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Monkeys and Parrots and Sloths…Oh, My!

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m verrrrrrry picky about animal encounters, and as I learn more and more, I’m becoming increasingly critical. With the availability of information and reviews online, there is just no reason to frequent an exploitative inhumane tourist trap. I’m especially skeptical of attractions with animals in captivity or experiences in which the animals are made to perform or interact with humans, and you should be skeptical, too. Please do your research!

All of that said, I have only great things to report back about Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout in Roatan, Honduras! As soon as I heard about the opportunity to hold a sloth, I instantly started doing research to see what I could find out about this rescue sanctuary in French Harbour. I was pleasantly surprised to read good reviews, so Chris and I decided to check it out on our trip.

We specifically chose a day in which no cruise ships would be in port. (To get the cruise ship schedule information, just search the port name and “port schedule” and you can usually find a calendar online.) Only a couple of other guests were visiting the same time we were there, so we were treated to immediate entry with no wait, and we met a sloth named Patricia first thing!

The animals in the sanctuary are all rescue animals that were previously kept as pets, with the exception of some animals that were born in the sanctuary. Patricia seemed happy and relaxed, and our guide explained that the staff monitors and rotates the animals to ensure that they are never agitated or stressed out from being handled. Additionally, if none of the animals are in the mood to be held, then none of the animals will be forced to interact, so this does mean that it’s possible that a guest won’t be able to hold a sloth on any given day. I wholeheartedly approve of this policy!

We lucked out with super sweet Patricia, who didn’t seem to mind a quick snuggle. Our guide instructed us to remain still like a tree, and he very gently placed Patricia in our arms. She willingly hung on and chilled with both of us. It was such a cool experience!

This is Syd, who we found at ground-level one moment (they have some freedom to roam)…

…and then spotted again overhead not too long after! I learned that sloths are quicker than I previously thought.

After observing a raccoon and a coati too high up to photograph, we headed over to the monkey enclosures. We waited patiently as the guests ahead of us visited with a couple of capuchin monkeys, since only a couple of people are allowed inside at once. When it was our turn, I politely declined to enter since we were planning to go out to lunch afterward (and I don’t know if it happens often, but with my luck I would have been peed on). Chris bravely took the risk and met a playful monkey named Pauly D. I took photos and video from the other side of the wires, and I’m happy to report that Chris was not a pee victim.

Lastly, we visited some incredibly gorgeous Scarlet Macaws and parrots. While I don’t know much about sloths or monkeys, I do know a bit about birds and I can attest that they all seemed perfectly healthy and happy. Their aviary was clean and spacious, like all of the other enclosures in the sanctuary. The parrots were brightly colored with smooth feathers, relaxed and friendly, and free from signs of distress.

Based on what I could gather from research and my own visit, this sanctuary definitely gets my stamp of approval. The establishment seemed humane and ethical, impeccably clean, and the animals are well cared-for by knowledgeable, devoted staff. I’m curious about how the place feels on a busy cruise ship day in high season, but I suspect the caring staff are able to manage the crowds and keep the animals’ best interests at heart. I’m comfortable recommending a visit to this unique experience! We drove ourselves from the east end and purchased tickets at the entrance for $10 each, but this excursion is often included in various tour packages on the island and through the cruise ships.

After our tour through the Hangout, Chris and I headed to a nearby restaurant in the French Harbour for lunch. I hope it’s not totally weird that I got a little soapbox-y about my concern for animal ethics and now I’m showing you that we went to town on some ceviche, King Crab, and coconut shrimp. Our lunch at Gio’s was so fantastic, albeit a bit pricey. We ate fairly modestly throughout the week, so this was our last-day-of-vacation splurge. This was actually my first time trying King Crab and it did not disappoint!

Up next on the blog: tales of my first time bringing a drone into another country!

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Island-Hopping the Bay Islands of Honduras

Staying on the island of Roatan gives visitors the opportunity to easily explore other isles in the Bay Islands. The archipelago is made up of three large islands, Utila, Roatan, and Guanaja, and also several smaller islands including Santa Elena, Barbareta, Morat, and, Cayos Cochinos.

Chris and I jumped at the opportunity to do some island hopping while on Roatan, first with local guide Mr. Johnny who picked us up in his motorized canoe for an off-the-beaten-path experience through the mangroves forest.

