MY DREAM CAME TRUE!
Reviews of bucket-list-worthy things to do all over the world

Wild Monkeys!

For years, I dreamed of traveling to Costa Rica to see wild monkeys. When a friend who shares my love of animals agreed to go to Costa Rica with me, I was thrilled.

On our first full day in Monteverde, Costa Rica, we grabbed breakfast and started walking from our hotel, the Trapp Family Lodge, toward the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. I'd read that the preserve was a good place for spotting monkeys.

Along the road, we saw some tourists with their guide. They had set up a telescope and were focused on the tops of some roadside trees. Before we could ask what they were looking at, I heard someone say, “Howler monkeys!” We looked into the treetops and saw monkeys jumping and climbing gracefully from tree to tree, rustling the leaves and branches. I had never seen trees look so alive!

When the monkeys moved on, we continued walking up the road to the entrance of the preserve. We paid our admission and signed up for a guided tour. Even though we didn’t see a single monkey during our tour, we felt we had gotten our money’s worth when our guide spotted, and showed us with her telescope, a male Resplendent Quetzal, a blue-green bird with long tail feathers, a bright red breast, and a crest of feathers on his head.

When our tour was technically over, back at the visitor’s center, we saw people watching a group of howler monkeys in the trees near the gift shop. Our guide obligingly set up her telescope and we studied their furry faces. When the monkeys took off into the preserve, my friend and I followed them. For almost an hour, we raced from footpath to footpath, watching the monkeys as they zipped through the trees above us. Eventually, they went off where no footpath could take us.

During our travels around Costa Rica, we had a second chance to see wild monkeys in La Fortuna, Costa Rica when, on a taxi driver’s recommendation, we spent an afternoon walking the trails of Reserva Privada El Silencio, not far from the Tabacón Resort.

After hours of searching, we found a large group of spider monkeys. We might not have spotted the monkeys if it wasn’t for a group of tourists with their guide standing on the trail below them. Suddenly, a monkey ripped off a tree branch and dropped it on some of the noisy tourists. They let out a shriek and their group moved on. My friend and I stayed behind to watch the monkeys quietly. One monkey looked at us with, what seemed to be, curiosity. Slowly, he moved closer and closer, until he was only about 20 feet away. He watched us intently for a while before pulling a leaf from the tree, eating it, and then disappearing into the canopy.

Another magical moment came when we stopped to listen to the soft rumbling of Arenal Volcano. We had just heard some rustling in the trees above us, so we knew there were monkeys nearby, but we couldn’t see them through the thick canopy. Suddenly, a male howler monkey let out a few seconds of vocalizations so loud that he sounded as if he were standing on our heads. With no cages or bars between us, it was truly awe inspiring!

I did this in 2007 in Monteverde (and La Fortuna), Costa Rica.

Jen (California, USA)