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The Howler Monkeys of Punta Laguna

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Found twenty minutes from Cobá, down a horrific road pockmarked with crater-sized pot holes, we found the natural reserve of Punta Laguna. This protected national park receives few visitors, despite its beauty and the irresistible lure of howler and spider monkeys.

Howler Mokeys Punta Laguna

After pulling into the park entrance, we agreed to a reasonably-priced tour of Punta Laguna. The primary focus of our two-hour walk through the woods would be tracking and finding monkeys. We followed our guide, Julio, into the jungle, tracing his steps through a bewildering network of paths that almost seemed designed to confuse. You can visit Punta Laguna without a guide, but I would caution against this — the jungle quickly becomes disorienting, and it’s unlikely we could have made it back to the starting point on our own.

Before long, we heard a rustling high in the trees overhead. A monkey-like rustling. “There,” whispered Julio. “Howlers.” A big group had appeared directly above us, eating fruits and leaping from one tree to another. Julio recognized the pack; it was a family who had recently welcomed a new addition. We spotted the mother as she was moving down to a lower branch, with her baby, just a week old, clutching on for dear life. She stayed on the lower branch for awhile, giving us a great look at the infant, who had crawled up and around onto her head.

We hiked to the lake which gives Punta Laguna its name, where you can camp and rent canoe boats. Humans rarely reach the jungle on the far side, so this is where the jaguars tend to stay. We visited a cave where a pack of spider monkeys congregates every evening, but it was too early and nobody was home.

So, we didn’t see any spider monkeys, but couldn’t complain much. With the sighting of the baby howler, the excursion had already been an unqualified success. Although it was fun to have the whole place to ourselves, we hope that word about Punta Laguna spreads. The more people who visit this amazing reserve in the middle of the jungle, the better.

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Howler Mokeys Punta Laguna
Howler Mokeys Punta Laguna
Howler Mokeys Punta Laguna
Howler Mokeys Punta Laguna
Howler Mokeys Punta Laguna
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Howler Mokeys Punta Laguna
Howler Mokeys Punta Laguna
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February 8, 2014 at 4:10 pm Comments (0)

The Parque Centenario & Mérida’s Zoo

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It’s a considerable hike from the center, but the Parque Centernario (Centennial Park) on the west side of Mérida certainly warrants the effort, or the cost of a taxi, if only to visit the city zoo, which hosts a surprising number of exotic animals.

Zoo Merida

The zoo in the Parque Centenario is free to visit, which made us a bit nervous. While I generally love free stuff, I couldn’t help but wonder how well animals could possibly be cared for in an open, public zoo. Indeed, Mérida’s isn’t exactly a glorious Garden of Eden in the vein of San Diego’s or the Bioparc in Valencia, Spain. No, this is the kind of run-down and cramped operation which will probably make you a little sad.

Luckily, we were squarely still in our honeymoon phase with Mérida, and the city could do no wrong. So the fact that the hippos were confined to a tiny muddy pool didn’t really bother us. But the fact that there were hippos… thrilling! I hadn’t come to Mérida expecting to see animals ranging from chimpanzees to African lions, crocodiles and Burmese pythons, but they were all here and we had a blast touring the exhibits.

The zoo is just one piece of the Parque Centenario, a popular place for Meridianos to spend a weekend afternoon with the family. Since it was a sunny Sunday when we visited, the park was in full swing. There were pony rides, trampolines, bouncy castles, food stands, and thousands of screaming children. It was chaotic, but completely entertaining. This isn’t a park with a lot of green areas. In fact, it’s not a “park” at all, in the way I understand the word. There’s no place to have a picnic or play soccer, but there are plenty of places to have fun.

Throughout the day, we didn’t see another foreign face. It’s a 20-minute walk from the Plaza Grande, which is apparently enough to discourage most tourists. If you want to visit a different side of the city and see how locals enjoy themselves, check it out.

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November 21, 2013 at 12:52 am Comment (1)
The Howler Monkeys of Punta Laguna Found twenty minutes from Cobá, down a horrific road pockmarked with crater-sized pot holes, we found the natural reserve of Punta Laguna. This protected national park receives few visitors, despite its beauty and the irresistible lure of howler and spider monkeys.
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