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. We also had time to get our passports stamped – as my children enjoy doing.
The chance 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. We can confirm 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. These smaller groups traveled via small vans to the Gumbalimba Park. The park was far more vast and had more animals than I had expected. We stayed in our smaller group, so we never felt overcrowded or shorted in any way.
The day we went – during spring break – was busy. For example, 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, we originally planned to 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. That solution worked better than we anticipated!
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. Our guide shared great information and tidbits about them with us as we watched. We saw iguanas 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. Only eight people can cross at a time. For those whose courage fails them when it comes to heights and bridges, there is also a path across.
While the you can choose to skip the bridge, we loved the new vista and the feel feel of the gentle swaying. And of course, we saw turtles in the river below as we traversed the bridge.
Our group intended to start with the pirate cave, but another group made it there first. Our guide quickly moved us to visit the birds portion of Pirates Birds and Monkeys instead. I appreciated the thoughtfulness of ensuring our experience was as positive as possible.
As we learned some about the birds, everyone in the group had a chance to enjoy the parrot perched on our shoulders. Even my mom got in the act.
Two small girls (maybe 3 or 4 year old twins) were afraid of the bird but still wanted to be close to him. The worker in charge easily accommodated them. He 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 never felt rushed, and everyone who wished to interact with the bird did so.
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 succeeded, but the worker assured us that the bird would not actually eat it (and thus suffer any ill effect). Sure enough, he spit it out shortly thereafter, and we retrieved it.
We stopped next at the monkeys on the Pirates Birds and Monkeys tour. I could have spent the entire day there, captivated by the monkeys. Though we spent 20 minutes or more, I felt like we had barely any time there, most likely because I was so fascinated.
Over 20 monkeys live in this portion of Gumbalimba Park, with seven or so of them exceptionally friendly and interested in interacting with us. This included a mom and baby who were absolutely adorable.
Some families became 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. They quickly scampered 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. We saw two in the monkey area, and I had guessed a few animals it might be in my head. 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. We appreciated the indoor area for the cool temperatures. It provided the perfect 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. From there, visitors chose 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. We enjoyed 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. When the call came to head back on our shuttle to leave Pirates Birds and Monkeys, we realized we skipped it. 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 brought our own water from the ship, and the excursion was early enough in the day for us that we returned to the ship before 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. We loved the animal interactions. I could have stayed longer with the monkeys, but another group arrived to experience them as our time ended.
We enjoyed additional surprises from the insectarium to an overview of some of the local flora and fauna. I found them all fascinating.
My favorite tidbit had to be the cannonball trees. They contain “fruit” that looks like cannonballs. Even better, when they are ripe and the fruit falls to the ground, it often makes an explosive sound.
I felt we received a good value for our money, and the memories and photos we enjoyed made Pirates Birds and Monkeys one we will treasure forever. I appreciated the fact we could take our own photos. Many excursions require you put them away, but this had with no professional photographer selling photos at the end of the tour. Whether you are traveling to Isla Roatan, Honduras with Carnival Cruise or not, definitely check out Pirates Birds and Monkeys for an unforgettable day.