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One of the highlights of our Norwegian Jade cruise to the Western Caribbean a few weeks ago was the shore excursion we took during the couple of hours we spent at Monkey Island in Panama. (The five-hour excursion was called "Eco Cruise on Gatun Lake & Monkey Island.")
After a long bus ride through the Gamboa rainforest and after time spent watching a parade of leafcutter ants at the dock, we headed out onto Gatun Lake, the artificial lake south of Colón that forms a major part of the Panama Canal. A half hour later we began pulling alongside of the first of the small islands known as Monkey Island.
What the tour operators don't tell you is that you don't disembark on the island, but the time on the skiff is well spent as we took in howler monkeys in the treetops, a great white heron and a snail kit hawk before the main show began.
First, a small troop of white-faced capuchin monkeys and a group of Tamarin or titi monkeys that came up right along the boat. One of the capuchins and then one of the Tamarins climbed onto the boat and accepted a piece of banana and a slice of orange.
Tip: Bring along a banana and sit at the front of the boat. This isn't the zoo — you're encouraged to feed the monkeys — and by sitting up front you can capture some great video if some of the monkeys scamper aboard.