I must confess… I love monkeys. Ever since I was little, the smart creatures have fascinated me. Today, I came within 3 feet of howler monkeys grazing in the trees on the banks of a river in the Refugio de Vida Silvestre.
Our day started before the clock struck six and we just barely made the train that takes tourists to the refuge’s visitor center. The open-air train is a remnant of Standard Fruit Company’s prominence in bananas. The train bumped and squeaked passed the houses of people in the middle of their daily lives. Freshly washed clothes danced in the morning breeze. Breakfast smoke glided out of chimneys. A child spit toothpaste water at us. After the 30-minute train ride and a brief negotiation, our group sped away in a boat to see scorpions, iguanas, toucans, bats, spiders, baby crocodiles, and of course howler monkeys. Our guide skillfully navigated our small eight-person boat into the various tributaries of the river. He seemed to have x-ray vision and spot fauna with uncanny expertise.
On our way back to the visitor center, I pointed out a group of monkeys just to our left. The guide backed the boat up and we slowly advanced close enough to watch the female monkeys enjoy their breakfast. They acted as if we didn’t even exist. The males on the other hand kept their distance and let out some monkey expletives to ensure that we kept our distance.