heads. I couldn't believe it. Sakari managed to get some good pictures. 

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We continued along the path wondering what we would see next.

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We came across a small bush/tree on the ground and he said "Oh, here's a baby tarantula."  

Oh em gee! It was hiding in a leaf and we would have never seen anything like this on our own. 

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It was so pretty there with the extra large palms and greenery.

Hubby was taking pictures for me as well...just in case I had some kind of blooper along the way...because you know me at this point. Of course no pictures are complete without his finger in them (and trust me, there were a lot, including videos). 

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Hey, look a termite mound in the tree like we seen on our cave tubing excursion several times and actually ate the termites.  We did not get to eat any of these but let the guide know we had tried them before and he couldn't believe it and acted like he had never tried them. We told him they tasted like mints.

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We started to hear some guys (the group ahead of us) hitting a tree and making a whoop whoop sound and then all of a sudden we heard the howler monkeys. Oh my gosh...they were here! We were actually going to get to see them!

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We looked up in the trees and seen two large howler monkeys. This guy was peaking down on us.

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This one was taking a nap and laying sideways.

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Now I didn't manage to see it and neither did the tour guide, but Sakari was taking a video of them up there and at the corner of the video, she caught a baby one walking on the branches. So cute!

Another picture of the monkey, but not a very good one.

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The guys kept hitting the tree and making them howl. It was so fascinating but they were really far up there and really hard to see. I guess I had pictured something different. But at least we get to see them.

Our guide told us to head back and along the way I took more pictures of course.

I don't know what this blob was but it had some mushrooms growing on it.

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We stopped along the way at another tree. I can't remember what he called it or what it actually did but it had some type of purpose of healing your ailments.

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Sakari was snapping pictures along the way with her new phone.

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We came across a flower and the guide told us that it was used for eye ailments, such as conjunctivitis (pink eye) and you squeeze the juice from it in your eyes and it would heal it. The hubby said he sure could use some of that now. 

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It was time to head back to the boat. We honestly were not there very long. I expected to be on the "hike" much longer and take more time watching or listening to the howler monkeys. But he said it was time to go. The weird thing was, we didn't see any mosquito's at all nor did anyone get ate up. So I was surprised.

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Notice I got back in the boat and headed for the shade. I was not about to sit back out in the sun the boat ride back. We played musical chairs and the kids sat up on the front most of the way back. They had all became friends during this trip and was making plans to meet at the kids club that night. I remember when Sakari used to do that.

As we made our way along the water we spotted a bird called a Anhinga. This was a female. She was sitting on a branch with her wings spread out to dry them. These birds swim with their bodies partly (or mostly) submerged and their long, snakelike neck held out of the water. After swimming, they sit on branches or logs to dry out while holding their wings out and spreading their tails. He told us they cannot take flight again until their wings are dry.

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I spotted a white bird along the side. maybe a herron or something. He missed a lot of these birds so was unable to tell us the names.

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We didn't see any crocodiles, like others have said, but we did see a turtle. He ducked under water quickly as we went by so I was unable to get a picture of it.

We arrived at a little stop and were told that we could get something to drink or buy souvenirs there. They also had a bathroom. The hubby headed over to buy some pop and Sakari and I went to the bathroom. You have to pay $1 to use the bathroom there. Now I didn't go into the "store" but have seen people say that it looked like someone's house they were selling stuff out of. I don't know why I didn't think to take any pictures of the place. The hubby walked out with a prized possession in his hand and handed me something. It was a Belize coin. 

We only stayed for about 15 minutes and I started hearing howler monkeys again. They were across the water from where we were docked. I kept trying to get a video of them but the kids and the tour guide were talking the entire time and it was hard to hear anything. At one point I told the kids "Shhh, listen. You hear that? It's howler monkeys" I said with excitement hoping they would stop talking just long enough for me to get a video. But nope! Not today. 

The fishies swimming beside us:

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We gathered back in the boat and this time, I decided to play musical chairs again and switch seats...just to keep everyone on their toes. I mean there's not assigned seats and I liked to throw some fun into things every once in awhile.

On the way back, there were a bunch of the white birds in the trees. Again, no one pointed them out. No love for the white birds today.

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Coming up and around the ship they gave us the opportunity to take pictures of the beautiful Joy docked in port.

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The tour was over and I don't think it lasted quite 3 1/2 hours like it said. I'm just going to be honest, I don't think this tour is worth the price of $139/pp. The tour is the "monkey" eco river tour and I expected since it's named that, that would be the highlight of the tour and you would get to spend more time at the monkey island area. It was just so quick and you spend most of the time on the boat getting there and back. It's just not worth the money IMO. I had wanted to do the manatee excursion they had and had thought about adding that onto our list because I've always wanted to see them too but didn't want to chance not being able to make it back in time to catch this tour. I was now wishing I would have added that tour as well. But, there's a lot of people that really enjoy the monkey tour, so don't take my word for it. Maybe it's because we've seen all these animals before and heard all the stories of the trees and bushes and what purpose they have for medical use and so on. Sometimes it's just repetitive for us. As a new person that has never done it before, it probably is a little more exciting. 



Here is a video of our day.

Final Thoughts

Would I do this tour again? Nope. For the price you pay for the tour ($139 per person) it's just not worth it to me. You don't spend enough time at Monkey Island IMO. We did the tour to see the howler monkeys so you would think that would be the most time spent there, but it wasn't. We spent more time at the area they stopped to get drinks and souvenirs at than we did the island itself. We love hiking in the jungle and looking for animals, but it was such a quick walk in and a quick walk out and back on the boat. I took pictures when we first started and when we ended and it was a total of 20 minutes spent there (including the walk in and out). It was neat to see the boa and the tarantula and the bats but our guide didn't even point out all the birds we seen along the way or give any commentary about them. There's more time spent traveling on the boat than anything so just not worth the money. I'm sure if you've never seen these animals before, it may be thrilling for you, so form your own opinion. I do know that this tour is available if staying in Belize and that might be a better experience and maybe they spend a little more time on the island. I'm not sure.

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