After doing all we could to apply for work online and calling a few people, Lindsay and I decided to take some time for sight seeing. She and I had been talking about going to see the Howler Monkeys located on Monkey River, south of Placencia, ever since we read about it in the cruising guide. We asked around and after negotiating a lower price, booked with Ocean Motion Tours. Nice guy. We were scheduled to meet at his office the next morning, October 13th, at 7:45 am.
We met our boat driver, Englebert Westby and promptly set off, just the three of us. We were in a fiberglass open hulled lancha about twenty feet long with the all important canvas bimini top and padded bench seats down the sides. We stopped at a local resort and picked up another man, who we found out later was Englebert’s Honduran friend and that he only spoke Spanish which mostly explained why he didn’t speak at all.We sped off South at about 30 mph down the smooth green water and followed the contour of the mangroves. Surprisingly enough, Englebert sped right into a very small gap in the mangroves and took us along a sheltered shortcut to Monkey River. We surprised a few cormorants inside the mangroves as well. Funny how they can’t fly very well while they are still soaking wet, and have to flap exaggeratedly fast and sort of run on top of the water! Silly birds.
We spotted lots of Osprays perched on top of dead trees in the mangroves. They were generally unphased by our noisy commute.
At one point, he slowed the boat to make some rather tight turns with mangrove roots on either side of the boat, and the branches lightly brushing the top of the bimini. I think he only slowed down to make sure no other boats were coming. He was definitely on it!
We popped back out of another narrow pass in the mangrove maze and we were again at sea. We recognized “No Name Point” from our navigational charts, and Big Monkey Cay. We were very close and arrived much sooner than we had planned for. Seems us sailors just can’t get used to the power boats ability to make lots of way.They water turned the color of coffee with cream as we went full speed over the sand bar at the entrance to Monkey River. There was a green sign, just like the American interstate highway ones, that read, “Welcome to Monkey River Town”. We already new it was hardly a town, more like a gathering of some houses between dense vegetation and beach. There were several local men, apparently tour guides and maybe some others with nothing better to do than to watch the tourists come in, sitting on the shoreline. We went ashore to meet our guide, and placed our lunch order at the restaurant for when we returned from the tour. Rice and beans, naturally. We both chose “with chicken” rather than “with fish”, which has turned out to be the safest choice so far while in Belize. If we have ever ordered something that can’t be cooked in the morning and left in a pot to wait to be served, we’ve been sorry. As it turns out, the lunch was quite nice, although twice as pricey as anywhere else. I guess they’ve got the captive audience thing worked out pretty well.
Upon boarding the boat and making our way upstream, our guide, Raymond did a fine job of pointing out local wildlife. Since many species prefer to remain in the same types of habitat, he knew right where to look. Lindsay also did a fine job of pointing out local wildlife and comparing it to the rainforests of Equador. It didn’t seem to bother Raymond at all.
We had a nice time and made a good friend in Englebert. In fact, we had dinner with him that very night.