We passed along the familiar shoreline until the trees changed shape into those of mangroves with long, thirsty roots. Mr. Johnny expertly maneuvered the canoe into an extremely narrow opening in the forest where we navigated through a cut just wide enough for the boat.

Mr. Johnny taught us about the plants and animals indigenous to the mangroves forest all while paddling and simultaneously ducking as we glided along smoothly under the forest canopy. The mangroves roots were close enough to touch and I wondered how we didn’t get stuck! Mangrove fun-fact: they are salt-tolerant trees that have adapted to life in harsh coastal conditions.

Once we found our way out of the mangroves maze, Mr. Johnny pointed us to a tiny island on the south side of Roatan. We had a pretty beach to ourselves along with a view of a sunken fishing boat near the reef. In my excitement to go on this tour, I grabbed our snorkels and fins, but completely forgot to bring our dive masks. Snorkeling fail!

For our final stop, we explored the shore of Santa Elena to do some beachcombing – I love looking for seaglass and special shells or rocks. It was the perfect ending to a fun and informative tour around the islands.

Speaking of special rocks, our Camp Bay neighbor, Chrissie, recommended a trip out to Barbareta to see Jade Beach where we would likely have the beach all to ourselves (our favorite kind of beach). Another fantastic local guide, Hanford, whisked us away in the Little Jeyni for a quick ride along the coast heading east toward our destination, Barbareta.

Miles of unspoiled beaches, lush tropical forests, and a huge stretch of reef make up a marine national park on the privately owned island of Barbareta. We arrived on the shore of Jade Beach where we were greeted by armed guards protecting the perimeter of the park. My understanding is that visitors are allowed to spend time on the beach or in the water, but may not go into the forest in order to protect the island’s parrots and other wildlife.

We snorkeled to our hearts’ content to find some of the most healthy reef we’ve seen to-date. Oddly we didn’t see tons of fish, but we were impressed with the abundance of colorful corals. Chris was on underwater camera duty this day since I was having major equipment issues (new mask, not impressed with it!) so the photo credits on these stunning reef photos go to him.

We walked the length of the beach a couple of times to find the best pieces of natural jade stone. I probably could have filled our suitcases with the beautiful stones, but I made myself settle on just one to bring home. Okay, okay, I brought two pieces home – one is much smaller and I’m hoping I can have it made into a pendant for a necklace.

After snorkeling we worked up quite an appetite, so we were thrilled to enjoy such an amazing lunch at one of Hanford’s relative’s house on Santa Elena. Geraline (I hope I spelled that right!) served a huge home-cooked spread for us and it was one of our favorite meals of the trip.

If you’re on Roatan and especially if you’re staying toward the east end, don’t miss the opportunity to do some island-hopping with Mr. Johnny and Hanford! At the time of writing this blog article, I don’t have contact info to post for Mr. Johnny’s mangroves tour, but just ask around – he is well-known, and if you’re staying in Camp Bay he will be easy to find. Hanford can be contacted here. Happy exploring!

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Off the Beaten Path in Camp Bay, Roatan

You know when you find an unspoiled, incredibly special corner of the world and you sort of want to keep it a secret, but you know you probably should share it so as not to be a completely selfish human being? Camp Bay, Roatan is one of those places. Chris and I fell pretty hard for it, so I’m doing the right thing and spreading the word about this Caribbean gem.

While the west side of Roatan is a popular Caribbean cruise destination, Chris and I generally love to get away from the crowds and find spots that are less developed for tourism. So once we honed in on the idea of visiting Roatan, we looked away from the cruise ship ports to see what else we could find. I discovered information about Camp Bay and immediately decided we should head all the way east on the island to find our peaceful paradise. Plus, once I saw photos of a villa called Living Waters, I was sold. You’ll see what I mean.

During my trip research I read several mentions about how tricky it is to drive to the east end, but Chris and I are always up for a bit of adventure. Undeterred, we decided we would rent an SUV and hit the road toward the more undeveloped part of the island.

The roads were indeed bumpy since they are unpaved about 1/3 of the way, and even the paved roads are a bit of an obstacle course with some pretty serious potholes, but we took it slow (there’s no need to hurry on island time anyway!) and we had zero issues getting to and from Camp Bay.

