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Rapid City, South Dakota
January 29, 2006
Having left Tobacco Key a couple days early, I had some time to wander. I decided to try the Community Baboon Sanctuary. I’m glad I did! Head north up the highway from Belize city on one of the frequent Northern Transport buses. Make sure to tell them you want off at Burrell Boom. Also ask the passenger next to you to let you know when you should get off. Once you’re off, you will need to catch a ride for the 13 miles from the highway to the sanctuary. It’s not as hard as it seems and you don’t have to be a regular hitchhiker to try it. I caught a ride with the second truck that drove by and he dropped me right off on his way. Using this tip will save you the $75 taxi fare!
Once at the sanctuary, go check in and pay $5 entrance. You can also pay for your camping fee (also $5). If you choose not to camp, there are a couple rustic places to stay, but they are $25 to $40. Also note, there is a dinky café on the property, but I was their only customer and they didn’t really know what to do with a vegetarian. I had to help them through it and it all worked out, but if I was going again, I’d bring my own food.The black howler monkeys (baboons) are across the road in the patch of trees you see there. Ask for a guide to take you the first time so he’ll be able to tell you when they are there. Then you can go whenever you want and find them. You will learn how to hand-feed them trumpet vines. A way to see much more wildlife and a lot more monkeys is to take the canoe trip they may or may not offer you. Ask for it—it is a major highlight of this trip. You can float gently down the Belize river for 3 hours looking at alligators, giant iguana, tons of birds, lots of monkeys in the trees, and peace and quiet like you’ve never experienced, all for only about $10. Now the trick: Getting back is not as easy as getting there. I stood out front on the road for over an hour waiting for a ride. It was totally desolate! Then I walked down the road a ways to a bus stop. There were a couple of guys sitting there smoking some pot, apparently waiting for something to pick them up, so I waited with them. Finally, a Mennonite family drove by and offered me a ride. The potheads warned me not to go with them. But I went anyway and had a very friendly time riding with them. They even not only took me out to the highway but all the way to the airport (about an hour drive). If you don’t get this kind of service, just wait at the highway for the bus back to Belize City and get on.
From journal Belize--3 Weeks on a Budget
April 20, 2005
First, let me state that you won't find any baboons here. The primates that live here are Black Howler Monkeys. The locals call them baboons and the name has stuck.
The sanctuary is located 26 miles west of Belize City. It's easy to come here by bus from the city, and the cost is less than $5. The route is scenic and the highway is in top shape.
The sanctuary was set up by zoologist Robert Horwich, who convinced local Creole farmers to give up a small piece of their farmland to protect the endangered howler monkeys. To date, 160 landowners have given up a piece of their land, and there now is a 20-square-mile buffer zone for the monkeys to roam free, breed, and not be threatened by the every growing farmland around them. It's a story that gives hope, and you wonder why it's not done in more places.
When you arrive, you will come to a small hut. You can buy your tickets here for $5. You can buy a cool drink or local crafts from the villagers. The fly swatters made from palm fronds are a popular purchase.
You are given a short talk on the monkeys and the sanctuary, and then you are turned over to a guide. We were lucky, as our guide was one of the local landowners and the manager of the sanctuary. He had a thick Creole accent and at first was hard to understand, but your ears quickly adapt.
We took a short walk in the forest and in no time met a troop of curious monkeys. The monkeys (with several babies) slowly climbed down from the tree tops. They were curious about us and reached out their small hands for a touch. It was amazing! This is not a zoo, and you truly felt like you were the honored guest in their world.
Next, we met a troop leader, a dominate male. Our guide called to him in monkey speak and he HOWLED back, telling us this was his domain. We soon understood where the name Howler Monkey came from!
We continued our hike and met a few more playful troops. Our guide showed us a lot of plants along the trail and knew remedies for everything, from warts to poison ivy to contraception! He was a true homeopath, with the jungle as his pharmacy.
Our hike ended much too soon. We had a few minutes more in the tiny gift shop and tried some wonderful lemon cake made by local ladies. We took our bus back to Belize City and were chattering in disbelief at all the howler monkeys we had met on our walk through the Belize rainforest! This side trip is not to be missed!
From journal Belize, Please!
December 9, 2004
Take the fly swatter, as this is a better mosquito repellant than the 75% DEET we had. When you see over 50 mosquitoes hanging off your guide's back, you start to panic.
Our assigned guide walked us across the street to a lane beside a house. He showed us the extremely interesting trail of leaf cutter ants. It was surprising, but the knowledge he had of the ants was more than enough to make me glad to be there-it was really cool.
As soon as we reached the trees, I immediately saw the monkeys. Two came swinging down to check us out. They were curious to see us too, but not in that obviously tame way. Our guide left to get some tasty leaves they like to eat, and I was left wondering if they were safe to pet or touch. I did pet the paw while I kept him entranced with my fly swatter. Our guide brought the leaves, which we fed to the interested monkeys. There were a few in the trees above that kept their distance from us. One of which was the alpha male. Our guide had the ability to "howl" at the monkeys and provoke them to howl back to defend their area. The sound was unbelievable coming from these cute soft animals.
We then walked around the rest of the sanctuary for maybe 15 minutes, looking at the plants and learning a lot about medicinal plants, etc.
This was one of the highlights of Belize. Even though you can see Howler Monkeys in the zoo, and you should go to the zoo, this experience is totally different and worth the "fly" bites.
From journal Jungle and Sea in Belize