For as long as I’ve known my wife, she has asked me for one thing and one thing only: a monkey.
To combat this ridiculous obsession I set reminders to watch documentaries on exotic pets smothering their owners. Not only do I get her an annual membership to our city zoo, but I also try to include visits to animal parks when we travel — all in the hopes to appease her monkey-ownership dream.
A few years ago, on a vacation stop in Roatán, Honduras, I acquiesced to go on a tour that included direct interaction with the primates, (secretly hoping one would poop in her hair, so I wouldn’t have to hear about monkey ownership again).
The build up was intense. We were given guidelines and forbidden to wear certain items of clothing, we were given a talk on what not to do, what signs to look out for to avoid an attack, and how to handle an emergency situation. She looked so scared, I almost thought we weren’t going to go through with it. But, there we were, five feet from the entrance of the monkey encounter and she was inching forward.
Once inside, a handsome white face monkey immediately took to her. They hugged and snuggled like old friends at last reunited. This made me wildly uneasy and, if I’m being honest, insanely jealous. I felt I needed to break up whatever was happening immediately because there was no way I was keeping a monkey in my tiny cruise ship cabin.
I extended my hands to grab the little sucker from her and the son of a bitch bit my finger. Hard.
Luckily, I knew not to pull away, but to push forward. A lesson learned from years of experience in interrupting yawns with my finger. Pro tip: If you ever get caught in the chomp of a yawning victim (or monkey), double down. Do not pull away.
When the monkey released my finger from its mouth, my wife had a look of deep concern. Here we were in foreign country and had just been bitten by a semi-wild monkey. But instead of coming toward me to help me check for blood, she reached for the monkey.
Then, to add insult to injury she told me to shake it off and to stand still so I could take a picture with the perpetrator.
The monkey left temporary crooked teeth marks on my finger. But, Roatán gave me an experience I’ll never forget.
I’ve returned a few times since and here are some additional places of interest:
On Land: Check out the Carambola Botanical Gardens or the Roatán Institute of Marine Sciences’ museum. Do your shopping at the West End Village, one of Roatán’s most popular areas.
Over/Under Water: Snorkeling here is about the best the Caribbean has to offer. Take a catamaran cruise along the coast and then dive into the crystal clear, warm water to get a close view of beautiful living coral and a large variety of tropical reef fish.
In the Trees: If you want your very own wildlife encounter (sans monkey love bites), head to Gumbalimba Park. The name Gumbalimba Park comes from a tree native to the island called, gumbo limbo.