Gumbalimba Park – Roatan, Bay Islands

Jocelyn Murray April 20, 2012 No Comments

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gumbalimba entrance

Entrance to Gumbalimba Park

Found in the West Bay area of the Island of Roatan, Gumbalimba Park is a 20-acre nature lover’s delight where visitors feel as though they have been transported back to a prehistoric time like that in the film Jurassic Park with its dense vegetation and sultry atmosphere filled with the haunting sounds of animal cries throughout the jungle. The park is named for the gumbalimba tree, a hardy and resilient species native to the island with the ability to sprout a new tree from a cut branch. This is survival of the fittest at its finest!

 

Rainforest Retreat

gumbalimba rope bridge

This rope "Pirate Bridge" stretches 237 feet across an emerald lake below

A stroll through the park’s rainforest is an invigorating experience drenched in the sights, sounds and smells of a moist, oxygen-rich environment, leaving one feeling intensely alive. Visitors meander on rustic paths through forested hills, gullies, flat expanses, and over several bridges of varying sizes and lengths that cross trickling streams and melodic brooks.

gumbalimba white-faced capuchin monkey

The white-faced capuchin monkeys are so cute

It offers guided tours through a jungle complete with dramatic foliage and exotic plants, waterfalls, tropical wildlife, and a suspended swinging rope bridge 237 feet long that hangs over an enchanting emerald lake, and is reminiscent of something out of an Indiana Jones movie.  Only five brave souls are permitted to cross this rickety bridge at once, for safety reasons, but the views are simply splendid, even if your knees are trembling a bit.

gumbalimba black iguana

This black iguana is endemic to the island, as it is not found anywhere else in the world

On our guided tour we saw parrots, iguanas, guinea hens, agouti, spider monkeys and white-faced capuchin monkeys, where we got up close and personal to interact and handle some of the animals like the parrots and monkeys. We took turns posing for photos with the white-faced capuchin monkeys as they hopped on our shoulders and sat with their soft tails wrapped about our necks for balance.  How fascinating to observe their fine delicate features and mannerisms.

Overhead, turkey vultures glided above through the sky with their impressive outstretched wings, while others huddled in brooding clumps, watching us with feigned indifference from their perches. There is something incredibly alluring about nature, and this magnificent rainforest park certainly captures the imagination, stretching it far beyond the canopy’s lofty heights.

 

Coxen’s Cave – Pirate Museum

gumbalimba coxen's cave entrance

This small pirate museum blends with its surroundings, like a real stone cave in the jungle

The park has an intriguing pirate museum called Coxen’s Cave, named after Captain John Coxon – one of Roatan’s famous pirates who mysteriously disappeared along with his ship and entire crew after a scandalous life of raids and looting. Perhaps he met the same fate as the Flying Dutchman – that ghostly derelict ship doomed to sail the seas forever, never to find a moment’s peace…

gumbalimba coxen's cave murals

One of the informative murals in the cave museum - note the rusty cannon below

The museum is cleverly constructed to resemble a rocky cave with several chambers that naturally blend with its lush outdoor surroundings, and boasts fantastic informational displays with interesting trivia, sculptures and murals depicting historical scenes, and real ammunition used in the buccaneers’ heyday.

gumbalimba pirate flintlock pistol

17th century flintlock pistol

Things like flintlock pistols, muskets with bayonets, cutlasses with scabbards, blunderbusses, and assorted daggers, swords and pistols divert the imagination to times long past when notorious pirates like Sir Henry Morgan (after whom a brand of rum is named), Blackbeard (the much feared Edward Teach himself), Nicholas Van Hoorn and John Coxon set up several pirate colonies on Roatan, from where they could easily ambush, capture and pillage unwary Spanish galleons headed back to Spain from the New World while laden with gold and silver. Aarrgh!!! And treacherous times be those, matey, when ye scarce could sleep a wink for fear of plunderin’ pirates off the wild and primitive shores west of the Greater Antilles! Those were dangerous times indeed, making for fascinating study and numerous Hollywood tales.

 

Monkey Trail Canopy Zip-Lining Tours

gumbalimba zip lining

Zip-lining through the canopy is an unforgettable thrill

Imagine flying through a jungle, high over the canopy of a tropical rainforest, swinging down from one treetop platform to another (there are 13 runs in all), surrounded by lush vegetation and glimpses of wildlife that find refuge in the flora, as adrenaline courses through your veins with the thrill of it all. This unforgettable experience is zip-lining through the deep dense jungle of Gumbalimba Park, one of the world’s best sites for enjoying this exhilarating sport. The expert guides are friendly and very experienced, while the double-lined cables, harnesses, helmets and other gear make it safe for adults and school-aged children. Younger children can enjoy zip-lining as well in the safe company of one of the fantastic guides who make it fun and fearless.

gumbalimba zip lining over lake

Views of the park while zip-lining are beautiful

What a thrill to soar high above the jungle floor like Tarzan himself through vine-draped trees with their moss covered branches, and over the emerald lake with views of the shimmering Caribbean Sea. It’s the kind of experience that makes you scream with excitement.

We began the Monkey Trail Canopy zip-lining tour deep in the rainforest, high on one of its uppermost peaks, then zipped down long stretches (starting about 100 feet, with the longest run stretching about 700 feet), going farther down and finally ending on the sandy shore of the beach.

 

Other Park Amenities and Activities

gumbalimba paradise

Gumbalimba Park is a stunning sanctuary

Visitors at Gumbalimba Park can also partake of additional activities like SNUBA diving (which is similar to SCUBA but simpler and not requiring certification), power snorkeling, Helmet diving tours (known as Sea Trek), sea-scooters, clear kayaking to observe the stunning underwater world, an Insectarium at Fort Gumba with creepy crawlies of the island, a swimming pool and the beach. A poolside cafe serving beverages, snacks and simple meals, a gift shop, and restrooms are also conveniently located under a large palapa by the park’s beach.

For more information on Gumbalimba Park visit their website at www.gumbalimbapark.com

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avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

Tags: Reviews, Travel Excursions

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