It’s on everyone’s travel bucket list, right? To have monkeys stand on their heads? No? Well, it was a dream come true for our kids! 🙂
It was only nine months before this visit to Akumal (April-May 2017) that The Akumal Monkey Sanctuary opened. We happened to be in the Riviera Maya area in September 2016, and had looked into going then; however, they were booked for several days out, and didn’t have any remaining openings during our stay.
As it turned out, our first accommodation for our 2017 foray into traveling through Mexico was in Akumal. After a fellow location-independent family posted about their trip, I remembered that this was something we wanted to do and quickly made reservations.
Some may consider that the admission fee is fairly high, even for American prices. However, our lodging and vehicle use was free for our time in Akumal (we did a home exchange), and most of our activities of snorkeling and swimming in the Yal-ku Lagoon were also free (included in our stay). Our kids absolutely love interacting with animals. So for us, this was a no-brainer.
I also know how challenging it can be to try to take photos with 4 kids can be distracting (plus add in some monkeys to the mix?), so I went ahead and paid for a photographer ($25 more, at the time), as well. (Most of the photos here are from the photographer.)
Daniel usually did the bulk of his work week on Mondays through Wednesday and I spent most of the rest of our free time working in an Internet cafe (setting up our AirBnb from afar), so I had our visit booked for the first Thursday morning after our Saturday arrival.
It had been such beautiful week, but we had to laugh when we woke up to a downpour on the morning of our scheduled tour. The rain let up, and our tour was just a drive across town and over the highway bridge to get the the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary. So we figured we’d still go. It was wet, but the rain had stopped where we were.
We began our tour with two other families (though ours was the only with younger kids). We made it through a number of the areas, but then the next downpour came. Tasty Mayan snacks energized us as we huddled in the hut shelter for a while, but we were eventually told the news that the animals wouldn’t be up to “meet and greet in the rain.” Instead, we could reschedule our tour if we wanted. OF course, our primary reason for going was for the animal interaction.
We were all soaked after running back to the main shelter area! After looking at the weather and consulting with the front desk, we were told the rain was the result of a tropical depression that would likely be ongoing through late Sunday. So, naturally, I selected Monday, and we drove back through flooded roads to our villa.
Monday came, and that afternoon was the hottest day of our stay so far. Going back, I had low expectations after our previous trip. We waited in the lobby with 2 other couples, who I assumed would join our guided tour.
Instead, we learned we would have our guide to ourselves, and with just our family, we felt we could go at our own pace. This was perfect for our family of animal-loving little learners!
Finally, we would be able to experience the animal interaction time! 🙂 But first, we had an amazing time watching the lemurs interact with Eden’s toy lemur, which she’s had since she was just a couple of months old (at a time when we had planned to serve in Madagascar via mission work). It’s been her dream to go to Madagascar and see lemurs the lemurs there.
Instead part of that dream came true in Akumal! Our guide said it was fine for her to show them her lemurs, and when she did, they were so curious! We wondered if it was perhaps the black and white pattern that created such interest.
Visitors aren’t allowed to take video inside the animal interaction (not even my head-strapped GoPro), but that was by far our favorite memory. (Also a good reason to invest in the photo CD: the staff will take photos of you interacting with the animals.)
First, we enjoyed the squirrel monkeys. I was a little nervous about having monkeys standing on my head, but we were all surprised at how soft the skin on their feet was. We fed them seeds and cantaloupe, and Kyrie squealed with laughter the whole time. And everyone else observing was grinning and laughing at Kyrie’s enjoyment. (Photos don’t do this justice; I definitely would have loved video of that part.)
For the interaction segment, you get to have two interactions: the squirrel monkeys, another set of monkeys, or 2 lemurs. Our guide knew of Eden’s love for lemurs, so he made sure we could be with the lemurs. There were two of them: Julian and another, whose name escapes me. (Eden thinks his name was Coco or Cocao.) Julian didn’t liked to be touched, but we could pet the other. In this case, it was more important to stay calm and still. (Have you ever tried this with 4 kids and 2 additional primates?! ;)) We fed them halved grapes, and the lemurs would go back and forth between all of us. It wasn’t quite as much interaction as Kyrie craved, but nonetheless an amazing experience for all us.
A tour includes:
- Feeding the deer and goats
- A walking tour of the facility with a guide.
- Opportunities to hold snakes, birds, and other non-primate animals
- Traditional Mayan snack cooked over the fire (usually a type of corn cakes)
- Interaction with lemurs and/or monkeys.
- See a cenote with bats (this was closed during both of our visits)
- Bonus: Opportunity to run away from the peacock that might peck you 😉
- Adults: $65/adult
- Children 5-12: $40/child
- Children under 5: free
*There is frequently a coupon code on their website or social media accounts, so I recommend checking those before booking. Additionally, there is a discount for Mexican citizens, as well.
- Tours can be done in Spanish or English. (We had one in each! :)) The guides are very knowledgeable and well-educated.
- The tour is approximately 2+ hours
- The area where you will feed the deer and goats is a typical farmlike area, so wear closed-toe shoes.
- You’ll also want some protection from mosquitoes.
- You’re usually in shaded areas, so sunscreen is not necessarily a must. However, remember that this entire region requests that you use biodegradable sunscreen.
- The AMS is continuing to grow and expand, so I expect it will offer more in the future, and prices may also vary.
- You’ll drive through the authentic side of Akumal to get there. Be respectful of locals, etc.. (And a stop for fruit or lunch at a little cafe is highly recommended! :))
- This is definitely designed for tourists, but is a very educational and ecologically immersive experience.
- Souvenirs are pricey here, but they are also very high quality.
Akumal Monkey Sanctuary Recap
If you or your family love animals, the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary is a great experience. It’s important to note that you should schedule a tour in advance. (Both times we were there, families arrived and attempted to do a tour, but they hadn’t scheduled in advance. One was turned away, and the other was able to go.)
We also appreciate that the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary has a goal of helping animals and the local ecosystem. Most of the animals in their care are rescue animals, so don’t expect to see all of these animals in the wild in this area. However, if you stay at a resort or certain rentals in the area, you may end up having just as much animal interaction with the local monkeys, agouti, or coati. But if you want to see more, I recommend the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary.
I’m grateful we ended up having two tours. As a family with multiple young children, our unexpected second visit allowed us to take things in at our own pace, and we were able to enjoy both halves much more. It also gave us expectations for the second time around.
And hey…it’s not every year you get a family photo with your 4 kids and 4 monkeys in it. However, if we’re going to use it as a our Christmas card portrait, I think we’ve got a little work to do on looking at the camera–kids, parents, and monkeys alike! 🙂