Once we arrived, my jaw hit the beautifully tiled floor of our home-away-from-home for the week. If you’ve been following our travels, you may have noticed that Chris and I usually tend to favor staying in a private home rather than a resort or hotel. Living Waters ended up being our favorite villa to-date!

On top of being spoiled with such a fantastic house in a stunning location, it never rained once during our entire stay. As many times as we’ve endured some pretty bad weather situations while traveling, I’m truly grateful for these trips where it all goes off without a hitch.

(I hope I’m not jinxing ourselves for next time.)

When we weren’t in the pool listening to our beach mix playlist and enjoying a cold drink from the comfort of a pineapple-shaped float (how is that for an idyllic relaxation combo?!), we made use of the kayaks to paddle ourselves around the crystal clear waters behind the house. Kayaking here was one of my favorite activities of the week!

Chris also did some snorkeling near the house. We originally intended to take the kayak all the way out to the reef (you can see it in the distance in the picture below, where the water breaks into a small bit of white) and do some snorkeling there, but the lure of lounging by the pool overtook our desire to do anything strenuous. I’m sure you can understand. And besides, mid-week we were treated to a boat ride right up to the reef on another island for some really great snorkeling – more on that in an upcoming post!

If I haven’t fully convinced you to take a trip to Camp Bay yet, take a look at Camp Bay Beach.

Did you book your plane tickets yet?!

If a private villa isn’t your cup of tea, Camp Bay Lodge is situated a few lots down from where we stayed. The rooms look comfortable and charming, and the Lodge offers kite surfing lessons! We ran out of time to try it, but after watching the surfers behind the house all week, we decided we want to go back and give it a go (but we’ll definitely be staying at Living Waters again). Camp Bay is also home to Dive Pangea, owned by one of the nicest women you’ll ever meet, Chrissie. If you’re into scuba diving, I implore you to get yourself out to the east end and dive with her! She is a wealth of knowledge about the island and the reef.

Unspoiled beach, tranquil accommodations, and adventure in the form of water sports – what else do you need? Food? The east end of Roatan has that, too.

We did a big grocery store trip in at Eldon’s in French Harbour before arriving to the house so that we could eat several meals there, but we went out to eat several times, too. A few steps down the beach sits La Sirena, where you can drink the best rum punch on the island while watching the sun set.

After a short drive along the main road one evening, we found ourselves at The Crow’s Nest in Coxen Hole for delicious margaritas inspired by local flavors including island plum and mango. Anywhere I can feel like I’m in a jungle treehouse enjoying good food and drinks is fine by me!

And in sticking to our tradition of finding food with a Mexican flare while traveling (seriously, we end up eating Mexican food pretty much anywhere we go), we hit up Temporary Cal’s Cantina for some fish tacos. Cal’s is located mid-island and it took us over a half-hour to get there, but we’re always willing to drive a distance for chips and salsa.

We ended our week with a spectacular King Crab feast at a French Harbor restaurant, but more on that in a future post. And all of that is to say we didn’t go hungry by situating ourselves in Camp Bay. We never felt isolated (at least not in a bad way; we did feel blissfully far from the crowds), or like we couldn’t get out and explore.

Need more ideas for what to do around Camp Bay? Before you think we just sat around in these hammocks all week, up next is a post about our adventures on neighboring Bay Islands!

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Photo Friday – Hello

Chris and I recently returned from an incredibly relaxing trip to Roatán, Honduras and while I’m still sorting through the photos and video clips, I thought I’d post this little gem. I had this image idea in my head ever since I saw a photo of the beach outside our rental villa. I purchased a donut floatie to bring with us, and one morning we arranged the shot and I sent the drone overhead to capture our message to the world. Lots more photos and stories from our time in Honduras coming soon!

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Moving Pictures: The Maldives

When Chris and I visited The Maldives last year, I didn’t intend to put together a little video of our trip and therefore I didn’t film much, and I certainly didn’t put a lot of effort into the clips I did take. But this past weekend I was reminiscing about the trip and looking through photos, and I realized I had a few decent shots that I could string together in a very short montage. So without further ado, here it is!

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