The Entertaining Inhabitants of Monkey Island

The scenic Cocibolca lake in Nicaragua, covering approximately 8,200 square kilometers, is the widest lake in Central America and one of the biggest lakes in the world. The lake is often referred to as “Gran Lago Nicaragua” – Nicaragua’s Big Lake. Cocibolca Lake has an interesting archipelago consisting of 365 islands situated about three kilometers off the shore near the city of Granada. It is believed that this archipelago was formed when nearby Volcano Mombacho erupted around 20,000 years ago, hurling rocks, ash and lava into the lake. Some of the islands are inhabited and some are even privately owned. All of the islands have lush vegetation and a wide variety of birds.

Tourists can take a trip around and between these fascinating islands by boat. Of particular interest is Monkey Island – a small island inhabited by colonies of monkeys. The monkeys were apparently pets that were abandoned on the island by their owners. The colony has increased dramatically over the years and currently it is not known how many monkeys are on the island.

The majority of the island’s inhabitants are capuchin monkeys who get their name from their distinctive coloring which is said to resemble the cowls worn by the Catholic friars known as Franciscan Capuchin. The capuchin monkey has a black or brown body, arms, legs and tail. Its face, throat and chest are white or light beige and it has a black or brown patch on its head that looks like a monks cap. They seldom weigh more than two kilograms. Capuchins are omnivores and enjoy a varied diet, eating anything from fruit and nuts, to spiders and bird eggs. Those living near water are fond of eating shellfish and crabs, using stones to crack their shells.

The monkeys have become accustomed to tourists showing an interest in them and get very excited if food is offered. Visitors are often advised by their tour guide to take along some oranges or bananas to lure the monkeys to the water’s edge. But this is not really necessary, because as soon as the monkeys realize there is a boat nearby, they put on quite a show, jumping and swinging through the trees. A word of caution though – although the monkeys seem to welcome visitors, they are still wild animals, so don’t get too close. Also be careful of going under trees that are hanging over the water’s edge, as you just might suddenly have an unwelcome passenger on board that may not be easily persuaded to leave.

When you travel to Nicaragua to enjoy the sights and hospitality of this beautiful country, be sure to stop off at Granada and take a boat trip around Monkey island – it will be a most entertaining experience.