Monkey River Town is the northernmost village in the Toledo District. This small, sleepy Creole village of 200 people, sits on the southern bank of the mouth of the Monkey River.
The village is as "real" as it gets-the houses are mainly wooden; few are concrete. A police station, which is rarely used, is on the east end. The entire village has one community center, one school, one church, two shops, two hotels,and two restaurants and bars. A small boardwalk borders the lagoon at the back where fishermen dock their boats. A roving sand bar protects the river mouth. Wide sandy beaches stretch out along the mouth of the river and the east side of the village. Some of the beaches along the southern edge of town are eroding - Hurricane Mitch in 1998 took its toll.
Born with the banana industry, Monkey River was promoted to a town in 1891. At that time, the population was about 2500 people, and the main source of income was the banana industry, logging, and export of rice. The demise of the banana industry forced the majority of the people inland in search of other jobs. The town was downsized to a village in 1981. In recent years, the village has come alive again. Each family has a boat, and most villagers make a living from fishing, lobster, hunting, or the tourist trade.
The village is only accessible by boat from a landing across the river about 100 yards away. Boats normally pick up anyone who signals to them from the landing.
Monkey River is small and easy to get around. There are only two main streets. There are no cars, trucks, or bikes in town. The sandy, grassy paths are short and comfortable for walking throughout the entire village.
While a few families have generators, the village does not have electricity. As a result, the villagers go to sleep at sunset and wake at sunrise. The beachfront near the dock is a favorite gathering spot for the villagers to hang out and discuss the days happenings while the children spend time playing soccer and basketball. Most of the young adults are off in neighboring towns pursuing their highschool education.
The village is bordered on the west by riverine forests-a good place for experiencing the Belizean jungle.
River tours, led by one of the 5 tour guides in the village, wind upriver through mangrove channels and broadleaf forest. This gives you a chance to see beautiful riverine forests and wildlife in the comfort of a skiff. As you glide by, iguanas dive into the water, troops of howler monkeys race through the trees; birds dart from tree to tree; and crocodiles sun along the banks of the river.
Stop for a hike through the jungle. Your guide will point out herbal medicines, tarantulas, crocodiles, snakes, howler monkeys, and various birds including toucans and oropendulas. If lucky, you may spot a deer, tapir, or even a jaguar.
The Snake Cayes are only 45 minutes away by boat. One of the islands-West Snake Caye is great for swimming, snorkeling, diving, and picnicking.
Monkey River is well known for it's fly fishing. Thirty five minutes by boat south of Monkey River is Punta Negra Lake known for its abundance of tarpon, snook, and permit. Fishing is done on a catch and release basis.
Several mangrove cayes lie off the rivermouth. One island is a bird sanctuary for many wading birds such as egrets and herons. The birds congregate in huge numbers to roost for the night.
Back in the village, take a dip in the cool river off the beach. The lack of electric lights provide the perfect opportunity for star gazing at night, as the villagers blow out their lanterns and fall asleep.
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