I’ve traveled to Mexico, specifically Cancun, a handful of times now (on family vacations). More often than not, it has always been sort of the same trip. All inclusive resort for the week, relaxing by the pool, swimming at the beach, and enough piña coladas to keep a coconut head like me satisfied. Now let me get this straight. I am not hating on all-inclusive resorts. It’s just a different form of travel. In fact staying in resorts can be pretty darn relaxing if you ask me.
This past time, however, I decided it was time I venture outside the resort to have a look at what else is out there. See how the rest of the world is living. You know, when you’re in those all-inclusive resorts, you sort of forget, oh yeah, not everyone is on vacation. Ha. It’s a funny feeling.
Anyways, it’s basically a rule in my family that you have to love animals… and my mom, being my mom, saw a billboard for a monkey sanctuary. So naturally, we headed there for our excursion. Excursions force you to be an actual tourist in the country your resort is in. Because let’s be honest, being in an all-inclusive, you’re pretttttttty removed from being in the actual country and culture of where you’re staying…. enjoying pristinely groomed beaches… eating pretty Western food… and being surrounded by, in my case, mostly Americans. This can get pretty boring for someone like me after a few days of the all-inclusive life… so we chose this as an excursion and off we went!!
Now, personally, when I hear “sanctuary” my guard comes up automatically. And with a cheesy billboard? Oy. I get a little cringe thinking, what a tourist trap. Especially after that elephant experience in Indonesia.
We bought tickets, and they gave us an appointment time. Unlike a zoo, the sanctuary runs by appointment. Our appointment included just one other couple, and so it was kept intimate. The guide from Akumal Monkey Sanctuary took us around to each animal species one by one. You’ll find monkeys, deer, boars, birds (like the toucan and various parrots), and goats, although as time goes on this will probably change a little bit!
What I appreciated so much in this tour was the explanation behind each animal’s story. The guide showed openness for everything I inquired about. You see, when dealing with animals and animal welfare, transparency is everything. The guide hid nothing, explaining each animal’s quirks and their history. He answered honestly to me peppering him with questions every other second, not missing a beat… another good sign. A guide avoiding answering sincere questions would be a red flag.
The first point of interest here is that the animals are not here for tourism alone, and is unlike a zoo in certain respects. All the animals that are at the facility are there strictly because they have been rescued. This can mean a variety of things. People gave them up because they couldn’t take care of them, they have been rescued from operations such as circuses, or confiscated by authorities from people who have held exotic animals illegally. Akumal Monkey Sanctuary is taking in as many as their facility can hold right now, and because it is fairly new they are doing their best to provide the right environments for the animals without turning too many away (because of the limited alternative options).
Sadly, a lot of the monkeys are ingrained to perform tricks and shows because of their history (like in circuses). This means I saw animals doing things like walking on their hind legs, but the Sanctuary didn’t train or encourage this behavior.
One thing I thought was pretty great was that the majority of the birds they have (parrots, macaws) they take outside of their cages during the daytime. This means they can hang out freely, which I love to see, especially with birds.
I can’t say enough good things about my experience here, mainly because we had such a personal tour with our guide. I loved how in depth he got to each animal’s story and the care for them. Long term, they will be able to reintroduce the animals back into the wild. However, as is the case with many animals taken in, this is done on a case by case basis. Unfortunately, the survival rate for animals in captivity is not high.
I was amazed at how many animals they had already taken in so early on in the business. Clearly, this is something in need in Mexico, because their facility is in such high demand. As much as it breaks my heart that these animals have been mistreated, the Sanctuary gave them a second chance.
You can read more about Akumal Monkey Sanctuary and its five pillars here. Entrance is a little pricey at $65. Just remember the costs go to giving the animals a good quality of life, and getting interaction with some monkeys. Also, the Sanctuary is open to and encourages as much feedback as they can get, which again, proves their transparency and eagerness to get the public on board.
P.S. I’ll keep this a surprise, but you have to visit the restroom…. you’ll be in for a treat :)