Tag Archives: monkeys

Belize Zoo

2 Aug

I must start this off by saying that I am not a zoo person.  The thought of spending an entire day (and a spending a small fortune) walking around a zoo, among crowds of people, all to see a some sleeping animals from 20 yards away, does nothing for me.  If I had the option, I’d rather stay home and watch the National Geographic channel from my couch.  Simply stated…zoos are not my thing and you will rarely find me making them a part of a family adventure.  I look at zoo excursions as more of a time killer when all else fails or simply something I do to appease my persistent children (shhh! don’t tell them that).

So that being said, while in Belize this summer, my kids started begging to visit the Belize Zoo.  I was totally hesitant.  The weather was insanely hot, the mosquitoes were out in full force, and bottom line… zoos aren’t my thing.  While the Belize Zoo prides itself in being a rescue and rehabilitation center to local animals, they also offer some unique and once in a lifetime animal encounters.  I knew that a visit would be supporting a great cause and would have an educational aspect that I always strive for with my kids…but still it’s the “zoo” thing.  So after a few beers poolside, pleading children, and the possibility of doing the “once in a lifetime experience” of  the Jaguar encounter (explanation at bottom of page), I reluctantly agreed.  My expectations were low and it made clear that our time was limited.

We arrived at the zoo right at the peak of the heat.  Let me explain that this is not just hot, it was over the top hot.  The kind of hot that burns your skin and instantly makes you soaking wet in sweat.  We quickly learned that it was even too hot for “Junior” the jaguar to be taking visitors into his cage, so we had to settle for a visit with the Tapirs (photo below of this interesting creature).  I was instantly disappointed, but logically knew that getting inside a cage with a grumpy jaguar is probably not a great idea.  Maybe a blessing in disguise.

We wandered through this amazingly well kept facility, taking a quick look at the local animals of Central America.  My feelings about zoos started to change for the better.  We were able to hang out in the enclosure with the Tapirs, the national animal of Belize, and get up close to some really unique creatures. Our visit was quick, informative, had no crowds, and the kids had a blast.  We ended with an ice cream from the gift shop, experienced something totally new, and supported a great cause all during our quick and informative 45 minute stop (exactly how a zoo should be seen).  Perfection!

Jaguar experience:  So, for $50 USD, 5 people can pile in a cage, inside the enclosure of a Jaguar. You would have the opportunity to learn from an animal trainer about “Junior” the jaguar, feed him a little snack of raw chicken, and even get a kiss from him.  Sound crazy?  Absolutely yes, but talk about a once in a lifetime experience!  Hopefully my next visit to Belize will be a little cooler for Junior and I’ll have a chance to get up close and personal.

Welcome to the Jungle

9 Jul

First, I must start by saying that I consider myself to be pretty adventurous.  I don’t have any huge phobias, I am willing to try new things, and I definitely consider myself to be brave.  Extreme is what I set out to do on our latest family adventure and the mission was accomplished.  My desire for adventure and thrill rocked my little world!

This summer, I set out with the family for something totally unique, high intensity, and an ideal situation to create some long lasting memories. I thought that with having 3 wild and crazy boys, an adventurous daughter (that could use a little toughening up), and a flexible husband…a few days in the jungle of Central America would be a great adventure.  It was an adventure alright!  We experienced amazing new situations and experiences as a family…although it was a bit painful at times.  It was crazier than I could have imagined and the conclusion is that the jungle is not for wimps!

We began our Central American adventure in high adventure mode.  After traveling for what seemed like hours on end, I led the family away from the airport and headed deep into the Belize jungle for a stay at the Caves Branches Jungle Lodge.  Three days in a treehouse, limited electricity (no hairdryers, TV, & air conditioning), and only walls of screen to protect us from the life of the jungle.  The place was unique and beautiful.  I felt like I was a million miles away from it all and I was ready for the adventure to begin.

We spent the days exploring the local cave systems and learning about the Mayan culture.  We rode around in a vintage bus, had a picnic lunch in a cave, climbed to the top of a Mayan temple, and played in the rivers throughout the jungle.  The adventure factor was high, the history was amazing, and the weather was hot!  I returned to the lodge each day ready for a cold beer and loving the heavily shaded pool!  Little did I know that while I felt the days were adventurous, the nights were the real adventure.

