I enjoyed a free Caribbean cruise with Carnival in exchange for sharing my experience. All thoughts and opinions remain my own, and the excursions we chose to join, like Pirates Birds and Monkeys on Isla Roatan, we paid for ourselves.
In Honduras, it can be a challenge to decide what to do when you leave the ship. There are so many different options, and as we do with every port, my family sat down together to review the Isla Roatan shore excursions and decide what we’d do. As we reviewed the options, hands down Pirates Birds and Monkeys was the winner.
I loved that the cost was relatively low at $54.99 per person (children and adults) and didn’t have us rushing back to the ship where we might then not be able to explore the port – and get our passports stamped – as my children enjoy doing. That and the ability to see and interact with wildlife that we don’t get to enjoy in Chicago made it a no-brainer. My parents also chose to join us for this excursion, as it is not overly strenuous and good for all ages.
The overall group from the cruise ship was divided into smaller groups of 10-12 and transported via small vans to the Gumbalimba Park that was far more vast and had more animals than I had expected. We stayed in our smaller group, which was a great way to experience the excursion without feeling overcrowded or shorted in any way.
The day we went – during spring break – was busy, and the park ran out of lockers where we start the tour. You cannot take anything larger than a small purse, and since you need towels and a change of clothes, plus sunscreen and more, prepare to pay $3 for a locker to store your items. For us, the original plan was to have us store our items in a different location gratis since the lockers we should have had access to were all being used. In the end, we placed our items in baskets just before visiting the monkeys and picked them up immediately afterwards, which worked out fine.
Even at the start of the tour, we could see and hear animals around us everywhere. Iguanas were climbing trees and skittering across the ground, unbothered by us unless children chased them. We could hear the birds calling, and our first stop was to see and hear a bit about the iguanas. In addition to the green iguanas, there were also gorgeous orange iguanas, and our guide shared great information and tidbits about them with us as we watched them sunning themselves in trees, enjoying a lunch of lettuce, and walking right through our group.
From there, we moved towards the promised Pirates Birds and Monkeys across a rope bridge that allows only 8 people on at a time. For those whose courage fails them when it comes to heights and bridges, there is also a path across, so this is not a requirement but was so fun to see a new vista and feel the gentle swaying. And of course, we could see turtles in the river below as we traversed the bridge.
Our group had intended to start with the pirate cave, but finding it occupied, our guide quickly moved us to visit the birds portion of Pirates Birds and Monkeys first. I appreciated the thoughtfulness of ensuring our experience was as positive as possible.
As we learned some about the birds, everyone in the group was invited to come and enjoy the parrot perched on our shoulders. Even my mom got in the act. The two small girls (maybe 3 or 4 year old twins) who were afraid of the bird but still wanted to be close to him were easily accommodated as the worker in charge of the bird tweaked the arrangements to allow their mother to hold them while he brought the bird near and enjoy capturing the photo they all wanted. Our group was not rushed, and everyone who was interested in interacting with the bird was able to.
One lesson we learned? The birds love berries, and if your hat has a red or blue button on top, the bird may become confused. The bird thought Little Miss’s button was food and went to work separating it from her hat. He was successful, but we were assured that the bird would not actually eat it (and thus suffer any ill effect). Sure enough, he spit it out shortly thereafter, and we were able to retrieve it.
The monkeys was our next stop on Pirates Birds and Monkeys, and I could have spent the entire day there, captivated by the monkeys. Though we were there for probably 20 minutes or more, I felt like we had barely any time there, most likely because I was so fascinated.
There were over 20 monkeys in this portion of Gumbalimba Park, with seven or so of them being exceptionally friendly and interested in interacting with us. This included a mom and baby who were absolutely adorable. Some families were tired and sat down on benches in the area, only to be surprised that monkeys immediately approached and started climbing on them. Others of us learned to place our hands near the monkey and let them scamper up to sit on our shoulders or heads.
Truly, this part was worth the price of the excursion all on its own.
The guides were informative from telling us about how the orange iguanas are all male and that this is not the color they have when born to informing us that this creature is actually a rabbit. Yes, a rabbit. There were two of these in the monkey area, and I had guessed a few animals it might be in my head, but I would never have come up with rabbit, as it doesn’t resemble the ones I’m used to – no long ears, etc. Watching is semi-hop along, however, I had to give credit to the guide. Their information along the way made the tour that much more interesting for everyone.
Visiting the pirate cave was what we had expected to be the end of Pirates Birds and Monkeys, but it wasn’t. In Coxen’s Cave, we heard not only about the history of piracy on Isla Roatan and learned about some of the weapons and legends and battles, but we were also able to gain a bit more perspective on the geography of the island from a gorgeous 3 dimensional map taking up most of the space on the floor of a room in the blessedly cool cave. (The day was warm and walking got us all fairly warm; we were glad to have brought bottles of water with us from the ship.)
It was fascinating, but from there we continued to the insectarium in the park, an unadvertised bonus. This was also an indoor area and appreciated for the cool temperatures to give us a break from the heat of the day. It is a single long room with insects behind glass in display after display. There were some absolutely gorgeous butterflies as well as hideous cockroaches and other nasties. It was fascinating to view, and this was the one area on our tour where we explored on our own without the guide providing a narrative.
At the end of our Pirates Birds and Monkeys tour, we returned to the starting point and were able to make a choice to either stay and enjoy the beach and/or pool until the last shuttle left to return us to the ship or to take earlier shuttles. We decided to stay, and the best was a blast. There were chairs available, some in the sun and some in the shade, at no cost. The water itself was not too rough, so we were able to swim and explore and enjoy ourselves. The beach was a natural beach and not one with pristine sand trucked in, which was just fine with us. We actually found some pretty shells and (dead) coral, which made the experience even more fun. This was a private beach populated with only those who chose to stay after the official part of Pirates Birds and Monkeys ended. It was peaceful and calm – and plenty of fun.
In fact, we had so much fun in the ocean that we ran out of time to enjoy the pool before heading back on our shuttle to leave Pirates Birds and Monkeys before our ship departed. It was a shame, as the pool was beautiful and had a neat design to it, as well. We’ll just have to check it out the next time we come….
While there were snacks and drinks available for purchase, we did not purchase anything while at Pirates Birds and Monkeys. We had brought our own water from the ship, and the excursion was early enough in the day for us that we had no issues waiting to return to the ship before enjoying lunch. The area with snacks and drinks also included other souvenirs for purchase for those who are looking to remember their excursion.
All in all Pirates Birds and Monkeys was a huge success. Yes, we interacted with the animals though I could have stayed longer with the monkeys, but another group was arriving to experience them as our time was ending. There were additional surprises that we didn’t expect from the insectarium to an overview of some of the local flora and fauna that I found fascinating. The cannonball trees with the “fruit” that not only looks like cannonballs, but when they are ripe and the fruit falls to the ground, it often makes an explosive sound.
This was an excursion I felt was well worth the money we paid, and the memories and photos we enjoyed (we were able to keep our cameras and phones with us to capture our own photos, with no professional photographer selling photos at the end of the tour) made Pirates Birds and Monkeys one we will treasure forever. Whether you are traveling to Isla Roatan, Honduras with Carnival Cruise or not, definitely check out Pirates Birds and Monkeys for an unforgettable day.