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Monkeying around at Panama’s Alouatta Sanctuary

Many people dream of living in a warm, sunny location after retirement, but choosing one place to live out the golden years can be daunting. Today’s guest contributor, Larke Newell, tells us how her and her husband make the most out of their second home, beautiful Panama, by visiting some of the local highlights, such as the Alouatta Sanctuary. 

Residing in Panama for part of each year, my husband and I have explored this small country virtually from end to end, allowing us the privilege of experiencing a myriad of new adventures.

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Beautiful views from the Cerro del Monte rainforest.

One of the most memorable for me was our trip to Alouatta Sanctuary (then known as Alouatta Lodge) near the city of David. This enchanting establishment is reached by climbing on foot, if you are a seasoned hiker, or with the use of a four wheel drive vehicle. The mountain road is long, windy, bumpy, and narrow, but the destination sits amongst the Cerro del Monte rainforest in Chiriqui, Panama and is well worth the climb. Besides the stunning views, you are immediately set upon by an array of little monkeys, not only swinging through the trees, and over the grounds, but eagerly climbing from one end of your person to the other.

Alouatta Lodge was begun as a rescue centre for these howler, capuchin, and night monkeys but has since evolved into a safe haven for others to use as their natural rain forest home.

As well, the original owners, both well schooled in growing and nurturing plants of all varieties, have supplemented the huge tangle of two foot high native heliconias and other lush vegetation with their own array of trees and shrubs, creating a stunning botanical garden. They cut tracks through the high forested areas, therein enabling guests to hike the trails and enjoy the natural habitat of birds, small animals, insects, and a magnificent array of butterflies. They made sure that the trails were built with differing degrees of difficulty, providing pleasant hiking for everyone.

As is common when arriving at the lodge, we were greeted enthusiastically by several howler monkeys who immediately captured our hearts. Warm, mischievous, and curious, these little guys are surprisingly like people in thinking and actions. Holding out our arms, they would leap into them for a nice cuddle. If we failed to do that, no problem. They unhesitatingly climbed up our bodies, there to perch around our necks, or wherever they could find a comfortable spot.

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The monkeys are happy to use visitors as taxis.

After enjoying cuddles from the monkeys and watching their antics, we then listened to the history of the place, its goals, and accomplishments, and were invited to participate in a hike up the mountain to revel in nature to our hearts’ content, as well as observe the progress of the group camping facility being constructed at the top.

By this time one of the little fellows had latched on to me and decided he would go along for the ride. Obviously this is a common occurrence for them as he promptly climbed up to the top of my head, wrapped his long, strong tail around my neck, and waited patiently for me to begin the ascent. And there he remained throughout the trip. In spite of the heat, the humidity, the exertion, and his rather rotund little body encasing mine, it was truly a heartwarming and incomparable experience.

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A monkey on my back, literally.

As we reached the summit we were awed by the panoramic view spread out before us. Rolling hills, lush vegetation, and azure waters stretched as far as the eye could see. We must be at the top of the world!

Here is where they had so wisely chosen to build an observation platform, a barbecue area, and even a couple of rustic cabins for those with the desire to stay over. Or, if preferred, they have provided an all-weather tropical jungle hammock where you can spend a night under the stars, listening to the nocturnal jungle noises, or enjoying night walks through the rain forest.

Early in the morning you awake to the troops of alhouattas (Latin for howler monkeys), howling and barking as they provide you with your own personal alarm clock. Swinging nimbly through the trees, they await your rising with impatience. Hey, people, there are games to be played and cuddles to be enjoyed. No time for sleeping.

Have you ever explored Panama? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.

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