Are there Monkeys in Florida?
When we think of wild monkeys climbing through the jungle, we usually think of the Amazon or the tropical forests of Asia. Florida, though sub-tropical, is not a natural home for monkeys. However, like the millions of human primates that have migrated to the Sunshine State, Rhesus monkeys now call Florida home.
A few times a week, our kayaking guides at BK Adventure in Orlando, head to the Silver River with guests to catch a glimpse of Florida’s wild monkeys, and we are always surprised to each time we find them. You see, the monkeys never exactly stay in one place. We have to hunt for their latest hang out, but 9 times out of 10, we find it! These curious creatures are the highlight of the kayaking tour for our guests!
How Did Monkeys Get to Florida?
In the 1930s a man wanted to create a tourist attraction along the Silver River – which at the time was America’s first eco-tourism destination. There was an island in the river, and he thought it would be a good idea to put monkeys on the island to give the whole place a “jungle” feel. Well, the jungle part was a success. Scores of visitors came from the north each year to this exotic tropical paradise full of wild animals, alligators, giant birds, and wild monkeys! However, what this 1930s tourism entrepreneur did not consider was that monkeys, like humans, can swim. The monkeys were like, “Yo dude, this is not a zoo… We’re outta here!” And it was hasta la vista Monkey Island, and hello Silver River forest!
Today, there are hundreds of monkeys in the forest surrounding the Silver River. If you kayak from Silver Springs, down to Ray’s Landing (our take out point for BK Adventure Kayaking Tours) you should be able to see at least one or two families of monkeys along the way. The last time our guide was out with a group, he said he saw about 30.
Don’t Monkey Around with the Monkeys!
The owner of BK Adventure, Ram, is from Nepal. He knows all about Rhesus monkeys having grown up with them in and around his village in the district of Chitwan. He tells his guests, look at monkeys from a distance, do not touch, and keep your food out of site! Monkeys love to steal human food. But they can be aggressive. Ram will show you the scar he has on his face from when a scrappy monkey took a jab at him in his youth. Monkey thefts are not uncommon in Nepal. Monkeys are smart, and they know quite well what a bag of food looks like. They will steal it right out of your hand. If a person gets scratched or bitten, rabies shots are required. Monkeys also carry other diseases that could be dangerous to humans. So, although it is super cool to see monkeys in the wild, and they are pretty cute and funny. Keep a distance and respect their space. They do not really want to make friends.
Coolest Kayak Trip Near Orlando – Eco-Kayaking Monkey Tour
If you like kayaking you should try this stretch of the Silver River (Silver Springs to Ray’s Wayside). You will need to arrange transport from your take out back to your car, as this is a 5+ mile paddle. If you are new to kayaking, or in the Orlando as a guest, kayak with a guide or join a small group tour like the Eco-Kayaking Monkey Tour from BK Adventure. Your guide will know where to find the monkeys, and also point out lots of other wild life, flora and fauna. This is truly paradise, and must be in the top 10 best paddling trails in Florida. The beauty of the Silver River is mystifying, and breath-taking.