Look. Observe. Listen.
Monkey-spotting on Isla Palenque comes naturally no matter where you wander on the island. And from your first “monkey moment” on, you’re part of the privileged few who have made the acquaintance of Isla Palenque’s resident howler monkeys.
Howlers regard humans with vague curiosity, total ambivalence… or impish roguery. Since they spend most of their day sleeping or chilling out in the treetops, they’ll sometimes get cheeky when rudely awakened by the sound of a hiker stumbling into their territory.
If you’re the offender, you may receive a friendly reminder that you’ve ambled onto howler monkey turf: they are known to break off a twig or grab whatever fruit is handy and playfully send it hurtling in your direction.
Provided you don’t provoke their mischief, you’ll find some fantastic opportunities to take photos of monkeys on the island. Zoom in for a close-up and you’ll discover their wonderfully emotive facial expressions. Or take a step back and try and see if you can find every monkey in one of the island’s huge old-growth trees. Sometimes a troupe of 15 or more will congregate in a single tree to spend the afternoon munching leaves together.
Some tips every wildlife photographer, from amateur to experienced, is certain to find useful while monkey-spotting on Isla Palenque:
- Avoid midday photo shoots unless you want back-lit photos. If you are shooting when the sun is directly overhead, I recommend overexposing your photos to bring out the detail on the monkey instead of just making a monkey-shaped silhouette.
- Hike locations that take you above the leaves and branches of the canopy, exposing numerous photo ops with good chances to achieve a clear, focused shot. Some higher elevation spots on the island are on the bluffs flanking Playa Palenque, or the bluff directly behind the estate rooms and Playa Primera (this is the island’s highest point). Lazy photographers should book a second floor estate suite for a great photo op without getting out of bed — howlers love the large tree directly behind the great room.
- Finding the monkeys won’t be a problem if you pause in your hikes and simply listen from time to time. If they’re close, you’ll usually hear them. Here’s a taste of what you’re listening for:
View the slideshow to see my favorite monkey photos taken during my time on Isla Palenque as Island Intern. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn some fascinating howler monkey facts and score a few more tips on capturing great photos of monkeys in the wild.