Hey, Hey We’re the Monkeys
After leaving the San Blas Islands, we anchored between Isla Linton and the mainland of Panama with one goal in mind… to see the monkeys. We read about monkeys being here in our cruising guide by Eric Bauhaus - a must if you are cruising these parts of the world. (Important side note: The usual navigation systems available for chart plotters are not nearly accurate enough for safe travel between the reefs and islands of the area. Buy the book and enter the waypoints manually get his electronic charts for Open CPM).
Anyway, this was one place we couldn’t miss. Other cruisers had warned us, though, to keep safe distance. The monkeys have been conditioned to expect food and will hang onto people relentlessly when they try to leave the island, not wanting to let this easy food source go! Thankfully, the monkeys don’t want to get wet, so they’ll avoid the water. With bananas in our dinghy, we drove over to the beach to meet the monkeys.
First, we sat in the dinghy and threw a few bananas on shore, bringing the monkeys within photo range. I was perfectly content with my zoomed camera angle and snapped away. Mark, however, wanted to get up close and personal on video (watch out National Geographic!) so he waded to the shoreline and handed the food right to the monkeys! All seemed tame enough, but the kids and I stayed put, just happy to watch Mark jump at the monkeys’ every move!
It was amazing to be so close to Spider Monkeys in the wild. They walked like little pot-bellied men along the shore. One sat on the top of a palm tree, while another would grab onto the end of a palm branch and swing over to the neighboring tree with ease. Michael and Elizabeth loved watching the acrobatic show! When we researched further, we learned that an American couple owned the island and brought the monkeys there as a kind of sanctuary. I guess they were hurt or incapable of surviving on the mainland for one reason or another. There were three monkeys hanging around each time we visited, and I’m not sure if they are the original monkeys or a more recent generation. Either way, it was a fantastic experience and well worth the stop!
But those weren’t the only creatures we got to see. Field Trip has had some close encounters with a few sea creatures recently, too. We managed to catch the biggest Black Grouper I have ever seen on our way to Isla Linton! It looked like some sort of sea monster - weighing 18 lbs and measuring 32 inches! Mark could barely hold him up on the gaff!
|Black Grouper Monster! 18 pounds!!|
On a more serious note, we encountered a venomous sea creature that we’ll never forget. Elizabeth had a very scary run-in with a Portuguese man-o-war a few weeks ago while swimming with friends in the Lemon Cays. She was severely stung and her body went into shock as the toxins from the tentacles entered her body. It was a very frightening experience for all of us, as it truly shows how secluded we are from everything. Thankfully, Mark could grab her from the water and begin to remove the clumps of tentacles from her legs. Benadryl was administered, and a call for assistance on the VHF resulted in advice and support. It was devastating to watch her in such pain and not know exactly what to do or how to best help her. There was no calling 9-1-1 or lifeguard on duty.
She pulled through and is doing really well now. I was able to call our pediatrician in Colorado 24 hours a day for the first few days to get his expert medical help. Last time we were home, I had asked him to prescribe some medicines to keep on board, and I was so relieved to find one that helped ease the pain and a steroid that helped with the inflammation and swelling.
Since the incident, we have created a first aid and sting kit to keep in our dinghy at all times, which includes Epi pens for the entire family. We have also ordered full coverage dive suits to wear in certain areas and have researched the most recent treatments for jellyfish and man-o-war stings. Since a man-o-war is not a jellyfish, the stings must be treated very differently. Here’s what we learned…
How to treat man-o-war sting
-scrape off all tentacles with a credit card or similarly edged item
-keep affected areas in the salt water
-administer Epi pen if victim is showing signs of anaphylactic shock (difficulty breathing, --chest pain, severe swelling, etc) or some form of antihistamine
-administer pain meds either by injection or orally, if possible
-place very hot salt water compresses on affected areas to destroy the proteins of the toxins (the pH must remain the same- do not use fresh water or vinegar)
-Seek medical attention if condition worsens (loss of consciousness, high fever, etc.)
After initial emergency
-administer pain medicine and oral steroid as directed by doctor
-drink plenty of fluids to flush body and hydrate
-apply hydrocortisone creams to soothe itchy sights
-application of cold compress may relieve swelling and pain
-keep sting sights moist with oil or cream to reduce scarring
-keep out of the sun for at least 6 weeks
|Brave Elizabeth back in the water, only a week later!|