Adventure Ahead, Jungle Below

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

There are two kinds of crew members in port: Those who nap and those who play. You can probably guess which category we fit into! This particular day in Roatan, Honduras I was exhausted and wanted to use my few hours off to shove some french fries in my face and take a nap, but I got an offer onshore that I couldn’t refuse. As a woman working onboard, I had to learn that most Caribbean ports are not safe for me to explore alone, unlike the other countries I had visited on a previous contract. This means not only do I have to want to go out, I have to convince someone to accompany me. Earlier that cruise I had asked Nathaniel, who I was just starting to become friends with, to go out in Roatan with me. I had heard about a place with excellent burgers just across the water. As I finished my hours on morning gangway that started at 6 am, I was about to call him and cancel before I heard the magic words: 2 for 1 margaritas. Okay fine, I could sacrifice one more day of sleep. I ran up to my cabin to change and meet Nathaniel and another one of the lounge techs at the restaurant. The walk over took me outside of the touristy gated port area and into the “real” Roatan. I never felt unsafe, but I definitely felt harassed by bike taxis, soda sellers, and children on the street telling me I had better get where I was going because it wasn’t safe for me to walk alone. For $20 they would accompany me, though. I could see the restaurant though so I declined, multiple times, and continued on my way. Anyone who has visited these islands knows that in the Caribbean “no” means “ask me twelve more times.”

It was a tiny place called Port Consolation, directly across the water from the ship. If we were allowed in the water we could have swam back in about three minutes instead of walking for twenty. The techs were already there and two tequila shots deep each, so I ordered my avocado burger and both margaritas at once to catch up. This was, without a doubt, the best burger I have ever had in my life. And, on ships, you eat a lot of burgers from all around the world. It MAY have had something to do with the fact that I had only eaten ship food for the past few weeks, but in my mind I can still taste, feel, see that burger. It was the most remarkable moment of the day, even with everything that happened next. It was about noon and we had to be back at three so as we left the restaurant I calculated how quickly I could go through security, shower, and change so that I could squeeze in a quick nap before my afternoon started.

Along the walk we were chatting about what Roatan is perhaps most famous for, its plethora of sloths and primates that tourists can take photos with. The 2 for 1 margaritas took over my brain and I said, a little too loudly, “I wanna hold a monkey!” At that moment a wrinkled leathery man emerged from the woods.

He held his hand out and said, “You wanna hold a monkey?”

Taking a step into the street I said “Yes!”

Nathaniel’s large hand on my shoulder said, “…wait. Becca we need more information first.” See, this is why I don’t go into port alone. Apparently hidden by the trees was one of the largest animal parks on the island, and we followed him up the hill to see what was waiting for us. Nathaniel haggled a good crew member deal for us. $20 for a meet and greet with all the animals, and a zipline ride through the jungle. They made us sign a waiver and took our phones, and then packed us into the open bed of an F150 to trek up the mountain where our line would start. For some reason they put me, the smallest one, on the end of the truck bench, so I spent the entire ascent trying not to fall out of the car and down the mountain. With us was a guest from our ship, named Becky, who’s friends wouldn’t come with her so she decided to adventure on her own.

The view from the top of the mountain was spectacular. I saw our ship in the harbor, checked my watch to see that I had two hours until I had to be onstage, and clipped my harness to the line. Becky was the bravest of all of us, even Nathaniel the former stuntman, and volunteered to go first. We watched her swing from one platform to the next, and then fought over who would get to go next. Being so small, the guides were afraid I wouldn’t build up the momentum to get all the way across, so they grabbed my hips, hoisted me in the air, and threw me off the platform. I soared high above the tree tops, stomach in knots, looking at the jungle zipping by below me. In a few seconds strong hands caught me on the other side and settled me on the next platform. We had a long course of lines ahead of us to get us back to where we started.

As we made our way through we tried different things. I went upside down, with no hands hanging on, backwards, and spinning. Nathaniel was the only one brave enough to try a front flip. It was thirty minutes of thrill. Some of the adrenaline came from the activity, some of it came from the squeaking and straining of the platform beneath our weight. The sides were padded with old comforters adhered with duct tape. Our guides looked like high schoolers playing hooky. All part of the thrill, I guess.

We arrived safely on land and had about an hour for part two of our day, meeting the animals. I have wanted to hold a sloth…. for basically my entire life. On gangway that very morning as guests exited, excited about their excursions, I asked them to please give the sloths and extra hug for me. Six hours ago I couldn’t have imagined I would be holding my arms out, ready to receive Charlie, a rescue who made the refuge her home. She held me so tightly, nestled her head into my neck, and my life was complete. Her fur felt like a coarse paintbrush and I had marks in my side from her long claws for about a week afterwards. I said a silent thank you to the margarita gods for bringing me to that moment.

We met monkeys, birds, guinea pigs, and went through a butterfly garden full of native plants and insects. Our guide was so knowledgable and you could see his passion as he talked about the animals he cares for. The only one off limits to us was the spider monkey, who “hates men.” He warned that I would be fine if I went in alone, but if she saw the boys I had with me she would “rip their faces off.” He pointed at his own amputated arm and said “Trust me!” It was a joke! But she would, if given the chance. I decided to pass on a solo excursion into her space and let her enjoy her afternoon snack alone.

We wrapped everything up around 2:30 and ran the length of the road back to the crowded gangway. I made it back just in time to brush the monkey fur off of me, change into my uniform, and dash to the atrium to start my activity. Smiling with the afterglow of the adventure for the rest of the day, I never missed an opportunity to tell a guest that I ALSO got to hold a sloth that afternoon. I ran into my coworker, who used his port day to nap, and told him what he missed. He said, “I had a dream that I was flying. Same thing basically.” And it didn’t cost him $20. Roatan became one of my favorite ports, because of the good memories I have there, and because of the reminder that spontaneity often leads to wonderful things. Lesson learned: next time a man emerges from the woods with an outstretched hand, follow him! Okay, maybe get some more information first.


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