When the sun set, the jungle became a whole different world.  The humidity rose, the noises got louder, and the bugs became braver.  Actually, the 4 inch cockroaches can’t even be considered bugs, they were more like nasty little monsters…yuck!  I slept with one eye open (when I could actually fall asleep).  I’m not sure if I was more afraid of the noises in the dark or what could appear right in front of me if I turned on a light.  My one and only nighttime bathroom visit included bumping into my husband while we both were chasing a cockroach with DEET bug repellant.  Not a pretty sight I’m sure.  Just a side note, DEET does not kill massive cockroaches.  It actually doesn’t even slow them down.  I decided it was better to just wait to use the restroom until morning, regardless of how uncomfortable it became.  I was also so incredibly thankful that my poor husband was the only one suffering from a case of montezuma’s revenge (sorry Honey!).  It was hot, loud, and I was scared.  I patiently waited each night for morning to come so I could actually relax and get a couple of hours of shut eye.

Over all, (speaking after recovering for 6 days in a fabulous tropical beach resort) this was an amazing experience.  A bit painful at times (okay, it was horrible at times), but I wouldn’t change a thing.  The stories and experiences we shared are irreplaceable.  I feel proud and strong.  I can say I survived and my kids have experienced something that none of their friends have ever done.  I set out for an adventure and was it ever an “adventure”!

My daughter will never again be squeamish about the bugs at home and my boys will always view me as one pretty brave Mama!  I can cross staying in the jungle off my bucket list and start looking toward what to do next to top this adventure of a lifetime.  I just know that my next extreme  family experience will involve air-conditioning and hopefully no cockroaches!

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

23 Jun

Family vacations for my crew are all about serious adventure, exhausting the kids, and having some new experiences along the way.  I strive every day of vacation to play hard and exhaust my kids physically and mentally.  I aim to stimulate their minds to total exhaustion.  At the end of the day, I hope that they are so tired and overstimulated that they forget to bicker and are forced into a sleep trance by 9 p.m. (which leaves me about 2 hours of quiet adult time to relax).  Flashing back to last summer, we took an adventure to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.  Hands down, this is the most beautiful place I’ve been so far, absolutely breathtaking.  Really this place had it all…plenty to explore, beautiful beaches, amazing people, and tons of adventure.

Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular National Parks in Costa Rica and thought by many to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  It sits on the Pacific Ocean, and it is where the jungle meets the sea.  The monkeys and lizards roam freely on the beach, giving an amazing show and entertaining travelers several times a day.  The beaches are great for surfing,  horseback riding was amazing, and the dining was fantastic.  While the kids would vote the playtime on the beach was the highlight, I think I vote the zip lining as my highlight.  I have to admit that seeing my middle schooler (that knows everything) a little frightened was a bit entertaining.  If you’re reading this Son, stop now.  You might not like the next picture.  Overall for family adventures, Manuel Antonio has it all.

The lodging options are endless in the Manuel Antonio area.  There are rustic hostels to elaborate villas.  Since I was traveling family style and watching a budget is always a concern, I found our dream vacation spot right in the middle. After many hours of research and planning, I decided on a private home in the Tulemar Gardens gated community.  Best decision ever.  The waves on their private beach were perfect and the kids loved the boogie boards and sand toys.  There were cocktails served on the sand and the monkeys were always around to entertain you during the day.  The kids were happy (and exhausted at the end of the day) and I was relaxed.

After a full day of fun in the sun, we settled in to our comfortable home to enjoy a dinner on the patio while watching the sun set.  Casa Panorama was truly a perfect spot for a family or group of friends. Whether we were preparing a great meal in the gourmet kitchen or sitting in the hot tub, this was the perfect home away from home.

So, families looking for a big adventure to exhaust your own little monkeys, Manuel Antonio has it all.  There was always somewhere to explore, waves to ride, and monkeys to watch.

WARNING:  I am not a professional videographer.  Actually, I’m a pretty crappy amateur videographer.   So, if you are prone to motion sickness, watch this at your own risk.  At least it will give you a visual of my monkeys being entertained by some real monkeys and amazing scenery of the jungle meeting the sea.

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