Monkey Island’s Gentle Touch- a brush with Lucy, the renegade Spider Monkey


Granada, Nicaragua. July, 2010. Salmon Rushdie’s book The Jaguar’s Smile does a good job of describing the almost magical atmosphere of Nicaragua. The colonial city of Granada is no exception: brightly colored horse-drawn carriages trod along the street, crumbling colonial mansions juxtaposed with immaculately restored cathedrals, bitter papaya seed smoothies, smooth flor de caña.

One feature of Nicaraguan geography that stands out above all others is the volcano. The skyline is seldom free of these fire-filled behemoths. This summer I was visiting my journalist pal Blake Schmidt, and from his place in Granada the ever-present mountain of fire, Mambacho stands tall, looking over the city. When Mambacho erupted about 20,000 years ago, Big Mama’s cone was split into myriad little pieces and the 365 Islets of Granada were plopped down in Lake Nicaragua.

These islets come in all shapes and sizes. Some are large enough for  a bed and breakfast, a few have modest, plumbing-free shanties, but the most interesting islet is Monkey Island; a tiny islet about the size of an above ground pool in a trailer park, with a handful of trees and about 8 Spider Monkeys.

“AHHHHHHH, EL MONO VA A SALTAR!” And it did. Just as my friend Vanessa and I were approaching Monkey Island on our boat tour of the islets, a curious spider monkey decided to pay a visit to one of the groups of tourists. Lucy, as I later learned was her name, had a habit of getting nice and friendly with visitors. She jumped from boat to boat, touching who and what she pleased. When she leapt on me and Vanessa’s boat, the captain held us a scarred hand and warned us that she has indeed been known to bite. Lucy picked up my camera bag and it took every ounce of restraint to keep myself from snatching it back, lest she be tempted to hurl it into the lake.

I love how it looks like the people on the boat don’t even notice Lucy at all. All three of the visitors don’t seem to be scared or flinching: it’s just another day at Monkey Island. Compositionally I like the strong horizontal and vertical lines and of course the absurdity of a spider monkey nonchalantly interacting with a boatful of people.

a face only a mother could love

Lucy hopping from boat to boat

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3 thoughts on “Monkey Island’s Gentle Touch- a brush with Lucy, the renegade Spider Monkey

  1. So, Lucy, the loveable spider monkey of Monkey Island, that no one warned us about, has created havoc in my family. After giving my lovely wife a hug and a big smile, Lucy tried to get into a bag on the floor of the boat. When Anna reached for the bag, Lucy took it as a personal afront to her liberty. She grabbed Anna’s arm and sank her teeth into her hand. All the way to the bone, ripping a hugh gouge in the upper top of her left thumb. She came home to The States to get treatment but the infection is horrible. Rabies shots, Simian Hyrpes vaccines, intervinious antibiotics for seven days; the cost is going to run to several thousands of dollars. Not to mention the pain and suffering. Not good to expose tourist to something like this and not warn them of the monkey’s propensity to bite if unhappy about something.

  2. Hello, my name is Anna. I recently returned from Nicaragua after a 2 week mission trip in Granada. I too visited Monkey Island and had an encounter with Lucy. Unfortunately no one warned us of her tendencies toward biting. After the pleasantries of a her cuteness and a friendly hug her true nature was revealed. We were told don’t let her get your bags so when she went for one I instinctive reached for the bag attempting to pull it to safety. Lucy grabbed my arm and pulled my hand up and bit me all in a flash. I was taken to the hospital where I received several stitches. I am truly thankful I came home 2 days later for further treatment. The infection from her mouth was horrific. I am on antibiotics via IV for 10 days, getting rabies vaccine and the simmien herpes vaccine. The stitches had to be removed to allow proper healing and my thumb is half numb. Not to mention a tetnus booster and a ton of pain pills. Yes, Nicaragua is beautiful country and I would return. But beware, the spider monkeys are still WILD animals even on Monkey Island.

  3. Warnings about Lucy the Spider Monkey has been received.
    Doesn’t sound like the results of the trips were very good.
    Nevertheless, interesting post.

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